No, You Cannot Have an Afro

A few months ago, the #TwitpicYourCheveuxCrepus hashtag went viral in both France and the US. It was a reaction to the French magazine Public saying Solange Knowles’ hair resembled armpit hair. Those tweeting in response instead decided to showcase the many different and beautiful styles Black hair has to offer.

Last week, on the opposite end of the spectrum from hatred of afros, Allure magazine decided to publish a tutorial on how to get the “afro” look with straight hair under the title “You (Yes, You) Can Have an Afro, Even If You Have Straight Hair” complete with a picture of a smiling White woman with her hair in tight afro-like curls.

I’m going to just go ahead and refute this right now and tell you that no, you most certainly cannot have an afro if you have straight hair.

Many will try and argue that an afro is just a hairstyle, and therefore should be something that anyone can wear. Those people are wrong. They fail to understand that afros in all of their various curl patterns are literally the natural way that hair physically grows on the heads of African-descended people.

Angela Davis (left) and another woman with afros in 1969 at UCLA. (Photo Credit: George Louis via Wikimedia)

Angela Davis (left) and another woman, both with large afros, in 1969 at UCLA. (Photo Credit: George Louis via Wikimedia)

And for well over two hundred years, it has often been considered taboo for Black people to show their hair in its natural state in public.

In Louisiana, in the late 1700s, tignon laws were established that required Black women to cover their hair. The idea of Black and mixed race women of African Ancestry having pride in their natural appearance was such a threat to Louisiana society because it gave the appearance that Black people could be of a higher stature than was permitted for them at the time. It was also believed that the hairstyles were luring White men into interracial relationships, and could potentially strengthen Black influence in New Orleans. The tignon laws were put in place to stop that influence and to essentially keep Black people relegated to a lower class.

That may seem extreme or an archaic example, but even today natural Black hair is considered inappropriate for everyday situations. In 2013, Tiana Parker was sent home from her school in Oklahoma because her dreadlocks were not considered a “presentable hairstyle.” The school even went so far as to say that dreadlocks, afros and braids were considered “faddish hairstyles” and therefore not allowed. Again in 2013, a school in Ohio tried to ban afro-puffs and twisted braids, which for Black girls is as standard a hairstyle as pigtails are for people with naturally straight hair.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, the idea of a “makeup tax” was explored. The author talks about how women in general spend a lot of money and time on makeup and beauty products in order to be considered presentable to a male-dominated workplace. If the makeup tax is this much of a financial commitment for White women, imagine then what it must be like for Black women having to spend money not just on makeup but altering their hair in order for it to be considered neat and clean by White standards. Clearly Black women’s money has a significant effect on the haircare industry, since the natural hair push has caused many companies to create products for Black hair and even buy up businesses like Shea Moisture to cover that part of the market.

You cannot erase this context to make an Afro “just a hairstyle” (full story➚). The fact that our hair is considered either “unpresentable” or a fad clearly shows the disconnect that many people have with Black hair. It is especially insulting that with the amount of work and money that Black women have had to sacrifice over the years in order for our hair to be considered “presentable,” White women especially have recently been latching onto our hairstyles and are called innovative for doing so.

Our hair is not a fad, it is the natural way our hair grows on our heads, and we have the right to say no when people try to appropriate it.

Policing Black Women’s Emotions and Opinions

The bigger picture framing Nicki Minaj’s frustrated tweets about the VMAs.

Nicki Minaj at the 2010 VMAs. (Photo Credit: Philip Nelson / flickr)

Nicki Minaj at the 2010 VMAs. (Photo Credit: Philip Nelson / flickr)

I’ve said before that there is an unwritten code of conduct that Black women must adhere to in order to be taken seriously, listened to, or even allowed to live.

Most other people will quickly claim it’s the attitudes of Black women that causes us to be dehumanized, but that is untrue. Even when we’re being polite, any disagreement from Black women is treated as aggression. So where and when are we allowed to speak up if we’re being mistreated, when everything we say is considered an attack?

On Tuesday, rapper Nicki Minaj took to Twitter to vent about the VMA nominations. Nicki is by far the most popular female rapper out there right now. She has found major pop success as well. But she has always been very vocal about how Black women in the music industry often don’t get the recognition they deserve for their work.

She’s no stranger to the way the public sees her (and other Black women) either, so in her tweets on Tuesday, Nicki Minaj states plainly her disappointment at her record breaking video for Anaconda being snubbed for Video of the Year. Nicki points out that although her video was a viral success, broke Vevo records, and was even parodied on the Ellen DeGeneres show, her video did not receive a nomination. She also points out that her video was a celebration of women’s bodies, but it seemed that this type of celebration was only acceptable on thinner artists.

Then this happened.

Within the hour, articles popped up all over the internet about a “feud” between the two women, stating that Nicki Minaj had attacked Taylor in her tweets, even though Taylor Swift’s name wasn’t mentioned once, nor had Nicki been malicious towards other artists.

Nicki, in her own words, was pointing out where she saw how misogyny played a part in who was considered worthy of accolades and who was looked over. She was pointing out a complex problem in the most direct way possible. But it seemed that the media wanted to skip over her entire point and instead focus on a non-existent feud between the her and Taylor Swift.

