Thoughts On The “Good Hair” Study: Now What?

Early this month, I saw an article about something called a “Good Hair Study.” The study was initiated to uncover implicit and explicit bias in terms of Black women’s hair. I’m sure we all know the findings but in case this is your first rodeo or aren’t a part of the community, the results demonstrated that there is, indeed bias against “textured” (not my word) hair from white women. The study also found that while Black women view “textured” hair more positively, they still understand the negative implications that “textured” hair carries with it in our society. If you’re interested, you can read more at this link.

Before I get into the heart of this entry, it should be known that though I have 3 gold medals from the Shade Olympics, this isn’t written with a petty spirit. I first heard about this “Good Hair Study” on another page. It was the page of a very popular Black hair product company. The moment I read the headline, the first thing I said was, “but you all perpetuate it.”

When you are Black and a woman, you learn certain lessons really early; you have no choice. You learn to read behind the words. The “natural hair movement” (quotation marks mine) was positive because it renewed a consciousness among Black women of their innate beauty. For many women, this newfound pride went beyond hair and filtered into other very important aspects of their life like health, parenting, career, etc. One of the happiest moments I’ve had was seeing girls who were 12, 13, 14 and up wearing short feminine fades and free-form afros to school with dignity despite how hard that age range, (and rejecting its arbitrary standards), can be.

But, for all its glories, a common error was committed. Many of the brands that Black women grew to love started to inject that “good hair” ideal into their marketing campaigns. I would visit expos for Black women and see that prominent natural hair companies would have models who had between “Type 2” and “Type 3a/b” curl patterns as the faces of their brand. The composition of posters and billboards became one woman with “Type 4” hair on the periphery and 3 more women whose hair is atypical of the most common African-American hair texture centered.

That evolved into certain “Black” hair brands not even including Black women in their marketing schema and you could easily watch a commercial for a brand whose existence is predicated on the Black “Type 4” dollar without seeing one Black face or phenotype in the whole thing.

This is a problem. Why? Because image matters. There’s a reason why the “natural hair movement” went from learning how to cleanse and condition the hair properly, to how to grow the biggest afro puff in town, to knowing how to manipulate one’s natural curl pattern to look “looser.” People’s questions went from how to most effectively detangle after a wash to when their hair would stop growing out and start growing down. And the coup de grâce: the “texture management system.” As a matter of fact, the “co-washing” trend in the Black community began as a byproduct of this same fixation with “good hair.”

Photo courtesy of Google

I said I would make this short and I am. We can’t bewail the things that a racist society does to us while simultaneously doing it to ourselves. Yes, I have non-Black users and retail partners. However, I will finish the way I started: with Black women and girls and their unique needs being the focus of Cute & Kinky.

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