Society’s Perception of Beauty and Hair
How do you define beauty, especially beauty around hair? What is “good” hair?
Black women have felt that we’ve always had to live up to the European standards of beauty, especially in regards to our hair. In 2020, there is still a bias against natural hair. To society, beautiful hair is long and straight. And because of that we as black women have faced certain microaggressions from our non-black counterparts.
Firstly, what is a microaggression? It’s subtle or indirect discrimination against a marginalized group either by race, gender, sexuality, or physical ability. Although sometimes it can be deemed as unintentional, it does leave lasting effects on the receiver making them feel somewhat powerless.
There is a direct correlation between black hair and self-esteem. In my 30 something years of life, I’m now coming to terms with my natural hair, but it’s still a work in progress. I’ve grown up thinking that my afro, kinky, coily 4c hair is not attractive, not professional, not welcome. So I hid behind weaves. When questioned about my hair, I deflected. Who wants to know? What does it matter? Up until last year, I think there were only about 3 people in my life outside of my mom and hairdresser that have ever seen my natural hair. And I was hell-bent on keeping it that way. If I was dating a guy, he was not privy to what was underneath the weave. And I felt a sense of uncomfortableness anytime his hands came near my hair. I was ashamed. Ashamed that I didn’t have the same hair as Becky. I’d never have Becky’s hair no matter how hard I tried.
But why are we striving for this so-called, Becky with the good hair look? Who decided that that was good hair and why were most of us brainwashed into believing that? I’ve seen countless stories of women who were told that they needed to manage their hair in the workplace. A fro, dreadlocks, or “wild-unmanagable” hair was unacceptable and not professional. A bun, long sleek, silky, and straight hair, that was the workplace acceptable. That’s what society wants to see you in. Imagine, living with these preconceived notions for most of your life? You’re bound to deal with many self-esteem and self-acceptance issues. You’re not good enough, you’ll never be accepted, you’re not beautiful enough, you’ll never get far looking like that, you’re ugly.
Wow, how sad is that to be raised in a society that makes you feel less than. And to show any sort of backlash from hurt emotions, you’ll then get labeled as being “too aggressive.”
Today, I’m glad to see that more black women are embracing their natural hair and defying the norms of what main-stream media looks at as “beautiful.” I’m proud to see more and more celebrities that look like me in movies, tv shows, and on the cover of magazines. It’s about damn time. And it’s time to raise the next generation to be more accepting of all types of beauty and to stop pigeonholing people, especially black people into one standard of beauty.
Just to make it clear, here is a list of things NOT to say to a black woman about her hair:
- Can I touch your hair?
- How do you get your hair to stand up like that?
- Is that your real hair?
- How long is your real hair?
- You look like a wild animal
- You look better with [insert ignorant comment] hair
- Do you wash your hair and how do you wash your hair?
- Your hair looks dirty
- Wow, it’s so…. (at this point, just STOP talking)
Society, black women are tired of you making us feel uncomfortable about how we look. Just stop!