I started a book discussion club earlier this year, and the current topic is self image. We started with watching The Souls of Black Girls, a documentary that is a great way to start a conversation about self-image, especially of young black girls who grow up to be black women with complex self-esteem issues. The viewing sparked an array of thoughts and subtopics, and it’s so amazing the identity crisis that many black women are in, whether consciously or subconsciously and only realizing various issues while self-evaluating out loud.
One of the most resounding quotes in the documentary for me was from Michaela Angela Davis. While on her soap box, she said that when people say we need to redefine our own sexuality, we can’t redefine it because we never established it in the first place. And so we grasp at random examples to set our standards of beauty, decorum, self-worth, etc. Before I keep rambling on about my thoughts of our discussion, it is really important to me to encourage any of you out there reading this to be intentional in letting a young black girl know she’s beautiful. And not, oh she’s a cute little black girl. Or she’s pretty to be a dark skinned girl.
Our subtopics were wide-ranging. From our hair to color complexes to where we formulated our ideas of beauty to what we think guys think about beauty to the way we carry ourselves (and what’s acceptable and what’s not) to our responsibility in all this to the media’s role in it all. In this post, I’ll talk about hair. Color next time.
“I AM my hair.”
Although India.Arie says she is not hers, many of us are. One of my friends is very vocal about how co-mingled her hair is with her identity and self-esteem. But she’s not alone. The same goes for me. When my hair isn’t in tip top shape, I feel subpar. It is what it is though. Our hair, for many of us, contribute to our femininity. Ok, so once we’re past that—what looks good? Straight, curly, nappy? And who says what’s acceptable. Well, we know in the corporate world, nappy isn’t what’s up. So if you’re Corporate Christine, even if you’re “natural” and “afrolicious,” chances are you’re pressed Monday through Friday. So are we assimilating? If so, is that a bad thing? Should we be wearing our fros and naps as much as possible so that we can disprove negative stereotypes about people who wear natural styles?
I have several friends who do not get relaxers, but their hair is always straightened. Not because of their jobs necessarily, but because they like the way their hair looks when their hair is straight. Does that make them “fake natural” like I’ve heard on so many occasions? Or do they have the right to want to keep their hair harsh-chemical free and still wear the look they think compliments them most? And my friends who do get relaxers? Does that mean they want to look white? Or do they just want to take advantage of the creamy crack that Madame C.J. Walker (or Garrett Morgan, I don’t know) so brilliantly created to make combing black hair a little less tenuous?
Who is making up these rules we follow? And what happens when we’re following different rules? How should my friends and I feel when we’re judged by how we wear their hair?? One of my favorite scenes in School Daze is the Good and Bad Hair scene.
Well, you got cuckabugs standing all over your head.
Well you got sandy spurs, rather have mine instead.
You’re just a jigaboo trying to find something to do.
Well you’re just a wannabe, wanna be better than me.
So are we forever banished to choosing to be either a wannabe or a jigaboo? Or can we set our own standards of versatility and just simply liking the way we look without any underlying self-esteem issues?