What a Tangled Web Around Hair We Weave

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The blogosphere seems to be blowing up this week with debate around the quest for and meaning of “good” hair in the Black community.

The trailer for Chris Rock’s upcoming documentary Good Hair takes a humorous look the complicated politics around Black women and their hair. Yet the project’s inspiration, Rock’s own daughter’s question to him, “Why don’t I have good hair?” points to an insidious message Black women and girls get about their identity and beauty. Rock points out that most Black women are willing to get “good” hair by any means necessary–from enduring toxic hair straightening chemicals to buying exorbitantly expensive weaves that leave their wearers untouchable even in the most intimate moments.

Women should be able to wear their hair anyway they want. But if rigidly defined beauty standards prevent any of us from accepting (or wanting to be) our natural selves, then we got a problem. A culturally imposed rejection of the natural state of our body, size, skin color—or hair—breeds internalized oppression and self-loathing. And when “good” Black hair is strictly defined as white looking straight hair, it’s time for new hair style.

Dianne Logwood in last week’s post, The Politics and Black Hair Can Be Snarly couldn’t have said it better: “Hopefully enough of us will stand up to these restrictions and standards, and stop letting hair rule our lives. I’d like to hope that it’s not what’s on our heads that really counts as much as what’s in them.”

Editor’s note: Follow as we contribute to this ongoing discussion at antiracistparent.com.

If I wanna shave it close
Or if I wanna rock locks
That don’t take a bit away
From the soul that I got
-India Arie

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Related content:
 
Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

The Hair Up There

Chris Rock’s New Documentary Gets to the Root of Good HairHair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (Hardcover)

The Taming of Blackness

The Politics of Black Hair Can be Snarly

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Comments

  1. I know how awful it is to get a perm. I am white and my mother thought when I was little that I looked adorable with curls so she made me get perms. I think it was child abuse. She had too bribe me with comic books to get me not to have fits and make a scene. I think women’s time and money is more valuable to pay to get tortured and have their hair damaged. It is ridiculous. If more women would just get easily manageable hairstyles it would become the norm and definition of good hair. I really think that natural African hair looks great. There is nothing wrong with it. It can be cute and sexy and professional just as much as “white hair”.

  2. Whenever I talk about this with my friends they don’t seem to understand the implications of wearing expensive weaves to mask their natural hair. Good hair means manageable hair. Rebellious, i.e. hair that won’t do what you want, is bad hair. Wow, I’d rather be a rebel than conform to what other people want me to be. Is that bad? Apparently it is if we’re talking about my hair.