Hair As A Symbol Of Black Feminism

Hair As A Symbol Of Black Feminism


Kearah Armonie, a Brooklyn College Film Major, sits in front of her computer, waiting for the screen to come alive. Her lips covered in black lipstick mouth the lyrics to an Erykah Badu song playing in the background. She tugs on the locs she started about a year and a half ago, which she says is "a symbol of black power". She logs into her Tumblr account, ILoveBoxBraids, with over 29,000 followers, and scrolls through pictures of women of varying ages, shapes, and shades of the black girl spectrum.

“ILoveBoxBraids is a Tumblr blog, and a big trend on the platform is to make a photo blog where you post pictures of a certain theme based on what your blog is about. You also accept submissions. ILoveBoxBraids is for natural hair inspiration but mostly extensions and African hair braiding styles."

"Good Hair," a documentary film produced by Chris Rock in 2009, was made after he realized his daughter did not think her hair was “good”. His goal for the documentary was to attack this concept of “bad hair” which plagued black girls in an era obsessed with sleek straight hair, even if it meant using cancer causing chemicals such as a relaxer, colloquially coined the “creamy crack”. Kearah sites Good Hair as one of her many inspirations for her blog. “Years to come after that film, the whole natural hair movement was booming, I didn’t even realize I made my blog in the middle of all of that”.

Afros, braids, and locs are often considered “unprofessional” hairstyles that have kept women of color out of jobs, schools and other spaces of advancement. Black girls with thick and curly textures started to question this. Why is the natural way my hair grows from my scalp inherently wrong? Why do I have to completely change the pattern in which my hair grows, through harmful chemicals, in order to be accepted?

The natural hair movement became more than a conversation about hair but a worldwide discussion on race and gender. "One act of feminism apart from fighting patriarchy is representation. It's putting women out here. It’s showing that I am a woman and I am here and I am your equal and I deserve to be in this space. So an act of black feminism would be putting black women out there and saying this is who I am, this is my skin tone, this is my hair texture and I am here. We are here. So for me just posting regular black girls with their booty length box braids taking a mirror selfie in the school bathroom is an act of black feminism."

A reflection of this global transition of hair and mind can be seen through hash tags such as #blackgirlmagic or #naturalhairdontcare. These revolutionary hash tags are statements of resistance. With resistance often comes consequence.

In November of 2012, Weather woman and meteorologist, Rhonda Lee, was fired from her anchor position at KTBS 3 News, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La, for wearing and defending her natural hair. In 2013, 12-year-old Vanessa VanDyke was threatened expulsion by her school in Florida for her natural hair. In an interview for WKMG, she stated “First of all, it’s puffy and I like it that way. I know people will tease me about it because it’s not straight. I don’t fit in.” Kearah's blog is a celebration of girls like Vanessa. She shares photos of everyday black girls with thousands of reblogs, likes and comments. This encourages girls to embrace their natural hair the way Vanessa has. Scrolling through her blog, Kearah shows me many comments made under the pictures she posts such as, "I can't wait to do this to my hair" or "this is pretty, where can I get a style like this done".

Since the start of her blog Kearah has received thousands of questions about hair. Many of those questions delve into the politics of hair. "When a white girl asks me if she could get braids, one if you have to ask then the answer is probably no." Kearah explains that although she is for women of all ethnicities, a non person of color wearing braids and locs "rides the fence of cultural appropriation". She goes on to explain the discrimination women of color face for their hair. "Like you want braids but you still probably won’t hire me in your establishment so that’s my personal inner conflict"

Rocking natural hair to many black girls like Kearah is a political statement in opposition to anti-black rhetoric such as "unruly" or "nappy." The transition from a relaxer into natural hair to many women of color is a reclaiming of their blackness. It says, I am here unapologetically, whether you accept me or not. Kearah Armonie’s blog started around March of 2011 out of a lack of representation for girls who she says “look like her”. “When I wanted to submit a picture of myself to different Tumblr blogs I realized there wasn’t one dedicated to me or braids, which I thought was weird so then I made it."

This seemingly simple reasoning became one of the main catalysts that helped thousands of women of color transition into their natural hair and find protective styles like braids, twists, and locs. "People come to me and tell me that they started new hair remedies, and taking care of their hair, and wearing their hair naturally because of my blog".

