Thursday, October 1, 2009

Black Women Hair Angst Should Not Be Open For Public Consumption

I could actually take the "Hair" out of the title of this post and leave it as is. Black women angst should NOT be open for public consumption!! I find these conversations to be challenging, painful and difficult. They require time and great care as we sort through things. The issue is they're often full of pain and tied to other issues involving the abandonment and denigration of black women (in particular African-American black women) at the hands of black men.

So when Chris Rock appeared on Oprah yesterday to discuss his documentary, "Good Hair" I cringed. Again, it's another hijacking of stories that should be told and controlled by BLACK WOMEN but is only given "validity" by those black men who decide to cash in on them. That cashing in may be monetary compensation or notoriety. This goes hand in hand with other black women engaging in patriarchy-based sexism who agree to defer to these "experts" simply because they are MEN.

Curiosity on a subject is usually an indication you need to examine an issue further but to then make a cottage industry out of it at the expense of your "subject matter" is all about YOUR hustle. Any real assistance that emerges is a residual affect. The assumption that black men (who frequently devalue other black women in their personal and professional lives) can suddenly decide to "come to the rescue" of black women in one hand with the "answer" in the other is disturbing to me. It's not sincere. Not when pathologies and pain are laid bare in a public forum AND they're trying to make money from it.

The participation of black women is still 100% required for any such projects to be successful. I'm still annoyed that Steve Harvey, the thrice-married cheater is giving any woman advice on how to have a successful relationship - and given validity. Especially when he's being sued for stealing the concept and content from another black woman. Then we have Tyler Perry allowing a black woman writer-director to be pushed out of the For Colored Girls project in favor of....himself. I could go down a list.

As more and more black women take the pill to get out of the DBR Matrix our movements have not gone unnoticed! Now our real oppressors want to further obstruct the path to freedom by seeming to champion us. Like any sneaky saboteur they will grin in our faces while steadying the knife to stick in our backs. We must never forget the oppressors are also in competition with those of us who want to succeed. It's part race and part class warfare. Lest anyone wish to dispute this ask yourself how you'd feel if it was a white male director making a documentary about "good" hair and referring to childhood photos of Oprah as her "slave" look. All of our skin folk are NOT our kin folk!

Here's a "good" moment from yesterday's Oprah episode - but again Rock has to insert himself and his opinion as if what he thinks about Solange actually matters. He is spot on in his political commentary but has a clear animus towards educated and successful black women. I still remember the way he put down Michelle Obama during his comedy routine from last year and his poor attitude toward his wife. As if making a joke out of married life and devaluing relations between black men and women accompanied with laughter removes all the hatred.

Speaking of which - where was Malaak Compton-Rock in this conversation? Why isn't SHE on stage (ok at least in the audience)? It makes you wonder about all the rumors of their marital strife. I sense much of it stems from him and his attitudes. If he is sooo concerned about the well-being of his daughters and screams from the rafters about what he says to reaffirm their beauty why is there such an ongoing problem? Actions speak louder than words that's why. Like so many weak, insecure and often limited-educated African-American black men (regardless of their income) their short-comings are obvious to everyone but them.

**Carmen Dixon mentioned me in her latest post! Thanks CD.
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Anonymous said...

I too saw the show and just went "oh boy." this was more along the lines of a Tyra move, but still.

Is it too much like right for us to trust ourselves and tell our own stories as **we** see fit? This is getting annoying and a tad depressing: Black men hate us, apparently, but want to tell us about ourselves. I see that a little more clearly now. "bruh, I'll get myself out of the ditch, but thanks for playing."

LotusDoll said...

I too saw the program. I don't feel ashamed to talk about what is. This weave thing is a phenom! All women have issues with their concept of beauty and hair. Our hair happens to be very different and to me very beautiful and versatile. I don't fear our hair or the fact that one thinks that black men don't like us. Your experiences follow your beliefs. I don't have the same experiences probably because I'm around such positive black men who happen to love natural hair on black women. We as black women are able to do what we want to do with our unique hair. My problem with all of the perms is health and the morality of using somebody else's hair to look a certain way. I never wanted to put somebody else's DNA on my head! Yuk!

My mother said that in the 1940's alot of wigs suddenly appeared from Europe. They later found out that they mostly came from deceased Jewish women! Horrible. We have to be responsible to ourselves and look in the mirror. Find the love. Don't support terrorism - (damaged scalp and somebody else's hair attained suspiciously) to justify our own wants and desires.

gweely said...

I sure wish an AA woman was making money off of this subject

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

rainebeaux: I agree with you of course but I'm also wondering if our silence is a matter of decorum or lack of initiative as well? On the other hand the thug, drug dealer, incorrectly imprisoned black male stories have been told ad nauseum. So now we're apparently open for their misguided focus. If black women would make a statement by NOT supporting these projects they will get the message. Too many allow the lack of our representation be a bandage to the core issues at stake here.

