(posted by PN)
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(posted by PN)
This piece is to be taken as an opened window to how I understand Black female beauty. First let me just say: I love my hair!
Black hair is a statement!
While to some black hairstyles are exotic, to others they might be threatening because they display a black esthetic that is linked to an authentic and an imaginary radical blackness.
In recent years, hair has been a central theme of the work of psychoanalysts, sociologists, and anthropologists.
What is noteworthy in psychoanalysis is that it is argued by some that hair generates private symbolism that originate within the unconscious, but these symbols may or may not come to the surface to develop public significance.
Psychoanalyst C.R. Hallpike also argues that hair represents social control; he gives as an example the fact that soldiers and prisoners are required to wear short hair while on the other hand long-haired hippies and women exist on the fringes of this apparent structure of social control structure (1972).
Hair also carries sociological significance, in a sense that it is an easily controlled variable that can denote status, set fashion, or serve as a badge (Cooper, 1971: pp. 7), and when paired with skin color, hair is one of the most important physical attributes for racial classification. From the moment that people of different races came into contact, Black hair has symbolized, and continues to reflect, struggles.
Consequently, the socio-political implications for hair implied that from an assimilationist standpoint, hair and the relationship to appropriate grooming practices are viewed as a positive factor among people of African decent, but nationalists view any hairstyling choice that alters black hair as signifying self-hatred. Historically the proliferation of racist ideologies through colonialism and slavery operated to justify theories of racial hierarchies that led people of African descent to believe that they were without intelligence, culture and beauty.
Sociologist Ingrid Banks goes a step further by suggesting that the intersection of reflections about race and gender created cultural and political constructions of beauty which have led women of African descent all over the world to alter their original appearances in order to meet the expectations of mainstream notions of beauty.
Hair is a racial signifier!
Hair styling practices intersect esthetics, societal norms, internalized notions of superiority and inferiority, history, adornment, politics, race and racism.
Black hair is an art!
In reality, the varieties of hair styling practices (whether women wear their hair natural, permed, braided, colored, short, long…) are cultural artifacts and adornment rituals, rather than expressions of self-hatred (Mercer, 1990).
According to anthropologist Jeanette Mageo “it seems more likely that public symbols acquire private significance for all of us simply because public social life affects us personally: what has personal significance is at least in part a product of how we are regarded and treated by others” (1994: pp. 21). In this perspective, Black women’s self-hatred is due to the way that they are regarded and treated by others as a result of racism.
On the other hand, Willie Morrow (1973) argues that skin color (“race”) and “curly or kinky hair” (beauty) are so intertwined that it is hard to separate the two when examining the forces that shape black people’s self-esteem, and anthropologist P. Hershman reminds us that hair scholarship must take into consideration culturally specific realities (1974).
In fact, while curly and kinky hair was glorified in West African societies, it became a symbol of inferiority once enslaved Africans reached American shores. Therefore, it was on slave ships and white-owned plantations in America that curly and kinky hair became the badge of racial inferiority (Banks, 2000: pp. 8).
The literature on “female Blackness” tends to be reductionist constructions of black identity and it is a horrible mistake to assume that black women’s consciousness is essentialist, or that all black women think alike.
Black hair is identity.
The reality is that Black women today represent a multiplicity of realities, and yet, nobody can deny that being a black woman has a political and social context, especially in societies that are racist and/or sexist… (to be Cont’d…)
(by Luziela. Edited by OM-Team)