The topic I chose to focus on all semester had to do with women accepting their hair and the perception of it. In week 6 we talked about hair in class and that peaked my interest. From there out I knew that my assignments and topic of study would be specifically issues and controversy with hair for women of color. This is a topic that I relate to and that I am extremely passionate about all around. I, myself am a woman of color who grew up with hair that was not considered ideal. Like many young girls of color, instead of loving my hair for what it was and naturally accepting it, I was subconsciously trained to think that my hair made me lesser than other individuals and I had to change it to be beautiful or accepted by others. The origin of this came from slavery and the superiority of whites and people of fairer skin. According to Patton, “The woman with the wavy hair was considered more attractive and had “good” hair, as opposed to the woman with the kinky hair who had “bad” hair. The notions of “good” hair and “bad” hair come from the social construction of beauty standard.

For my final assignment, I chose to do a spoken word piece that describes the different viewpoints a woman of color has about her hair and some of the practices utilized in order to change it and try to help make them feel more beautiful. According to Johnson, The often taken choice to straighten natural Black hair has clear historic and psychological underpinnings [16]. Black women spend more money, as high as three times as much, on hair care [14] than any other racial or ethnic group of women [3].” This correlates with the words of my poem as it discusses how women straighten their hair and burn it till its dead. I also mention many “products on the dresser” because women of color have a difficult time finding products that will work for their hair and it takes multiple products along with a lot of effort to maintain the ultimate style leading to billions spent by black women in the hair care and product industry which is often headed by people who aren’t even of color themselves.

This poem specifically relates to topics that were discussed in class in the mention of the application of respectability politics among women of color regarding their hair. “Torn between the easier way & what’s considered loving myself.The people who look like you have the most to say, it’s respectability politics, the ignorance remains.” Black women are faced with a double ended sword. If women of color wear their hair naturally they can be shamed and criticized for its appearance. Women can be judged for their hair not being “done” or “kept up” if there is a type of products used of definite style maintained.  However, if a woman of color chemically alters her hair to straighten it or gets a style like extensions and or coloring they are also criticized by falling to the European beauty standard and changing herself to fit in and look more passing for the society that was built to hate them in the first place. This criticism on both sides is often from other women of color. There are women who are indirectly taught from genesis that they are of lesser value and much change themselves to be considered valuable and then there’s women of color who were raised to be conscious and love who they are including the color of their skin and the texture of their hair no matter what others think and to be unapologetically black and embrace every kink and curl. Each side of the spectrum can be negative to those who aren’t on the similar side as them making it pretty much impossible to please everyone.

Overall, I think the poem tackles an issue head on of women of color accepting their hair and speaks on the practices women of color use that aren’t even healthy to try to please and conform to the European beauty standard that was conceived during times of slavery when a black individual was deemed only ¾ of a person and was considered and treated as the lesser.  This poem has a message that tells women of color of all ages that they should love themselves and focus on their health on the outside, meaning the terrible chemicals and heat that they use to alter their hair which makes it unhealthy but also the mindset that tells women of color that they aren’t beautiful or as important than those who have fairer skin and straighter hair. This spoken word piece must be delivered in a strong way to get the ultimate reaction from its listeners and hit hard with the underlying issue being presented. This poem also is in the light of a recent movement for women to accept themselves more and be freer with their hair.  According to Johnson, “Today there is an increasing emergence of Black women who are typically young (20 – 35), who are “transitioning” from using chemicals to straighten their hair to wearing their hair naturally [18]. For these college-educated, modern, young Black women, hair continues to indicate social and economic status and for some even a woman’s character and personality.” I represent the women described above, each day is a learning experience, but I am working more and more to accept the strands that grow naturally out of my head while finding ways to maintain it and love it through various styling options.

 


Anika Williams is a Communications major with a double minor in Marketing and Film. She is interested in film and advertising and hopes to pursue a career with those aspects in the near future.  She is very involved on the campus of ODU serving in many roles. She is a Resident Assistant, a mentor, the Vice President of the organization SWL (Success Without Limitations) and also a conversation partner for international students. Additionally, she owns her own business, a hat brand based off of vision under the name NOISIA. She always has a vision and her goal in life is to pursue it, whatever it may be. Words to describe her would be a mentor, leader, organizer, visionary and entrepreneur.