Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hair Caught in Politics

Let's take a minute and talk about one of the most controversial (for whatever reason) issues in society (melodramatic indeed). I, my friends, am referring to hair. The thousands of follicles sitting on top of your hair has stirred up several conversations and conflicts among different groups, cultures, circles you name it. However, I want to hone in on the conversation specifically regarding "black hair". There has been a recent phenomenon among the black community known as "going natural" which means hair in its natural state without any chemical products or straightening involved. The reason why I refer to it as a phenomenon is due to the fact that it has become a movement in that more and more people have decided to stop using product and embrace their god given hair.

Melissa Harris Perry, a TV host of her own MSNBC show "Melissa Harris-Perry", gave a segment last year called Black Hair Politics (clip), where she thoroughly, and very accurately, explained the different styles of hair black women tend to have and the stigmas behind those hairstyles. She ended the segment with "and a black woman who chemically straightened their hair, is not trying to be white!" When we think of professional culture it may be "appropriate uniformity" for a black woman to "tame" her hair or to be asked to straighten it by her white counterparts because her hair may be "too distracting" otherwise. This is another case of society trying to conform people into the white culture, but what they fail to understand is the texture of black hair is VERY different from that of white hair. It is a process in itself to straighten it and because of that, black women do not want anyone to touch their hair or caress it or get it wet. I know this because I have the same problems with my own hair, when I step out of the shower it does not come out straight, despite how it looks on a daily basis. It takes time and effort to get it there. Nevertheless, whether you would like to call it a movement, phenomenon, or a phase it is prevalent that more black women are losing the relaxer and celebrating their roots. 

I came across an article recently on Facebook from one of my co-worker's pages and it included a video of a seven-year-old girl from Oklahoma who reportedly violated her school's policy because her hair was too distracting (where have we heard this before?). Before you jump to conclusions about calling her school system racist, most of her administrators are black, and as Melissa Harris-Perry put it, "it's discrimination". It's discrimination to be a black administrator who probably deals with the same hair type, yet enforces rules to mandate a young black student to be something she is not. How is that a representation of embracing who you are, or where you come from? Thankfully enough, she was pulled from the school by her father and the faculty member who sent the little girl home is being reviewed by the state. 

For anyone who is in limbo about going natural or changing your hairstyle to something that may be attention grabbing, I'd say go for it. Don't be afraid to express yourself through hair, life is all about finding yourself and figuring out what kind of person you want to be, and if people are concerned about what your hair looks like, then they clearly have TOO much time on their own hands.

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