Sunday, August 30, 2009

Time Magazine: "Why Michelle's Hair Matters"


After the blogosphere went all a-Twitter this week after Racialicious' questions about curls and the New York Times' explainer on black hair politics, I was amused to open this week's issue of Time and see Jenee Desmond-Harris' piece, "Why Michelle's Hair Matters."

The article -- again -- explains for a mainstream audience the weight of expectation and politics that we carry in our strands. And it makes mention -- again -- of "Good Hair," which, I suspect, is the reason all these articles and essays are coming out in the first place.

I find the most interesting parts of the article are the author's own reflections. Desmond-Harris shares:

Even though I'm biracial and should theoretically have half a share of hair angst, I've sacrificed endless Saturdays to the salon. It is unfathomable that I might ever leave my apartment with my hair in its truly natural state, unmoderated by heat or products. I once broke down at the airport when my gel was confiscated for exceeding the 3-oz. limit.

I'm neither high maintenance nor superficial: I'm a black woman. My focus on hair feels like a birthright. It is my membership in an exclusive, historical club, with privileges, responsibilities, infighting and bylaws that are rewritten every decade.

Not once when I've seen an image of our First Lady has it been lost on me that she is also a member. I don't see just an easy, bouncy do. I see the fruits of a time-consuming effort to convey a carefully calculated image. In the next-day ponytail, I see a familiar defeat.


In the end, it's the same issue, same conclusions, just a different publication. On one hand, I enjoy seeing black women's issues showing up in newsprint and magazines. On the other hand, I wonder how we're going to move the conversation forward. We keep lamenting. We keep complaining. We keep resigning ourselves to external forces imposing their expecations on our hair.

When will we start exercising autonomy over our hair, and what -- whether curled, coiled, pressed or relaxed -- it means?

5 comments:

Lion-ess said...

I guess it'spart of our DNA... even when we have natural hair, external focus and attention on our hair always make it a topic of conversationn whether we like it or not.

AngelaMichelle said...

"In the end, it's the same issue, same conclusions, just a different publication. On one hand, I enjoy seeing black women's issues showing up in newsprint and magazines. On the other hand, I wonder how we're going to move the conversation forward. We keep lamenting. We keep complaining. We keep resigning ourselves to external forces imposing their expecations on our hair."

i totally agree. my thoughts on the matter, thank for the coverage but wake me up when we get past the rhetoric and move into the resolutions.

great post!

AMIT said...

Great story shared.The pictures made are cool.

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nyesha said...

I've heard conversations about Michelle's hair as well. I get why she wears her hair straight, but what I love is the fact that she let's her's daughter remain natural with their hair. She may have it pressed straight for certain occasions, but for the most part when you see the girls their hair is worn in 2 strand twist or is puffy ponytails. I love it. Young black girls should not know what a perm looks or feels like (for various reasons)

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maria said...

i think the second most hair style suites her more!

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