Texturism & Featurism: The Nasty Cousins of Colourism

It’s not just Colorism that’s problematic. So are Featurism and Texturism.

Hair, skin and facial features all play a role in defining someone as “beautiful” under our societal beauty standards.

Often women and men with darker skin, hair with tight curls and Afrocentric features are excluded from what we consider “beautiful.”

Aesthetic bias against certain shades of skin, and certain types of hair & features rooted in racist ideas. We face this discrimination not just at the hands of people from communities we are a minority but also within our own communities.

Colourism, differential treatment based on skin colour, has a pair of nasty cousins just as problematic – Featurism & Texturism.

The racist roots of colorism are a product of the idea that white people and their white skin are superior. The closer you look to white people, the more preferred you tend to be. And it’s much more than the light skin that gives you the privilege; it’s any feature that applies to society’s perception of “beauty”. You can have light skin, but you also need the specific type of hair and physical features to accompany the skin in order to be considered “beautiful”.

This idea that you must look a certain way to be considered “beautiful” is inherently problematic.

What is Featurism?

Featurism is society accepting or preferring certain features over others.

It is the preferential treatment of people with features that have historically been considered better or “easier on the eyes”. The preferred features are predominantly European features that uphold the Eurocentric standards of beauty.

Featurism, just like colorism, affects all ethnicities with characteristic features that challenge Eurocentric norms.

This kind of discrimination leads to the degradation of physical features that define people of particular races, such as full lips and broad noses common in Black features.

Like colourism, featurism is often gendered. Women are disproportionately affected by this type of discrimination due to unfair beauty standards.

Featurism is in part why so many young girls with more prominent noses and lips (before it was trendy), suffer from self-hatred and insecurity about their features. Falling short of these supposedly universal, and frankly racist, ideals of beauty has a negative impact on the self-esteem of all women.

What is Texturism?

Similar to how we are told we have a “good nose” when it’s slim and small, “good hair” is often defined as hair that is smooth (looser curls). This idea that good hair is correlated with hair texture has been termed Texturism.

Texturism is a preference for hair with smoother/looser texture, and the discrimination against people with kinkier, coarse hair within the same race.

When it comes to “curls”, looser curls are idealized and fetishized for its proximity to Eurocentric standards of beautiful/good hair.

Be it through hair ads, songs, poems, and in everyday interactions – looser, smoother and longer curls are favoured, praised and upheld as the standard of what we consider beautiful hair.

Like colourism and featurism, texturism is most often perpetrated against us by our own societies.

We not only normalize these preferences, at its worst these preferences are also institutionalized. In the case of African Americans, laws and policies in America prohibit natural Black hair and hairstyles worn by Black people, such as afros, locs and braids, in schools and workspaces. This makes texturism a particularly problematic issue.

While not always gendered, women are more often than not disproportionately victimized by Texturism. For darker-toned women having “good” hair” becomes more critical in building a positive self-image since colourism is already in play.

Beauty is never skin-deep

Simply put, colorism, texturism, and featurism are all oppressive aesthetic biases rooted in the racist ideal of assigning privilege to a specific set of physical features.

Every community and society as a whole needs to acknowledge and address these issues to ensure we don’t discriminate against ourselves based on problematic biases.

Of course light skin, loose curls, thinner lips and small noses are beautiful, but so are tighter curls, wider noses, prominent lips, and darker skin.

Possibly the biggest evil perpetrated by Featurism and Texturism is making children of certain ethnicities believe they are somehow “ugly” and “unattractive”. And in turn, it feeds an entire industry that profits off of individuals changing their natural features to fit unfair beauty standards.

It’s time that we equally celebrate all types of hair, skin tones and facial features across every ethnic community to create a more positive and empowering world for all.