"that was a lot less glamorous than my product"
July 25, 2019 7:46 AM   Subscribe

White woman claims she invented the hair bonnet, black Twitter tells her to go back to Wypipostan — the "NiteCap" created by Sarah Marantz Lindenberg costs nearly $100 (the company also sells scrunchies for $32) and is also available on Goop.

In an interview on Fashion magazine, Marantz had claimed that her "concept came out of a problem that needed solving", and the closest she came to acknowledging it wasn’t anything new was:
"There were products on the market but none of them had a functional and fashionable solution for me—synthetic fabrics that I felt did more damage, or horrible colours that I felt silly going to sleep in. It inspired me to create something of my own. Many people have told me that their grandmothers wrapped their hair, and my aunt recently told me that my great-grandmother wrapped her rollers in toilet paper after it was all styled and set. That was a lot less glamorous than my product, but the practice has been around a long time".
After the backlash, the magazine added an Editor’s Note to specify that "Though not strictly used just for sleeping, the item has a long history in black hair culture", and another note to include Marantz’s statement on Instagram:
"A small business grew quickly, but in the process I failed to connect it back to the broader historical context.‬ ‭We stand with those who are hurt, and we respect and hear their voices. We’re committed to honouring the historical significance of hair wrapping and this will now be part of our approach."
posted by bitteschoen (39 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Some of the reactions on Twitter are embedded in the first link, here’s the whole thread of responses to the magazine’s tweet about the article.
posted by bitteschoen at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2019 [2 favorites]


horrible colours that I felt silly going to sleep in
Imagine disliking Black women so much that you can't bring yourself to dress like them in your own bedroom with the lights off.
posted by Etrigan at 7:55 AM on July 25, 2019 [73 favorites]


So that's why I've been seeing social media posts about "where to get hair bonnets that don't cost $85."
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:59 AM on July 25, 2019 [1 favorite]


eye rolling intensifies
posted by Bwentman at 8:05 AM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Oh dang man. I am a white woman with occasional scalp problems that involve sleeping with oil in my hair, and I find that oil -- and the bonnets -- in the black section of the hair care aisle. It never occurred to me that I should be the one making the profit in the situation.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:06 AM on July 25, 2019 [20 favorites]


(Also, "we stand with those who are hurt" is quite a way to respond when you have done the hurting.)
posted by Countess Elena at 8:08 AM on July 25, 2019 [48 favorites]


How does this still happen?

Did Lindenberg, her mother, or grandmother have zero Black friends, neighbors or coworkers? I'm such a white middle aged lady that "Karen" was on my parents' shortlist of names for me and I have known this product existed my entire life. I guess that's just me in my East Coast Liberal bubble?
posted by kimberussell at 8:10 AM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


How is that article still up? I mean, I see that they've added her "response" to the roasting, but that's not really improving much on the fact that the ignorant article is still right there below it? Guess they're loving all the publicity.
posted by dnash at 8:23 AM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


I -am- a white middle aged lady named Karen* and I've known about this, but white people knowing or not knowing about this isn't the point

the odds are she did know about this, or her mother did or her grandmother did but black culture / black haircare / black skincare is so overlooked by white people that "wait I can put oil in my hair to stop it from being dry as fuck" or "cocoa butter!" is seen as an Opportunity - she knew, I guarantee-damn-tee she knew, she knew like white people have known about cocoa butter and hair oil and satin pillowcases for decades. Until it became profitable to market to a white audience.

Like R&B. Like Rap. Like different food products that have come out of immigrant communities. Like yoga.

She knew where it came from, she just cared more about green than brown.

* incidentally that particular meme is sexist as fuck please stop there is not an equivalent as popular meme name for racist white men
posted by FritoKAL at 8:26 AM on July 25, 2019 [30 favorites]


Needs the "columbusing" tag.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:29 AM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


"A small business grew quickly, but in the process I failed to connect it back to the broader historical context.‬ ‭We stand with those who are hurt, and we respect and hear their voices. We’re committed to honouring the historical significance of hair wrapping and this will now be part of our approach."

Who the fuck are the consultants that come up with these fucking statements? I'm sure they'll also be making a nominal donation to a non-profit that supports women of color, or, even better, give you the option to donate a dollar at the checkout!
posted by avalonian at 8:36 AM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


So that's why I've been seeing social media posts about "where to get hair bonnets that don't cost $85."

