Policing Black Womens Hair
I'm convinced that some people believe it's their right to police Black women's hair.
Having done the Big Chop in November 2011, I haven't worn my hair straight in years. I kept it cropped for nearly a year before finally allowing it to grow long enough for two-strand twists, which had been my signature style for months before I got starter locs earlier this month. So most of the people who know me, including people at work, know that straight hair isn't my thing.
But a few weeks ago, I decided to shake things up: I came to work on a Monday with a blond bob, a remnant of a photo shoot I did for my sisters' weave salon the previous day. No one had a clue it was wigthat's just how good my sisters are. It looked great. One of my buddies even said I looked "presidential," which is a high praise, I'd say. And the menespecially those who weren't Blackreally seemed to dig it. One man, a 72-year-old white director, even went as far as begging me to keep the style for at least a week because after having seen me look so "ravishing," he couldn't imagine looking at my former style. He was that insistent.
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As beautiful as the bob was, though, it didn't fit into my current picture of myself. I wore weaves for a long time, and chopping my hair off on a whim forced me to accept my natural hair in all it's complexity. I couldn't hide behind a flowing sheath of Indian locks. I had no choice but to accept my Black girl hair.
When I went to work the next day with my two-strands back in effectrelieved to be back to usual self and to be free of the overzealous straight-hair worshippersthe fans of the "presidential" look we're having none of my "I accept me" look. The director huffed away from my desk at the sight of my shrunken strands, but his disappointment didn't irritate me as much as that of the (white, early 30s) HR guy. Even after seeing only the back of my head that day, he insisted the style was a good look for me. And ever since that day two weeks ago, he has consistently reminded me of that opinion. Every single time he sees me.
And that's where I wonder this: Where do these men, White men in particular, get off in telling me how I, a self-possessed Black woman, should wear my hair? At what point does their seemingly jocular insistence that I wear a hairstyle wildly different from my everyday 'do become sexual harassment? I don't think it's a stretch to say they're walking the latter line: In this patriarchal society, hair is a key part of a woman's attractiveness. Because European hair is the standard of beauty,I desexualized myself by reverting to African-bred hair. They want their eye candy backbut they're not getting it.
Nearly everyone has something to say about Black women's hair, so Black men aren't excluded from this message. A Black man at my job wasn't too pleased when I replaced my long kinky-twist extensions with my own (much shorter) hair. But this essay is about the blond hair.
I am going to mention that I originally got the idea for this posting chatting to Dr. Daniel over at Burlington Pediatric Dentistry. Thanks for that. I suppose you will find inspiration in unexpected places.
Posted in Design Post Date 10/08/2015