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“Good Hair” Building Positive Identity & Self Esteem

Recently, the Big Sister staff watched Good Hair, a documentary by Chris Rock, to further explore the different hair typologies and the implications that this can have for women’s and girl’s self-esteem and sense of self. Additionally, Big Sister staff had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Tina Opie who is a professor at Babson College and has studied how hair affects an individual’s self-esteem, identity and the way women are perceived in the workplace.

Recently, the Big Sister staff watched Good Hair, a documentary by Chris Rock, to further explore the different hair typologies and the implications that this can have for women’s and girl’s self-esteem and sense of self. Additionally, Big Sister staff had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Tina Opie who is a professor at Babson College and has studied how hair affects an individual’s self-esteem, identity and the way women are perceived in the workplace. Just because society may stigmatize certain girls, and women, based on the texture of their hair, it does not mean there isn’t anything that we can do to combat these stereotypes and assumptions.

Has your Little Sister ever asked about your hair or made a comment about her hair? Hair is often seen as a marker of status and beauty, but it may be hard to talk about it with your Little Sister. Women and girls that have coarse, curly, or kinky hair are often labeled by media as less beautiful and having less status. This can impact their perception of themselves as well as their professional and social opportunities. For instance when you look at the above image of Beyonce and Solange what immediate perceptions come to mind, what time of professional or social circles’ would you envision these women being part of? The media defines “good hair” as straight, relaxed, and often blonde, while “bad hair” is thick, kinky/curly, and often dark. In the pictures above, Beyonce’s hair is relaxed and dyed so that it is “good hair” but Solange’s hair is worn naturally and would be identified as “bad hair.”

Here are a few suggestions that you may want to consider before talking with your Little Sister about her hair:

· Think about your hair, its texture and how it relates to your sense of self. Before approaching the topic with your Little Sister it will be helpful to think about your views of hair and how these may explicitly or implicitly be communicated to her.
· Watch Chris Rock’s Good Hair documentary to learn more about the ways in which the concept of “good hair” and “bad hair” impacts women and girls – particularly women and girls of color.
· Consider the way in which your Little Sister wears her hair. Does she wear it naturally, in braids, or relaxed? The way that you approach the conversation will vary based on how she wears her hair.
· Think about where you draw a line between grooming and identity alterations according to what other people want you to look like and not what you want to look like.
· Many of us may consider dying our hair grooming, while others may feel that is identity alteration. How do you feel about dying hair? What about relaxing your hair?
· When discussing hair with your Little Sister, approach the conversation with curiosity. Do not assume that if she relaxes her hair it is because she has low self-esteem and feels her natural hair is not beautiful. Ask questions about how she decides what to do with her hair and why she made those decisions.
· Read Dr. Tina Opie’s blog at www.hairasidentity.com where she discusses hair and features women that are sporting their natural hair. This would even be great to read with your Little Sister to help get the conversation started.
· Call your Match Support Specialist if you want more information on how to have this discussion with your Little Sister.

–By Kristie Smith, Impact Specialist

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