LotusDoll: Welcome and thanks for commenting. If you think this post is solely focused on hair you're missing the point. This isn't about a hairstyle. It's about the shame and pain many black women feel and the war being waged against us. As to experiences informing beliefs - that has validity but isn't always the case. The focus doesn't need to be on what hairstyle a black woman has but how she feels about herself. Nor should it be denied the fact that certain skin tones and hair textures have been promoted as the ideal.

Celeste: Yes! We need to be in charge of our own stories - and reaping the benefits of our sweat equity.

Muzikal203 said...

I don't see anything wrong with the clip that you posted. I don't see anything wrong with what Chris said in that clip, it doesn't sound like he's trying to tell anyone what to do, he's simply presenting a different perspective. Should we be against the movie simply because it's Chris doing it and not Oprah herself or some other Black woman?

Is there anywhere online to see the whole show? I missed it :o( And I'm actually thinking about letting my perm grow out, my hair tends to grow faster without it, and that would save me $60 every few months.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

muzikal203 : The clip I featured wasn't the bulk of the content of my post or the underlying issues presented. I'm not telling anyone to be for or against this film but to question the men profiting from our pain and the blind and blanket support being given to them.

Since this is supposed to be an examination of issues of concern to black women I think the question we should be asking is who is telling our stories and do they have our best interests at heart. Evaluating those who are self-appointed leaders and experts is worth the consideration.

Nu Girl said...

Hello Faith,

From the moment Chris announced this doc, I was suspect at his motives. I don't believe that a man who has obvious issues with women and has made insulting comments directed at AA women could examine this topic in a way that was constructive. It appears that I am right. Anu over at Khamit Kinks was invited to an early viewing and according to her blog post Ask Anu. The doc poked fun at black women and their hair issues in a way that was very demeaning. She described that a white man, a reporter from the NY Post was seated in the front row and laughed through the whole doc.

I am keeping my money to support women filmmakers who have examined the subject of our hair in a way that tells our whole story accurately.
The sad thing is that Chris Rock is going to make allot of money poking fun at a sensitive issue for so many sisters.

Thank You For The Post,


Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Nu Girl: Thanks for the heads up. Some people don't understand why it was problematic for Rock to helm this project (with Nelson George). Your example of the white male laughing at the expense of black women was exactly the point I was trying to make. I also saw a trailer of the MOCKUMENTARY where Rock is being chased by a giant ball of hair. How is that even remotely uplifting? I am recalling why Dave Chappelle decided to end his show when he noticed white people were laughing at him not with him.

Nu Girl said...

And yes, how can he wonder why is daughter is exhibiting inferiority complex when he himself sees a picture of Oprah as a little brown girl with braided hair and calls her a slave.

Even through he tells his daughters that they are beautiful, children are very intuitive and they know when you are faking the funk. If Chris really believed what he was telling his daughters, he would not have had that reaction to a young Oprah.

Nia said...

Thank you so much for this post Faith. I have never been able to clearly articulate how I feel about this, although it troubles me a lot. It's a shame that men can make money from our issues and at the same time fail to check their male privilege at the door.
(By the way, the other day I was trying to explain to a friend of mine why she should NOT buy that horrible Steve Harvey book, but I don't think I did a good of it verbally. I will be directing her to this post.)
Because Chris Rock has a black wife and black daughters does not automatically qualify him to speak for us, especially when he has said such horrible things about black women in the past. People will say "Oh he's a comedian, it's his job to make jokes like that, there's no harm in it", but there IS harm in it and it is no excuse.)

And I have witnessed this type of thing on a personal level too. There are black men who will poke fun at hairstyles on black women they don't even know, and then say: "Well, my wife/girlfriend/daughter has natural hair." As though that somehow makes it all ok. Or they will criticize black women who don't like to go swimming or do sweaty activities and then fawn over women who have loosely textured or curly hair.
My focus now is solely on supporting women film-makers who tell our stories critically and in good faith.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Nu Girl: I couldn't believe Oprah let him put his hinds through her hair to "prove" she doesn't have a hair weave. They may have a personal relationship off-camera but to do that in that forum on her show under those circumstances was very disrespectful to me.

Nia: Thank you for reading. Hopefully more of us will realize we're being laughed at and not assume good intention or execution and NOT support this woeful project. Regardless I don't think any random white person should ever know such intimate details related to how black women groom themselves for laughs.

Aisha said...

"Hopefully more of us will realize we're being laughed at and not assume good intention or execution and NOT support this woeful project. Regardless I don't think any random white person should ever know such intimate details related to how black women groom themselves for laughs."