As a sewer: on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is a square handkerchief and 10 is an Oscar couture gown, these are about a 1.25. Lessee: cheap silk on Mood Fabric (expensive fabric place), $4.00 per yard ... /sewing snob
posted by Melismata at 8:37 AM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


And speaking of historical significance:

When Black Women Were Required By Law to Cover Their Hair: In the 1700s, the Tignon Laws forced Black women in Louisiana to wear head wraps because their beautiful, elaborate hairstyles were considered a threat to the status quo.
posted by magstheaxe at 8:41 AM on July 25, 2019 [39 favorites]


and is also available on Goop.

Every so often you come across some simple, compact fact that tells you everything you need to know about a topic. This is one of those times.
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:43 AM on July 25, 2019 [82 favorites]


Women and men have been wearing hats, caps and bonnets to bed since the 1700s, at least.
History of the Nightcap
Nightcaps in the V&A
posted by Ideefixe at 8:56 AM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


"A small business grew quickly, but in the process I failed to connect it back to the broader historical context.‬ ‭We stand with those who are hurt, and we respect and hear their voices. We’re committed to honouring the historical significance of hair wrapping and this will now be part of our approach."

Rarely have I seen pablum that manages to say so little in as many words. If a Pantone swatch with 10 differently-named shades that all just look plain white could talk, this is what it would probably say.
posted by sugar and confetti at 8:57 AM on July 25, 2019 [15 favorites]


I just...UGH.

In terms of hair, white ladies owe black women a lot; for example, the fact that you can buy so many wigs so easily now (and there's lots of Youtube videos of how to wear them, different types, etc.) I'm pretty sure is largely due to black women driving demand for them. And if you're a white lady with hair loss, you benefit.
posted by emjaybee at 9:03 AM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


"I'm such a white middle aged lady that 'Karen' was on my parents' shortlist of names for me and I have known this product existed my entire life. I guess that's just me in my East Coast Liberal bubble?"

Even better, I'm a middle-aged white man from the midwest, and I knew they existed.

What I did not know existed, until this started coming out, is the term "Wypipostan", which is hilarious.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:15 AM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


"wypipo" was invented by PoC to bypass hate speech filtering.
I'm not sure how effective it is now that it's so widespread, but as a term it's glorious and I love it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:20 AM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


Imagine how much less contentious an appropriation this would be if she framed this as luxury version of the typical hair bonnet rather than an innovation. There are plenty of black women with the money to buy luxury goods, even silly things like designer workout gear. In theory, the bullshit peddled on sites like Goop is for anyone willing to pour money down that hole. That she didn’t, given the likelihood that she did at least some market research, says to me she wanted to exclude black women from the potential market, just like she wanted to pretend she invented the product itself. Same for the way Goop markets its stuff, a lot of which is culturally clueless or outright appropriative. Because god forbid a fancy white lady uses a product that fancy black ladies also buy.
posted by sallybrown at 9:20 AM on July 25, 2019 [27 favorites]


Even in Marantz' insta update she refuses to acknowledge Black women. She just makes reference to the "historical context" without saying what that context is. What an awful person.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 10:33 AM on July 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. If you already know the answer to your rhetorical question about reverse racism, please just leave it at that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:37 AM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


The goopery!

I thought this Nylon writeup did a decent job of summarizing the ridiculousness of the situation, as well as highlight how it's an example of a broader pattern of ignorance. A sample paragraph:
Lindenberg isn't the only one to blame. The brand could have died in obscurity, worn only by her and her supportive friends. But its relative success and media amplification is telling. A combination of connections, privilege, and sheer ignorance made this possible. While some might argue that NiteCap is "innovative" for its commitment to sustainability and organic, high-quality materials, it's more likely that the founder and NiteCap's customer base find it so because this is the first time they've come into contact with a bonnet of any kind. This also explains why Lindenberg is so comfortable with such a high NiteCap price point—Black-owned bonnet brands like Grace Eleyae are far more affordable—and why its customers, some of whom buy it through Goop (which duly refers to the NiteCap as "ingenious"), are okay paying such a wild premium.
posted by rather be jorting at 11:06 AM on July 25, 2019 [10 favorites]


What I did not know existed, until this started coming out, is the term "Wypipostan", which is hilarious.

