Wednesday, April 25, 2012

"Good" Hair

Last week a student of mine presented on "good" skin---that the Eurocentric ideas of beauty are pushed on ALL of us---including African Americans.  She made a great point---that African Americans are facing even higher and tougher (impossible) beauty standards than white women, because the white standard is the standard.

Which brings me to my "good" hair thoughts.   

Miss E (3.5) has a huge afro.  Sometimes she wears it in puffs, sometimes in braids, and sometimes it's just as it is---a huge afro.  

Baby E (17 months) has silky, thin, curly hair.  I can run my comb or brush through it, not problem.  

At church, a lady came up to us, pointed at Baby E, and said, "She's got the good hair."

Her statement, meant to be a compliment, made me so sad.   One, because hair is hair---you get what you get in life.   And two, Miss E was standing right there and apparently didn't have hair nice enough to deserve the attention of the stranger.

I get that black hair and black hair culture is complicated and historical and contemporary and much more.   I get that "bad" hair---kinky, nappy, dry---it's hard to care for.  

A fellow teacher of mine says his black female students in the Black Studies Program often discuss their hair.  The overwhelming consensus in his classes is that straight, faux hair is the way to go.  It's more beautiful.

Friends of mine have seven children they adopted.   She shared with me how her high school age girls are often made fun of for having natural hair.  Why don't they get it treated like the other brown girls?  

I think it's so sad that standards of "beauty" are pushed onto our girls.  Disturbingly, these standards are already being bestowed upon my babies.     They are already being told how they should and shouldn't look in order to be what society sees as beautiful.

Why would anyone else care what anyone else looks like?   If you like tattoos, get a tat, or two, or ten.  Why do I care?  If you like to sag your pants, sag away.  I don't care.   (By the way, my previous town passed a "no saggy pants" law this past year---as if there aren't other MAJOR issues in society to deal with).   If you like to look like you stepped out of a Polo ad, fine.  If you like to wear all black, go for it.    If you are ok with your ten year old wearing lipstick, whatever.

Sadly, we are spending too much time and energy judging someone else's appearance.  We take our own opinions and insecurities and project those onto others.    We perpetuate the media's messages and standards of beauty, therefore further empowering the media to tell us how to look.

Beauty is fleeting. 

At least outward beauty.

But the inside is what counts.

I know it sounds cliche, but we all know it's true.  :)

I can't protect my daughters from everyone's opinion of them.  But being a transracial family, where EVERYONE has an opinion about us---good or bad or indifferent---has taught me to, more than ever, say, "Who cares?" to those who spew judgements.     No doubt those judgements sometimes hurt, even if they aren't meant to, but transracial adoptive families (and anyone else who is different, which is practically everyone, right?) learn to roll with the punches. 


Parents, how do you shield your children from the media's standards of beauty?  



  1. I just blogged about my daughters hair yesterday. My biggest question I get is, "Do you do her hair yourself?" As if, a white mama can't figure out what to do with black hair. Beauty is fleeting, but it is so important culturally and for self esteem reasons to keep our girls hair healthy and look well kept

  2. great post. we a mom with two white kids with silky blonde hair and ambitions to adopt soon, I have often wondered how I'd deal with the hair issues as we'll likely adopt a child who has different hair than my bio kids. Curious, what products, if any, do you use on Miss E?


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