Hair we go again
March 14, 2007 1:59 PM   Subscribe

Good and bad hair. Whether you're dark or you're fair, the subject of hair is a delicate one for an African-American. There are strong opinions about it and curiosity abounds. However, the desire for "good hair" makes women vulnerable to dangerous products that the FDA discourages (and a fellow mefite has recommended for clothing repair). Despite the apparent success of the "Black is Beautiful" mantra these products remain popular, and their makers specifically target the youth market. One brand markets a "texture softener" to "concerned" parents [PDF] and directly to children [Flash]. Just make sure you "Follow directions carefully to avoid skin and scalp burns, hair loss and eye injury" [PDF]. This torturous relationship with hair (and skin!) is not new. It's often called colorism and is a mjor motivator for caustic coiffure. Fortunately, a more "naptural" approach is still available for those who are not their hair.
posted by eisbaer (27 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

Sorry, look here
posted by erskelyne at 2:16 PM on March 14, 2007

Reminds me of a African-American radio program on the local Pacifica affiliate I heard the other day. A naturalist was railing against natural hair extensions because they were usually harvested from Asian women. The naturalist claimed that the Asian hair had vibrations that were interfering with the souls of the African-Americans who used them and was part of a conspiracy to erase their identity. I don't necessarily disagree with that idea.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:17 PM on March 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

Danny: I don't advise a hair cut man. All hairdressers are in the employment of the government. Hair are your aerials. They pick up signals from the cosmos and transmit them directly into the brain. This is the reason bold-headed men are uptight.
That said: Cool post!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:26 PM on March 14, 2007

Your link is fubared:

And that is the point. Those parents reacted that way because "nappy" is a word associated with shame and derision. How could a book (read by a white teacher) with "nappy" headed children in it be anything other than insulting? That's how deeply ingrained it is. The biggest factor, however, is they didn't take the time to familiarize themselves with the books instead of looking at photocopies taken out of context.

The saddest part is it could have been an opportunity to talk about these things and maybe ask the kids what they thought of the book, and how it made them feel about themselves.

"Efforts to keep those and other books out of students' hands only deprive them of opportunities to learn how to deal with racial and other sensitive matters in honest and respectful ways. "

posted by eisbaer at 2:28 PM on March 14, 2007

Doh, sorry erskelyne. You corrected it.
posted by eisbaer at 2:30 PM on March 14, 2007

So, black people in America have some stuff to work out? Who knew?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 2:35 PM on March 14, 2007

The saddest part is it could have been an opportunity to talk about these things and maybe ask the kids what they thought of the book, and how it made them feel about themselves.

I agree. The scandal also seemed pitched to enforce that social order and not move above or to the side of it - keeping that notion of hair as an inherently insulting one, and not simply a matter of fact. It's a reactionary scandal.

Rather than seeing how yes, it could be problematic for a white teacher to use that word, but then to open the book and actually talk to the teacher and the children and the parents about a large issue in an informed discussion, there's just shouting and firing.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2007

I'm a black male rock and roller in my late 40's. Back in the day, I "whacked" my hair from about 1974 to 1990 (down to my sholders for hard rock loving, gelled and spiky for the punk days , even the Jheri curl), when I finally shaved it all off and became a much happier person. Burned my head any number of times, My mom has burned large portions off and wears wigs and weaves these days.

... and I have good hair, still a full head thereof when I do a "Reference grow". No Seinfeld Suprise for me!

Nowdays , I just burn my face shaving with depalitories like Magic or X-Blade.

Hmmm, nothing on the wiki about them under shaving, even under Chemical depalitories. Time to go darken up wikipedia...again
posted by djrock3k at 2:36 PM on March 14, 2007

I work very closely during the day with a middle aged black woman who spends about two hours at the hair dressers once every two weeks. However, she's in the process of growing locks out and from what I understand these regular tighten up sessions are crucial to keep the hair from matting. I also understand that matted dreads are considered a sign of laziness and disregard for self amongst black women who dedicate this kind of time to growing tight and clean locks. These women are legion as my coworker is stopped on the streets in the neighborhoods about twice a day to discuss the current status of her dreads with other dreads wearing black women.
posted by The Straightener at 3:07 PM on March 14, 2007

For once in my life I'm going to use the word "nubs" in a sentence...
posted by Tube at 4:18 PM on March 14, 2007