Especially in the phrase "go back to"! Anyhow, for present and future etymologists: it seems to be an invention by one writer, Michael Harriot from The Root, who has in his bio "World-renowned wypipologist". "Wypipostan" only has 29 hits on google and they all come from his articles -- this one on the nitecap/hair bonnet, this other one ("... maybe we should institute a travel ban geared toward people from Wypipostan to keep them from coming into this country until we can figure out what the hell is going on") and this other one ("I know you guys have shitty taste because I’ve listened to Blake Shelton albums and scrolled through Pinterest at least once a week just to see what’s going on in Wypipostan"). So, not surprising you hadn’t heard of it yet.
posted by bitteschoen at 11:13 AM on July 25, 2019 [5 favorites]


Did Lindenberg, her mother, or grandmother have zero Black friends, neighbors or coworkers?

I mean, probably yes. White people in the US have done a very good job of segregating ourselves. That's probably even more true of the Goop demographic than white people lower down on the socioeconomic ladder, even though there is a pretense at worldliness and multiiculturalism among Goopers.

This is a few years old, but three quarters of whites don't have any non-white friends.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 11:16 AM on July 25, 2019 [8 favorites]


[Let's drop this name derail - I don't think it's doing what anyone intends it to do. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 12:02 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


> Did Lindenberg, her mother, or grandmother have zero Black friends, neighbors or coworkers? I'm such a white middle aged lady that "Karen" was on my parents' shortlist of names for me and I have known this product existed my entire life.

They probably don't really have any black friends, neighbors, or coworkers. More impressively, they also have managed to avoid looking directly at black women passing them the street, shopping in stores, working in stores, appearing on TV shows or movies, or appearing in commercials for TV shows or movies.

I was raised in a largely-white middle class suburb on the east coast, and I can imagine this plainly. We're socialized to be pleasant but vaguely distant with black folks. It becomes impolite to even really notice (or at least remember) any culturally-specific details -- because we see no way to acknowledge such things without risking being racially insensitive in ways that we do not understand. (For example, a dim awareness that asking "curious" questions gets a chilly or hostile reception, but no ability to conceptualize why it's racist to expect any random black person to be an on-call Black 101 tutor.)

It's a passive, chickenshit, self-fulfilling prophecy of racist ignorance wrapped up in "manners."

It took me years of actively working to unpack and examine my stuff before I was truly comfortable saying something as simple as "ooh, pretty hair!" to an African-American friend or coworker without doing some careful fretting beforehand. I expect I'll continue finding bits and pieces of racist flotsam in my head for the rest of my life.
posted by desuetude at 12:21 PM on July 25, 2019 [13 favorites]


How does this still happen?

Did Lindenberg, her mother, or grandmother have zero Black friends, neighbors or coworkers? I'm such a white middle aged lady that "Karen" was on my parents' shortlist of names for me and I have known this product existed my entire life. Did Lindenberg, her mother, or grandmother have zero Black friends, neighbors or coworkers?
I mean, probably yes. White people in the US have done a very good job of segregating ourselves.

As much as it pains me to claim her, Sarah Marantz Lindenberg is Canadian. Her business is based out of Toronto.

Marantz Lindenberg may not have grown up knowing many Black people* but that doesn't even matter here, because she clearly knew about Black hair wrapping practices while she was working on her product. You can see it in the interview even if she doesn't say it explicitly:

"There were products on the market but none of them had a functional and fashionable solution for me—synthetic fabrics that I felt did more damage, or horrible colours that I felt silly going to sleep in. It inspired me to create something of my own."

"Many people have told me that their grandmothers wrapped their hair..."

"[When I was coming up with the design] I went through tons of different patterns and samples and tests, and it actually took me a lot longer than I would have liked. I wanted something that was adjustable so I met with and interviewed women who wrap their hair. I found that some women had really short or thinning hair, and they slept with their hair wrapped to protect it. And then there are a lot of women who have long hair and hair extensions and weaves. I wanted something that would accommodate long and short hair..."


Like, she knows. But she thinks her product is super innovative and totally worth SO MUCH MORE than the other products out there that (Black) women are already using (that she claims are so ghastly) and she has no compunctions about downplaying and disparaging those who came before her.


* Black people make up only 3.5% of the Canadian population, compared to 12.6% in the U.S. And there are definitely population clusters: My mid-size Ontario city is 1.2% Black. Toronto is 8.9% Black, but the population isn't at all evenly distributed.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 12:37 PM on July 25, 2019 [12 favorites]


- and is also available on Goop.

