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Objective Beauty- Ladies Embrace Your Authentic Self

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Over the last few days, the Internet has been abuzz about a blog post made by a “social scientist” (in quotes because there is no way he deserves such a title if he writes such misinformation) where he claimed that Black women are objectively less attractive than all other women and provided “data” to support his claim (http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/05/19/london-school-economics-probes-lecturers-posting-race/?test=latestnews). The post was made on a supposedly reputable psychology website. I am truly boggled. How could such rubbish be allowed on a psychology website? I’ve signed a petition asking that the organization’s editorial board explain why the post was allowed and outline what is being done to prevent similar incidents from occurring (http://www.change.org/petitions/hold-psychology-today-accountable).

The outrageous post reflects continued denigration of Black women by some members of society. For me, it is a lesson that beauty is subjective. Further, it underscores that we as Black women need to learn how to embrace our beauty. Don’t get me wrong, all women need to embrace their beauty. However, when people attempt to use scientific evidence to denigrate Black women, Black women are at particular risk of being debased and dehumanized.


I think the thing that saddens me so is that I believe that there are people out there who endorse the outrageous comments. They really do think that Black women are less attractive. The saddest thing I’m afraid, is that my experience tells me that some Black women have internalized this and believe that they are the least attractive people on the face of the Earth. Can we embrace ourselves and our beauty? For example, can we accept that we have kinky, coily, spiraly, wavy, or straight NATURAL hair? Some Black women have straight hair so the point is not that straight hair is bad. The Black Diaspora is comprised of people of all shapes, hues, hair textures, sizes, etc. We have such BEAUTY!!! Can we please learn to embrace ourselves and stop trying to change our authentic reality?

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For Me, Relaxers Were Futile Attempts to Present My “Best” Self

Yesterday I asked many questions of myself:WHY did I so desire straight hair?Why, when my hair was falling out and I was spending a lot of money to attain a texture that just wasn’t what I was naturally blessed with?Was it because I wanted to be beautiful?Did I feel ugly in my natural state?What was driving my desire to have straight hair?Why did I look at a relaxer as a magic wand that would grant me beauty?

I can only speak for myself.I believe that I desired straight hair as a way to assert my femininity, to fit it, to feel good about myself.I relaxed my hair because it was a rite of passage for me, and, from looking around, the many other young black girls I knew who also got their hair relaxed around 12 or 13 years of age.I relaxed my hair because it was easier and more convenient.

Is there a deeper root to this?Was I striving for some beauty ideal that was impossible to attain with my natural hair?As hard as it is for me to admit, I believe that the decision to relax my hair was an attempt to escape who I was so that I could become a “better” me.The only problem is, that better me was not the real me.I was trying to conform to an image that I could never authentically attain.

I came across this fantastic audio from a 9/16/09 broadcast on WUNC 91.5 North Carolina Public Radio.The show was called “Haireotypes” and here is the show description from the website (http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot0916abc09.mp3/view):

“Whether yours is straight, kinky, thinning, or long gone, the long and short of it is, just about all of us have hang-ups about our hair. That’s because hair and personal identity go together like shampoo and conditioner. There are also plenty of cultural stereotypes about hair rooted in everything from color to texture. On today’s show, host Frank Stasio presents a layered conversation about society’s complex relationship with hair and the biases we harbor about others’ strands. Joining the program are Joan Jacobs Brumberg, professor emeritus at Cornell University and author of “The Body Project”; Ashleigh Shelby Rosette, a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business; Neal Lester, professor of English at Arizona State University;photographer Victor Jeffreys II; and Michelle Breyer, co-founder ofNaturallyCurly.com. Plus, members of the cast ofBurning Coal Theater Company‘s current production of “Hair” provide live musical interludes.

State of Things Producer Lindsay Foster Thomas kicked off the conversation this morning with a commentary on her effort to embrace her natural look”

Curious to hear your thoughts!

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New Growth Meant Not Pretty

New growth is a good thing.It represents rebirth, life, strength.But why did new growth have such a negative connotation when I was younger?Was it that I was resentful, afraid of the fact that the real me was rearing its ugly head and peaking through the cracks of my relaxed façade? “

This is an excerpt from yesterday’s post and I want to revisit this discussion because it is beginning to elicit some interesting feedback and pulling up lots of my forgotten reactions.As I little girl, I seriously doubt that I was thinking about issues of authenticity.Instead, I think that I was so upset because new growth, in my mind, meant that my hair was no longer going to be pretty.The popular girls tended to have long, straight hair (including the Black girls).I remember one little Black girl named Makeeba J.She had beautiful, long wavy hair that she’d wear in two plaits.I wanted her hair so bad!It was glossy black and I thought she must have been mixed with Native American because I’d never seen a Black person with hair like that.I’m 99% sure that her hair was natural (I never asked) but all I knew was that for my hair to look like that, I’d have to get a relaxer.Makeeba seemed to be the little girl that all of the boys liked and I attributed it to her silky hair.Even though I was at the age when I beat boys up, I still wanted that kind of male attention.I wanted to be coveted, fawned over, dreamed about.I thought that my hair was a barrier to that kind of adoration.Thank goodness for my Mother and Father.As I mentioned in an earlier post, my parents made sure that we knew that we were beautiful girls, both inside and out.However, messages that I was somehow inferior, not good enough “as is” still crept into my psyche.Now, I still had a marvelous child hood.Please don’t get the impression that my hair sidelined me in life.That is not my point.My point is that hair attitudes affected how I perceived myself and others, how I identified with MYSELF and as a Black person.

As I got older, I do think I struggled with revealing my authentic self as it relates to my hair, meaning, I did whatever I could to conceal my new growth.In my next post, I’ll talk about why this was such a struggle for me. Also, I’ll share some other reactions that illustrate that Black women may not be the only women struggling with these issues.

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