Since I write about African-American natural hair all the time, I figured I should post something about the Glamour hair debacle. For those of you who don’t know what’s been going down, (former) Glamour magazine editor Ashley Baker gave a slide show to some NYC lawyers on the “Do’s and Don’t of Corporate Fashion.” Here are some notes from the show (from Jezebel):
First slide up: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the 'Glamour' editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was 'shocking' that some people st ill think it 'appropriate' to wear those hairstyles at the office. 'No offense,' she sniffed, but those 'political' hairstyles really have to go.
Here's more information on what actually went down: http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNLJ.jsp?id=1188161099761
No but seriously, this is the curly beautiful hair we were born with and we can wear it in however style we please. I say, as long as you take care of your hair (in whatever style you fancy), you’ll look great. And if your company has a problem with that, well maybe you’re just too good for them. In fact, you definitely are, so kick 'em to the curb.
I sent an article on the issue around to some friends and family, and wanted to post two responses.
My mother’s take (an African-American professor of linguistics):
I was unaware of this issue, but it's come up at various times in the past, since the "black-is-beautiful" era. What I remember about those times is that the "majority" society was pretty freaked out by afros, especially the really really big ones. Then more recently, the braids seemed to freak people out -- they were deemed inappropriate at the workplace. I don't know what people say about dreads these days -- probably the same.
But here's what I think (and not surprisingly):
Are these "inappropriate at the workplace" type comments racist? Of course they are. Such comments reveal an indirect racism. But it's racist nonetheless. The people who say such things are not going to come right out and say something really stupid, so instead they attack peripheral attributes -- note these attributes involve CHOOSING something to enhance a nearly inalienable attribute -- "natural" hair; language.
Reminds me of dialect stuff. People say African-American english is inappropriate in the workplace. No one, as far as I know, castigated Clinton or Carter for their southern dialects, i.e. that it is/was inappropriate for the workplace. They chose to speak the way they speak while in office. Big deal. But let an African American say something like "he be late," and everybody gets bent out of shape assigning all sorts of negativity to the speaker. Remember the whole Oakland school board controversy a few years back?
With hair, I think what's going on is that some people are freaked out when African-Americans choose NOT to adopt "majority" ways. So speaking AA (African-American) English, or wearing dreads, or dashikis appear to them to be political, i.e. threatening.
What an odd locution -- "political." What could it possibly mean? In other words, to say that dreads/breads are "political" seems to me to mask something deeper, something insidious and ugly that the person who says it really doesn't want to expose, at least not publicly.
Also when did "racially insensitive" replace "racist?"
My boyfriend’s take (a white male):
I like afros and dreads when worn with dignity. It’s a black pride thing, in my opinion.