Every so often you come across some simple, compact fact that tells you everything you need to know about a topic. This is one of those times.

Ah but I forgot to add another important compact fact about that:

it’s sold out on Goop...
posted by bitteschoen at 12:38 PM on July 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


The audacity of her caucasity.

I’m gonna remember that one.
posted by Big Al 8000 at 1:14 PM on July 25, 2019 [6 favorites]


Yeah, there's absolutely no way she didn't know about this before marketing the product. She just thought she could make more cash if she ~*~branded~*~ it as novel and something that was her own unique design (gross) first, without paying any mind to the folks who were already doing similar things.

I will actually warrant you that she thought she would make more money at it if she could cover up any association with those icky black people at all. You can see where those references are in her discussion of her thought process, but she's actively trying to minimize that despite mentioning weaves and hair extensions and very short/thinning hair. Those references are extremely obvious if you already have a little bit of basic familiarity with black hair culture--even a little bit!--but many North American white women don't and won't catch that she's talking about black women there at all unless someone hip-checks them into paying attention.
posted by sciatrix at 1:30 PM on July 25, 2019 [4 favorites]


Okay I read about this earlier this week and rolled my eyes, but I didn't click through to see the product until just now and I WAS NOT PREPARED for how INCREDIBLY UGLY that sleep bonnet is! You can get better-looking ones at Target that are natural satin! In white suburbia Targets, even! That cost like $5! I thought this was going to be something really chic and stylish but NO, this looks like something my grandmother wore to sleep in the 1940s when she had her hair washed and set once a week!

I have also not yet met a white woman who learned about "sleeping pretty" from other white women, you learn about it from black women, and they tell you where to go in your community to buy the really good sleeping bonnets (which is to the black hair care supply store that supplies the local black salons), and the nice woman who owns it and knows a SHIT TON about hair care will talk to you about your hair and your sleeping habits and help you pick one from a HUGE VARIETY in ALL KINDS OF COLORS AND PATTERNS, literally all of which look nicer than this ugly-ass midcentury frumpiness. (I guess these days the kids can learn about sleeping bonnets from black beauty vloggers on YouTube as well as people they actually know.)

But like, congrats to Goop, I guess, on finding a way to have white ladies teach other white ladies how to sleep pretty, at a 500% markup. Which I guess is the markup they're willing to pay to not have to go to a black hair care supply store.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:55 PM on July 25, 2019 [7 favorites]


> I wanted something that was adjustable so I met with and interviewed women who wrap their hair. I found that some women had really short or thinning hair, and they slept with their hair wrapped to protect it. And then there are a lot of women who have long hair and hair extensions and weaves. I wanted something that would accommodate long and short hair..."

Oh gods. I was going to note that white women of my mother's and grandmother's generations knew about wrapping their hair at night to protect it, but they don't get hair extensions and weaves, so she definitely interviewed black women.
posted by desuetude at 2:01 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


Of course it's sold on Goop. At least this product isn't medically harmful. That's something, I guess?
posted by brundlefly at 5:44 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]


"wypipo" was invented by PoC to bypass hate speech filtering.
I'm not sure how effective it is now that it's so widespread, but as a term it's glorious and I love it.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:20 AM on July 26 [8 favorites +] [!]


It just spread to me. More effective by the second!
posted by saysthis at 5:10 AM on July 26, 2019


That instagram statement is a master class in passive-voice bullshit. We stand with those who are mysteriously hurt! By a small business which mysteriously grew, who knows how or why, not us, there's no active involvement, it just happened!

I would say, "I hope Marantz has a friend somewhere who tells her to stop, shut up, listen, and come back in a couple of days with a real no-bullshit apology." But if she had such a friend, they probably would have stepped in at some point before this appropriative nonsense ever got this far. So I won't hold my breath.
posted by Stacey at 6:35 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]


hello I have a new invention that is a waved cap ("way-ved") that is for men to maintain their coiffure

do not be confused by other doings-rags
posted by klangklangston at 4:27 PM on July 27, 2019 [1 favorite]


"The goopery! "

Surprised it's not for internal use
posted by klangklangston at 4:28 PM on July 27, 2019


My exposure to students who go to work in PR tells me they write those kinds of weak apologies because what they studied in school was PR, and they didn't take any classes outside of the communications department, and they've never been exposed to a single ounce of critical anything.
posted by gusandrews at 9:28 PM on July 27, 2019


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