Great post!!! I know how pitifully privileged this sounds, but to illustrate the severity of effect the cumulative hours of waving blonde and auburn locks in pantene (et al) commercials and ads have had on so many of us, an anecdote: even I (a white blonde with little body hair) have found myself reading the boxes and bottles of relaxer... pondering how to de-kink my pubes. Fight the power.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 5:26 PM on March 14, 2007

Eisbären müssen nie weinen!!!! Nice name, nice post.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:22 PM on March 14, 2007

However, unless my German has slipped in a major way since highschool, Grauzone means Grey Zone or Grey Area, not Groovezone.
posted by nathancaswell at 6:24 PM on March 14, 2007

I completely sympathize. I have tried Magic Shave and I just couldn't stand putting a chemical that dissolves my hair on my face. It was a kick ass exfoliant though, like a glycolic wash every morning. I have recently started using a safety razor with fabulous Japanese steel blades that are cheaper than mach3 blades, and a heavenly shaving cream with a proper brush. It really reduced the ingrown hairs (I don't do two passes so it's not a close shave), and once you get the technique down, it is just as fast as electric.

I still haven't found a way to shave my head (instead of clipping closely) without 2 weeks of ingrown hairs, peeling, itchiness, and irritation. :(

I don't know what their name is/was in Germany. Here , it is Groovezone, so that's what I always used. And thanks for the compliment. The first FPP is teh scareh.
posted by eisbaer at 6:57 PM on March 14, 2007

I've been with a few black women in my long life and I hate straightened hair.
posted by davy at 7:05 PM on March 14, 2007

And what's wrong with the word "nappy"? It describes a kind of hair type or texture, as "flyaway" describes mine. It's only a Bad Word if you think there's something wrong with having hair that texture.
posted by davy at 7:13 PM on March 14, 2007

This torturous relationship with hair (and skin!) is not new.

This post was very interesting. I found the link above very disturbing. Why did the children pick the dolls that they did?
posted by JujuB at 10:05 PM on March 14, 2007

I'm truly puzzled. I thought 'nappy' was the state of unkept kinky hair, not just plain, normal, kinky hair. Probably because this seemed to be how I heard it used (usually delivered as an insult from one black person to another).

I always found African hair rather cool. Roberta Flack was my idea of beautiful hair, back when. To me, it was like a halo. And the first time I saw a black guy pull a doob out of his hair, I became insanely jealous of that hair!

It is my consdiered opinion that anyone who doesn't find black to be beautiful isn't paying attention to reality. Colorful fabrics look far better worn with dark skin. Gold is truly glorious on black skin, but looks rather boring with pale skin. Even my sister has expressed frustration with how much better fashions look on black women, so it isn't just me.

Now I live in South Africa. One of the best photos I've got here is of a young Xhosa woman in traditional dress and makeup. She is devastatingly beautiful.
posted by Goofyy at 11:23 PM on March 14, 2007

People take themselves way to seriously. Hair and all.
posted by Sukiari at 12:36 AM on March 15, 2007

i think the poster's use of the phrase, "dark or fair", in the post, is a bad choice of word. "fair", with its associcated meanings of "pretty" and "just", is a poorly-chosen word to play against "dark", which has no pleasant connotations. dark-skinned people already get enough direct discrimination without the added subtle undertones of "unjust and unattractive" that occur when the contrasting word is "fair". although from the nature of the post, i think it's very safe to assume no harm was intended, i still respectfully submit that "dark or light" might have been a better word choice.
posted by twistofrhyme at 12:02 PM on March 15, 2007

It's actually a play on the words of the song in the video in the first link.
posted by eisbaer at 12:04 PM on March 15, 2007

Yes indeed, eisbaer, quite so! How white of you!
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:58 PM on March 15, 2007

But, twistofrhyme, I don't think we should be using 'dark or light', as darkness symbolically represents ignorance, and light symbolically represents knowledge. We should use the terms 'high reflectivity' and 'low reflectivity'.
posted by Sukiari at 2:50 PM on March 15, 2007

Also, we should alter the book of Genesis to read "Let there be photons."
posted by nathancaswell at 2:57 PM on March 15, 2007

Haha only serious.
posted by Sukiari at 11:20 PM on March 15, 2007

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