Respect My Hair

‘Hair is material used to express oneself, but also to comment upon, reflect or indeed contest society’ (Dabiri).

Its important for people to know that Black people’s hair is not just hair; it is personal, political, historical, and artistic, it is simply more than just hair. Hair is one of the main ways that Black women are degraded. Society tends to celebrate one standard of beauty “a standard that devalues and excludes African hair textures, compelling Black females to fit into Eurocentric beauty standards that actually work against them” (Robinson). These beauty standards make the texture and length of a woman’s hair an essential part of the Black female identity. As media represents cultural beauty norms in society, and are used by individuals to create their own standards of beauty, it is important for popular brands to be aware of the images that they promote, the type of message they’re passing on and how those images may affect society. Images that only portray Eurocentric features can contribute to the decreased feelings of self-esteem and self-worth amongst Black women and their perception that their dark skin and kinky hair is less desirable. As a Result, as the natural hair movement continues to grow, and afro-textured hair becomes a larger market for beauty brands there must be greater care taken and discussion surrounding the choice of images used in product advertisements. An equal amount of attention should be paid to all the different types of curl types, textures, and the different care they all require, as this can have a long-lasting effect on Black people. A lack of diverse hair textures presented in the media aiming those in the natural hair community enables a hair texture favouritism and can be harmful to the movement.

Historically, Black hairstyles were used as a method to visually convey one’s social status, wealth, age, marital status, and ethnic identity (Jahangir). This is main reason why wearing Black hairstyles is considered “problematic”. This is an issue because Black women are often subjected to judgement when it comes to their hair. White women are often celebrated when they wear Black hairstyles but Black women do not get the same reaction which in turn makes Black people feel less valuable, But as long as White people wear the same hairstyles they are considered cool and trendy. This brings up the argument that Black people also imitate White people’s hairstyles, by straightening their hair, wearing blonde wigs etc, but what people fail to understand that for many Black people especially Black women is a matter of survival, not just preference. When you cannot find work because your hair is deemed unhygienic or unprofessional, you must take such actions to get by. I can confirm how differently Black women depending on the style of our hair. In one example from a lifetime of microaggressions, in secondary school a boy once said a different Black girl was prettier than me because she had “normal hair” (she had a weave) and I had gone to school with my natural hair for the first time ever, and after that I got my hair retouched and refused to ever go in school wearing my natural hair. So, when Black women are offended over the Kardashians wearing Black hairstyles, no one has the right to say it is not that big a deal or get over it. Until we correct that imbalance, non-Black people should stay away from Black hairstyles, its not a trend for some for some of us its our livelihood.

Lastly Stop asking people if you can touch their hair, it is an invasion of personal space and its uncomfortable. Asking to touch a Black woman’s hair is inappropriate and should be prohibited. Touching people’s hair and assuming it is okay to do without permission is offensive, people will often not say anything in the moment but believe me no one likes their hair being touched randomly and at times by strangers. Not only is offensive there are sanitary concerns, people often fail to correctly wash their hands. Having clean hands is one of the most effective ways that prevent the spread of germs. The unfortunate truth is that most people are not washing their hands correctly, if they are washing them at all, which leads to the spread of germs and illnesses. This is one of the reasons why is inappropriate to go around touching people’s hair. Another reason why you should not ask to touch someone’s hair that it propagates inequalities. Asking to touch a Black person’s hair when you have never asked to touch your White counterpart’s hair further maintains discriminatory treatment and makes the belief that Black hair is an anomaly. By asking to touch a Black persons hair, you are consuming into the narrative that White hair is the default, you are furthering the divide that Black people may feel and creating a hostile environment for them. Having said that there is no problem in asking about a Black person’s hair as long as you are willing to listen and learn if you simply ask them to tell you about their hair or hairstyles most people will happily answer any questions you may have. Although, you need to keep in mind no one is obligated to educate you on this matter, if you’re really intrigued then I’m sure you can also find the answers on Google and from reading books.

If you are interested in finding out more about this issue, I really recommend reading ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ by Emma Dabiri.


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