books and reading · culture/multiculturalism · education · hair · Hispanics/Latinos · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism

Straight Hair at Any Cost?

How I feel about “good hair” and “bad hair” is pretty much summed up in “Bagels & Locks” and the numerous previous posts on hair where I talk about the history of my own kinky hairstrands. And in “Every friend’s just a little bit racist”, I wrote:

“They can tell me on the day that I’ve been rocking my afro, that actually they don’t think Michelle Obama should ever wear her hair natural. That makes them uncomfortable. They don’t even like seeing her kids rocking their hair au natural. Seeing the Obamas with their hair natural just strikes my friends as unnatural. But they assure me, they like my hair just the way it is. “It’s cute.”

So while some of my white friends are rolling their eyes over the Time Magazine article, “Why Michelle Obama’s Hair Matters”, I read the article and thought, “Thank G-d, people are talking about this. Thank G-d.” Hair is a powerful, emotional topic in the African-American community as well as the Latino community but I think the article also clearly shows that it is an emotional topic to American society in general.

(And if you think this topic doesn’t have anything to say to the Jewish community as well, then you don’t know as many Jewesses as I do who are straightening and chemically relaxing their Jewfros.)

Jenne Desmond Harris writes:

The notion of natural black hair as being subversive or threatening is not new. When the New Yorker set out last summer to satirize Michelle as a militant, country-hating black radical, it was no coincidence that the illustrator portrayed her with an Afro. The cartoon was calling attention to all the ridiculous pre-election fearmongering. But the stereotypes it drew from may be one reason that 56% of respondents to a poll on say the U.S. is not ready for a “First Lady with kinky hair.”

And also: “Some black women note that Michelle’s choice to wear her hair straightened affirms unfair expectations about what looks professional.”

Talk show host and former supermodel Tyra Banks recently decided to rock her real hair on her show. No more weaves. No more wigs. And according to Us Magazine, she says she’s declaring September 8, 2009 “National Real Hair Day! We welcome everyone to go natural with me!”

In a powerful show called “Good Hair,” after the upcoming Chris Rock documentary of the same name I’ve profiled on this blog before, Tyra talks to African-American women (and one white mother of a biracial daughter) about what “good hair” and “bad hair” means to them. I cried. But I was glad that Tyra was exposing this sensitive issue to the world and asking people to think about it.

Watch and learn….

Also check out “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America” by Ayana Byrd and Lori Thorps, which looks at the “social, cultural and economic significance of African-American hair from 1400 to the present.”

9 thoughts on “Straight Hair at Any Cost?

  1. Seeing the small children with relaxed hair and thinking their hair was ugly made me want to have some not so nice words with their mothers. I mean, really! Their mothers should be reinforcing that their children are beautiful–period.

    This bugged me a bit as I visited some family recently, and they all did the 'good hair' thing to my son(he's nearly 3/4 european -american), and he's only one.

    Can't he just be a child and simply exist? On another note, I also wear my hair natural. I found that with my own tightly curled hair relaxers just = bad.


  2. I had the same insecurities when I decided to stop straightening my hair. I thought I wouldn't look pretty and that I would get made fun of. But I haven't recieved any negative feedback at all. People love my fro, and best of all I love it too 🙂


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