White Women, Black Hairstyles
March 29, 2015 9:52 AM   Subscribe

Christina is a good match for Gordon Gekko.
posted by chavenet at 10:03 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Wow. 1,3, and 5 look amazing. So does 7, and wouldn't be out of place as a hairstyle on Game of Thrones or similar.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:05 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Like, #7 would have worked perfectly on Ellaria Sand, for example.)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:06 AM on March 29, 2015

Some of those look fantastic.
posted by suelac at 10:13 AM on March 29, 2015 [5 favorites]

Hm. Some of those don't seem to work very well, but Ann's and Beth's are pretty awesome.
posted by ctmf at 10:14 AM on March 29, 2015

No one can tell me Beth (#5) isn't loving it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 10:15 AM on March 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

Braids look good on anyone.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 11:00 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ann (woman #3) is rocking her hairstyle like a boss.
posted by duffell at 11:05 AM on March 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I didn't realize marcelled waves were considered "black hairstyles"
posted by pxe2000 at 11:42 AM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

The article is worth reading. These pictures are generally bordering on awkward and uncomfortable, and I think that's much of the point - the artist is throwing and recasting uncomfortable experiences back at the world that has made her feel discomfort for how she appears at work. In a creative fashion, instead of just bearing it.
I wanted people that had a certain idea of what you’re supposed to look like in the workspace, because it would be a challenge for them to understand what I experienced in that space
This video project, linked from the article, also does an pretty effective job of throwing back some similar workplace discomfort.
posted by iotic at 12:08 PM on March 29, 2015 [3 favorites]

Good idea, messy execution. The main problem is keeping the portraits neutral; they are not. Some of the women even look comically distressed (so they're racist?) How will most people react to a surprise hairdo, "black" or not?
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 12:20 PM on March 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

They look fine. If the viewer is supposed to think they look weird or out of place, the premise is dumb.
posted by jpe at 1:21 PM on March 29, 2015 [6 favorites]

You can definitely tell which women love the styles and which definitely do not (it's in the eyes).
posted by Windigo at 2:09 PM on March 29, 2015

From the text, it seems most of the women liked them - or at least were fascinated by the change - and wanted to show people.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:39 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

No slight intended to the women whose portraits were taken - they clearly agreed to it, and they look good. She said she wanted people for whom it would be a challenge, and that sense of challenge comes across. More importantly, it is a challenge to us - the juxtaposition of many people's ideas of professional and appropriate workplace appearance, with hairstyles from American Black culture/s. I think it communicates well, something which can be hard to put across.
posted by iotic at 2:57 PM on March 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a bit disappointed we didnt hear from the women who got their hair done. I wanted to hear how similar/different it was to getting their own hair done. Did it expand their knowledge of what women of color go through for their hair? Did it change how they would perceive someone wearing these hairstyles in the workplace?
posted by LizBoBiz at 3:04 PM on March 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

It would have been good to hear about the subjects' responses to their new haircuts, even better if we had responses from their families or work colleagues. Enjoyed the project though and Beth is definitely rocking her hairdo.
posted by arcticseal at 3:20 PM on March 29, 2015

I think the pictures themselves do a plenty good job of making the point that the common understanding of professional appearance is heavily slanted toward whiteness, including the type of hairstyles that anyone with tightly curled hair cannot accomplish without a lot of work. And that puts disproportionate burden on black women, who are often left with no choice but chemical straightening.

Some of those hairstyles do look cool, and I'm sure some of the women like them, but the point is that they would all look very much out of place in professional portraits of women in upper management positions. It's just one of those unconscious biases that people often don't realize they have until it's pointed out.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:48 PM on March 29, 2015 [22 favorites]

This seems like a good time to recommend Chris Rock's excellent documentary Good Hair.
posted by gottabefunky at 4:12 PM on March 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

I like this very much. The last one looked like a Roman matron. All she needed was a stola.

(yes I did go look up the proper term for an ancient Roman woman's outer garment because I knew that someone on Metafilter would tell me that "toga" was not correct).
posted by emjaybee at 5:42 PM on March 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

I find myself wondering how much of the awkwardness in the photos is due to the models thinking "this style doesn't work with my hair and it's going to fall out within three days" vs "wow, I've never worn my hair this way before and it's making me think about societal expectations".

The stylist/artist's up-front approach of "I'm not going to tell these white women* anything about these styles and will see how they deal with them" is one way to approach it. I don't think it's the most interesting or useful way, however.

I think I would have found it more effective if there had been more of an attempt to find hairstyles that would work with these women's hair and more attempt to help the women modeling it to understand and feel comfortable with the styles they wound up with. (Or at least give them some background or "here's where you can start looking into the history" on it so they could do the work to understand it and feel comfortable with it. There's a lot of problematic background with white people expecting people of color to educate them about experiences that aren't directly white-related.) Speaking as someone with dead-straight, slick-textured hair: you can't put one style on a different type of hair willy-nilly; I've tried it and my experience with microbraids was (I project) very different from the experience of someone with curly or nappy hair.

(Note: I recognize, as I'm typing this, that I'm giving a lot of benefit-of-the-doubt to the white models, assuming they're willing to do the personal/societal/emotional/etc. work necessary to interrogate one's own racism. I think I'm basing this on the fact that they chose to participate in this project in the first place.)

* It's also interesting how often "middle-aged white woman" gets conflated with "uptight, narrow-minded, prejudiced" etc. That's a shorthand worth paying attention to, I think.
posted by Lexica at 6:17 PM on March 29, 2015 [8 favorites]

I love the expression on Ellen's face. You can almost see her laughing behind her serious, professional mask.

This was wonderful, thank you for sharing!
posted by sciatrix at 7:31 PM on March 29, 2015

What I noticed is that a lot of the new hairstyles have skull-emphasizing shapes, while I would guess that most of the women's original styles did not.
posted by Pocahontas at 7:45 PM on March 29, 2015

Those are beautiful. I want one. See me looking up black hairdressers in the phone book soon.
posted by irisclara at 12:02 AM on March 30, 2015

Lexica: "Or at least give them some background or "here's where you can start looking into the history" on it so they could do the work to understand it and feel comfortable with it."

But the experience Endia Beal was trying to replicate wasn't an experience designed to make her feel comfortable.
posted by RobotHero at 9:42 AM on March 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

My third grader made the strangest face when he saw these.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 9:14 PM on March 30, 2015

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