my hair, my way, go to hell

french montana learned the hard way about messing with a black woman about her hair. after posting an instagram picture clowning tichina arnold’s gelled down edges, the actress snapped back with the toughest read i’m sure he’s ever received.ta and fm

hearing about this situation begged a larger question for me: why is there so much commentary and criticism around black women’s hair? for example, twitter is constantly ablaze about blue ivy’s hair. you’d think beyonce and jay z were depriving the child proper nutrition the way people feel the need to go in. then there was that whole gabby douglas fiasco.  the poor child couldn’t even relish in the glory of winning an olympic gold medal without folks talking about how her hair was poorly groomed. and don’t forget all those chewbacca memes poking fun at pam oliver during her super bowl coverage. according to the masses, she offended humanity by not having a fresh weave for the event.

add tichina arnold to the cast of sisters mentioned above, and there’s an undeniable pattern of black women being victimized by our community’s stringent standards regarding our hair. like most black women, i grew up getting my hair pressed, braided, pulled and curled, but must admit that i never enjoyed the experience. while it was a chance for me to bond with my grandmother who was a dynamic kitchen sink beautician, we certainly could have found other means to deepen our relationship outside of mild-grade torture.

with these experiences in mind, i’m extremely critical of any beauty standard in our community that 1.) removes people’s individual agency over something as superficial and insignificant as strands of hair and 2.) lacks a clear male equivalent.  the former plays into respectability politics and what black folks, in particular black women, must do to remain upstanding ambassadors for our race. dare to miss your appointment to get your weave tightened and you shall be outcast and ridiculed, fodder for social media posts that reach millions of people. the latter point connotes the role patriarchy plays in forcing women into a role where our appearance is grounds for widespread celebration or degradation — both defined by the male gaze.  it’s not surprising that french montana and not a sister posted the above photo of tichina arnold. it’s male privilege that gives him license to fire shots at a celebrated actress in such a public manner.

in light of yet another hair controversy, i have a psa for my beloved community: whether our names are blue ivy, gabby douglas, pam oliver or tichina arnold, we will do whatever we good well please with our hair. we invite you all to go to hell on scholarships if this fact displeases you.

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