Taylor Swift’s tweets did more than just derail a real and important point that Nicki Minaj was trying to make. Aside from being the most obvious case of a hit dog hollering, Taylor’s tweet demonstrated a huge issue that mainstream White Feminism has when it comes to dealing with Black women and other People of Color.

They don’t get that our experiences are different from theirs and often try an chastise us for perceived slights against them, while ignoring the real ones we face. Although Nicki Minaj’s tweets are a criticism of the VMAs, Taylor tries to make it seem as if Nicki is “pit[ting] women against women” for simply speaking about her experience as a thick and Black woman in the music industry.

Instead of understanding that Nicki’s experience as a woman is different from what her own might be, Taylor instead falls back to a very narrow — and White — view of what life is like as a woman.
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Scott Walker: Abortion is between you, your doctor, and me

Scott Walker and family at his 2016 presidential campaign announcement. (Credit: WisPolitics.com / Flickr)

Scott Walker and family at his 2016 presidential campaign announcement. (Credit: WisPolitics.com / Flickr)

Flippy-floppy Scott Walker just signed a 20-weeks abortion ban bill in Wisconsin. One the one hand, it’s fully consistent with his overall views:

Walker’s record includes defunding Planned Parenthood, requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, a law currently blocked by a federal court judge, and requiring women to have ultrasounds and be shown images of the fetus before having an abortion.

 
On the other hand, he refused to give a position during the 2014 campaign on the type of ban he just signed and even went as far as to put out a very misleading ad:

Just nine months ago he ran a television ad during his gubernatorial re-election campaign where he said whether to obtain an abortion is an agonizing decision between a woman and her doctor.

 
Apparently, he meant to say, it’s a “decision between a woman and her doctor” and her state legislature and her governor / native-son presidential candidate.

But he’s the leading choice of “conservative” Republican voters, so, guess he’s gotta do what he’s gotta do, and really get himself right up in there.

Obama’s legacy as a feminist

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha, April 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha, April 5, 2015.
(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Many observers of President Obama — and even those who are not-so-observant — have noticed his recent energy and boldness as he enters into the final year-and-a-half of his second term as President.

From Obama’s unforgettable eulogy at Charlestown to his Supreme Court victories, Obama’s last two years in office are shaping up to be events that our children will read about in history books.

This past Thursday, while holding a press conference geared towards talking about Iran, Obama was asked about Bill Cosby’s Medal of Freedom. Although he could not comment directly on an ongoing investigation and indicated the medal would not be taken away because there was no precedent in place to do so, he left no questions about his thoughts on the events. President Obama stated matter-of-factly:

“If you give a woman, or a man, for that matter, without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape. And I think this country, any civilized country, should have no tolerance for rape.”

 
This comment represents the latest in Obama’s recent fearlessness to partake in social commentary, but also represents the latest in an entire presidency marked by bold feminist statements and policies.

Only a week after his inauguration in 2009, President Obama was depicted on the front cover of Ms. magazine wearing a t-shirt stating “This is what a feminist looks like.”

Since then, he has made waves by putting science toys in the girls section at a Toys for Tots drive, overseen the entrance of women into combat roles in the US military (albeit slowly), used his executive power to adopt family-friendly policies for staffers in the White House, and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was the first bill he ever signed into law.

It shouldn’t be an anomaly to have a politician stand-up and speak-out for women, a demographic that composes over half of the nation’s population, but it is.

At a time when “old men” seem to make up a majority of our country’s politicians and a super-majority of the people who feel called to speak out about what a women’s bodies, it is refreshing to have a respectful, common sense president like Obama.

When the dust settles and the history books are being written, Obama’s feminism might be one of the aspects of his presidency for which Americans can be most grateful.

Op-Ed | On McKinney, Cosby, and Misogynoir

The following essay appears in full at HoodFeminism.com. It was made possible in part by Arsenal For Democracy.

Weeks ago in McKinney, Texas the police were called about a disturbance at a neighborhood pool party. In one of the many viral videos, there’s an officer running around cursing at teenagers – mostly Teens of Color. In the video you distinctly hear them ask why they were being detained and why they were being told to leave a party to which they’d been invited. Notably, they were asking politely. A bikini-clad girl looking for one of her friends is told to leave with another group of girls; as they leave, the officer becomes upset and grabs the girl, slamming her to the ground multiple times, while her friends ask why she’s being arrested. When her friends attempt to help her, the officer pulls a gun on the group.

Aside from the obvious racism, it’s important to pay attention to the racialized misogyny (misogynoir) that also takes place. Looking at the videos, it’s clear to see that the officer, David Eric Casebolt, was being excessive in his attack on the girl, Dajerria Becton. It’s scary to see a grown man be so violent towards any small, bikini-clad 14 year old girl – the officer treats Miss Becton as if she were a much bigger, much stronger person. It’s even more alarming when you realize that Casebolt was specifically targeting teens of color.

If that girl hadn’t already learned before — if any of those teens hadn’t already learned before — they learned that day that being Black in public is considered a threat to the police. Even if you’re doing nothing wrong. Even if you’re only 14. Even if you obviously have no weapon. Even if you are polite.

If a group of teens can have the police called on them for being at a pool party they were invited to, the problem isn’t them — it’s the belief that simply because they are there they are causing trouble. This is especially true for Black girls, who have to live at the intersection of racism and sexism that denies them their girlhood. As is evident from the altercation that got police called to the neighborhood in the first place.

Continue Reading at HoodFeminism.com