Politics, Media and Black Hair

Posted on August 27, 2009

Catherine Saint Louis has an interesting article in The New York Times about the politicalization of black hair and black women's hairdos. As first lady, Michelle Obama's hair is carefully scrutinized. She does straighten her hair, which is seen as simply a style choice by some and as a statement of conformity to others. When her daughter Malia chose to wear her hair in twists this summer, some people actually got upset. It's a very hot topic right now, one that has many black women asking: why can't our hairstyles just be hairstyles and not a political statement?

The New York Times says, "Getting 'good hair' often means transforming one's tightly coiled roots; but it is also more freighted, for many African-American women and some men, than simply a choice about grooming. Straightening hair has been perceived as a way to be more acceptable to certain relatives, as well as to the white establishment."

"If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed," the comedian Paul Mooney, sporting an Afro, says in the documentary "Good Hair," which won a jury prize at the Sundance film festival and comes out in October. "If your hair is nappy, they're not happy."

We think Malia looks adorable with her twists. Plus, she's eleven years old, for Pete's sake. Leave her alone.

The hair issue is really hitting the media right now. Time magazine has a new article entitled "Why Michelle's Hair Matters" and Tyra Banks has vowed to appear on the premiere of her show with her natural hair only -- no weaves or wigs. We're looking forward to seeing Chris Rock's documentary on the subject, called Good Hair. Here's the trailer:

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