It’s a known fact that no group of women has a more fraught relationship with their hair than black Americans. But a new compilation on women and hair hardly pointed out what actually should be known.
Hair has the ability to kill the person a woman really wish to become.
The first time I stumbled on a copy of Me, My Hair, and I: Twenty-seven Women Untangle an Obsession, a new essay collection compiled by Elizabeth Benedict, I almost fell in love at first sight.
The owner of a full head of fine, frizzy, dirty blond hair that I’ve been chopping and blowing out and curling and spraying into submission since high school, I knew what a pain point hair could be for a woman. The topic seemed ripe for discussion.
The whole thing looked like it would touch every aspect of what exactly women has experienced with hair. The cover of the book displays stylized illustrations of eight women in profile. No two are alike, then there is a black woman sports an Afro, another braids; the white women are blonde, gray-haired and redheaded. Only one woman has her hair shaved into patterns.
The collection has more black women on the cover than inside — there’s just one essay by a black woman contemplating her relationship with her hair. Trans women also face complex pressures about their hair throughout their lives, but this experience also goes undiscussed. Around 20 of the 27 contributors appear to be white; one of the white writers discusses her dreadlocks, another caring for her adopted biracial daughter’s hair.
It seems absurd, on its face, that an essay collection about women and their hair would lack diverse perspectives from black women in particular. Benedict even cites, in her introduction, Chris Rock’s hit documentary “Good Hair,” which tackled the fraught position of natural hair in the black community. “‘Good hair,’” writes Benedict, “is smooth and soft.” Though she doesn’t much get into why, contributor Marita Golden does: pressing out the kinks and curls in black hair, thus looking more similar to white women, made it somewhat easier for black women to be “accepted by and successful in both the Black and the White worlds.”
Natural black hairstyles are still today, and were even more so in the past, denigrated as coarse, unprofessional. “I was not to face the world until my hair looked as near as it could to ‘good hair,’ also known as ‘White girl’s hair,’” Golden recalls. Golden now wears her hair natural.
This point of view, tragically, is the main genuine understanding from a black woman about her association with her hair. As a matter of course, Golden is by all accounts the author assigned to teach us about the sum of the black hair experience. In spite of the fact that her story is additionally profoundly close to home, it conveys the heaviness of representing a whole social history. Without a doubt other dark authors could have shared that weight, and not just appeared more extensive cross-area of the black women involvement with hair, yet in addition enabled those ladies to have an increasingly explicit, individual message.
Interestingly, the large numbers of white authors who offer their hair travels frequently appear to be careless in regards to anything outside of their own fights to advance their haircuts. Certain themes spring up over and over: The delight of finding a decent, though expensive, beautician; dissatisfaction with crimped hair that didn’t exactly fit in with the prevalent styles of their adolescents; nervy examinations between their very own frizzy hair to Afros; vain accounts about how pleasant their hair has turned out to be through legitimate upkeep (highlights, products, haircuts).