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it


Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

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Terrors Behind "Toddlers & Tiaras" - Beauty Pageants Need To Go!

Why Honey Boo Boo is not the girl we should be idolizing...


Honey Boo Boo is famous for her extravagant persona, extreme temper tantrums, overwhelming attitude, and intense sassiness. All of these qualities are shared by many other young girls who participate in beauty pageants - not just in "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" but also in TLC's notorious "Toddlers & Tiaras," a show that depicts the horrors of little girls who have dedicated their childhood to winning the crown.

These shows, and the pageants they glorify do nothing but force girls to grow up too quickly, send negative messages to viewers and participants and pose health risks for the girls involved.

Therefore, beauty pageants for young girls should be abolished.

The hypersexualization that takes place in these pageants is staggering. Not only are young girls' minds molded into having a superficial view on beauty, but they are also waxed, spray-tanned, given wigs, retouched in pictures, injected with Botox and fillers, and painted with fake abs and even breasts.

Sexy is the goal, not cute. Girls of ages 2-12 wear skimpy clothing, accentuating only their underdeveloped bodies. A 4-year-old girl on "Toddlers and Tiaras" once impersonated Dolly Parton with fake breasts, another dressed as Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman (so basically, a prostitute), and another even pretended to smoke a cigarette to look like Sandy from Grease.

In Venezuela, people are so obsessed with pageants that they send their daughters to "Miss Factories," to train them to win. At these factories, underage girls undergo plastic surgery and hormone therapy to delay puberty in attempts to grow taller. In addition, they often get mesh sewn onto their tongues so that they are physically incapable of eating solid food. This idea of taking horrific measures to look slimmer is not unique to Venezuela. A former Miss USA explained that she would "slather on hemorrhoid ointment, wrap herself up with Saran wrap, and run on a treadmill with an incline for 30 minutes to tighten her skin and waist up." Many countries, including France and Israel have banned child beauty pageants because it is "hypersexualizing." Why has the US yet to follow in their footsteps?

Additionally, the pageants strip their young contestants of a childhood by basically putting them through harsh child labor. Oftentimes, girls as young as 18 months old participate in pageants. There is no way that a girl under 2 years old has the capacity to decide for herself that she wants to participate in a beauty pageant. Not to mention, education often takes a backseat in pageant girls' lives as long practice sessions interfere with sleep and homework. This causes long-term distress for the contestants, including widespread unemployment for former pageant girls.

Moreover, these pageants tie self-worth and self-esteem to attractiveness. They teach girls that natural beauty and intelligence are not enough, when in actuality they should be doing the opposite. In fact, 72% of pageant girls hire coaches to train girls to be more "attractive."

Finally, these pageants pose potent health risks for the girls competing. Not only do intense rehearsals interfere with their sleep cycles, but they are also impacted by the harmful methods taken to keep them awake. One example is Honey Boo Boo's "go go juice" - AKA a mixture of Mountain Dew and Red Bull. She is known for drinking this continuously throughout pageant days to stay awake and energetic - but the health risks associated with the drinks, let alone for such a young girl, are completely ignored.

And, the future health problems associated with pageantry cannot be looked past. Participating in beauty pageants as kids leads to eating disorders, perfectionism, depression - in fact, at least 6% suffer from depression while competing. "The Princess Syndrome," as Psychology Today calls it relates to a small study published in 2005 that showed that former childhood beauty pageant contestants had higher rates of body dissatisfaction. This sense of dissatisfaction can so easily be translated to more severe mental and physical health issues, including depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. The average BMI (Body Mass Index) of a Beauty Contestant in the US in 1930 was 20.8, which is universally in the middle of the "healthy" range. In 2010, it was 16.9, which is considered underweight for anyone.

So, despite the entertainment these shows and pageants provide, they should most definitely be stopped due to the immense amount of issues they cause for those involved and those who watch.

Although Honey Boo Boo is (sadly) considered one of America's sweethearts, her experience in pageantry has certainly not been a positive influence in her life nor in the lives of her fans - and this is the case for nearly all young pageant girls.

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