Thank you so much for this post. The comment you wrote above pretty much sums it up for me. I'm tired of Black women being made fun of or held up as a curious spectacle. I HATE all this public attention being paid to our hair and just our "issues" in general. Everything from CNN Black in America to Tyra to Oprah. Ugh. Now you're going to have a bunch of condescending non-Black people thinking they know all about us and our issues.

I think these issues need to be explored among US in a safe space, not national television.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Aisha: Thanks for your feedback.I also think it's time for many black women to stop focusing so much attention on "hair angst" as well. Not that figuring out how to properly care for our hair isn't important, but the bottom line is a lot of falls under the "if only my hair was like white or biracial women I wouldn't have these problems" misguided thinking. If we're going to be empowered, really empowered we have got to move beyond this issue and focus on the big picture.

Aisha said...

The thing is, it's not so much Black women focusing on their own hair that I have a problem with. It's the public spotlight being placed on it by uncaring outsiders that I don't like.

Ion said...

I agree with everything you said, Faith. Although I can think of PLENTY of things white women do to beautify themselves (a few things that come to mind are make-up, hair bleach, and push up bras and who they were initially/still marketed towards in the majority of cases.) But non-black women are protected from this sort of personal invasion on what they personally do to beautify themselves and their race is not specifically brought up (this is true whenever white women are protected.)

ALL WOMEN do different things to conform to femininity, dieting, straightening, shaving, highlighting, makeup, and push up bras to fit "an ideal". Black women and "hair" (the ONE THING they can target us for) is more about society trying to con us into believing that other women are somehow more "naturally desirable", which is far from the case.

I do not approve of Tyra Banks snatching her tracks out on national television to make the white teenagers in the audience feel more naturally desirable for having straight hair, this film, or the way in which black women are constantly on display for public scrutiny. This whole conversation in public about black women's beauty process (which let me add, is A LOT LESS than every single other ethnicity), is counterproductive and is only intended to make other women (and the DBR's who love them) feel better about what they've "naturally" got over us, no matter how "unnatural" they might be overall.

Would we applaud a white man for making a documentary on why so many women dye their hair blond? No we wouldn't, globally in patriarchy there hasn't been one society where women weren't willing to conform to beauty standards of what the men around them found attractive. Clearly, looking at Chris Rock's wife, he subscribes towards this general philosophy, so why is he even allowed to lead a discussion on black women? Why are black men (especially the pro-black types) PERIOD more "concerned" with showing us the dangers of relaxer chemicals than the danger of having sex with a BM without a condom?

I love that Chris Rock is marketing this as "concern" for the self hatred of black women. Newsflash: being a woman PERIOD is about self hatred. I know for example, cross culturally women don't like how they look without makeup (self hatred of natural features), without "spanx" (self hatred of natural body type), without their heels on (self hatred for natural height) So why are black women ridiculed for this? Are we also expressing "Self hatred" when we shave and don't proudly wear our natural "arm pit hair"? These "100% natural" t-shirts kill me when I see obvious signs of eyebrow plucking and underarm shaving. LOL

I know several white women who refuse to leave the house without blow-drying their hair straight every morning, or who's hair was badly damaged from bleaching, it is only black women who get the "self hatred" speech, and who are laughing stocks for the world for not wanting to "look like ourselves".

These hair conversations belong in private. If they are even addressed at all (and my attitude is that they should not be).

I really love your blog


Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Aisha: Agreed but I'd still like black women to not think of themselves as inferior due to hair texture or skin tone.

Alienati0n: Thanks so much for your comment. Your moniker gives me a chuckle! All women do employ various grooming tactics not just for the pleasure of men but I also think for the approval of women. You're correct I think in asking whether a white man would be applauded (or even get financing for) a documentary on why white women dye their hair blond. We already know why! Anyway I am TIRED of this war on women and hijacking of our concerns.

Halima said...

Faith thanks for this. Notice how bw rush out to claim 'good intentions' when bm are simply picking at our scabs for fun and sport.

Bw have been carefully trained to recieve any output from bm as positive, good, well intended and without malice. This is why a bm can literally come out cursing and mocking bw yet somehow bw read/interpret this as caring and concern for bw. behold a sign of the utter confused place bw inhabit at present.

the spell must be broken!

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Halima: Thanks for your feedback. I'm still reeling over the critique of Michael Jackson and his selection of white women as mothers to his children while putting black women in the mammy role!! It was so obvious but still missed by most.

Anonymous said...

Looks like another stolen concept from a BW!

Lets see there was the matrix, then the book Steve claim he this.

Its all about the money, but since these men are too dumb and damaged to really have a clue they rip off their BW colleagues.

I am glad that these women are standing up for themselves.