Originally featured on: controversialone.wordpress.com
“Sexism makes me angrier than racism!”
These were the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and at first I didn’t understand what on earth she was chatting about. But once I calmed down and watched the rest of her TEDxEuston presentation I could understand why she said what she said. She explained feeling a loneliness in sexism which she did not feel in racism, as far fewer people questioned and dismissed racism in the way sexism was. After really reflecting on this statement, I agreed.
It is undeniable that black women appear to be the demographic which have to alter themselves the most in order to fit into a ‘professional’ environment. There is a corporate dress code in which 4c and 4b hair types simply do not fit. The debate about what people decide to do with their hair in professional environments has become increasingly common, from cornrows going against school attire, to hijab’s not being suitable for the office. But why is there such a conflict between what these institutions want from hair and what individuals want their heads to look like?
The image that most organisations strive to display is that of cohesiveness and uniformity because it appears efficient and unchanging. But companies cannot create a uniformed brand of their employees. Hair and hair styles are fundamental elements of a women’s self-expression. It is so important, that the Bible refers to a woman’s hair as her glory (1 Cor 11:15).
So on a practical level, what can be done to make a change to the corporate world’s perception of black hair? I think that one of the first steps is for black hair to not be looked upon as a rarity or a sight of ‘fascination’. The more you see of something or someone, the more it becomes the norm. Normalising black hair is beginning to take form in UK society though, partially because of an increased presence of natural black hair in the media, and black hair products more frequently purchasable in the average supermarket, rather than only available in sideroad shops or back-alley market stalls.
The black hair market has expanded dramatically in a short period of time as the industry was worth £446m in 2012 and is predicted to be worth £497m in 2017. But this growth can further progress through black women choosing to wear their natural hair out in the workplace and in daily life more often, rather than only showing your natural hair a couple of times a year.
It seems so silly as I write this now, and I’m cringing and considering deleting this whole sentence, but I remember being in particular workplaces a few years back and getting stressed over how I could change my hair style without attracting too many questions about how my hair was able to grow so fast.
I remember a time where I had 3 weaves over 4 months, each longer than the last (12 in, 12 & 14 in, 14 in). I was eager to change styles and not have too many questions like, “So what do you do to get it like this?”, “Can I touch it?”, and “Do you wash it?”. Do you know how much money I spent on weave?! Too much. And my leave-out suffered. But honestly, I felt embarrassed about having to explain how my hair works and why I sometimes need protective styles. But now I regret allowing myself to feel this way rather than engaging in such discussions to make black hair a normality to my colleagues.
Seasonal natural hair advice:
Since we are in England it is unlikely that we will have anything longer than a few weeks of 30+ degree weather, however it is still the best time to wear more natural hairstyles without any additional extension or straightening because of sweat in the heat. So this is the best time to experiment with styles which allow your natural hair and it’s texture to be fully out and on display e.g. twist outs and up-dos.
I would say that this is the best time for braided/ twisted styles with your natural hair e.g. cornrows, single twists. This is because it is meant to be a rainier time of year than others but it’s also not too cold. This means you can show off your natural hair without receiving the weather affecting your hairstyle from the time you leave your house and arrive at the office. It is also the time of year in which clocks go forwards/backwards so these hairstyles will be best around this time as they don’t require daily maintenance which means you can get some extra time in bed in the mornings. I also think that hair styles which require heat (pressed hair, blow dry etc) are good around these seasons because you’re more likely too have a hat or umbrella at hand to protect it. On a summers day the most you’re likely to have available to you if you get caught in a typically random British shower is a plastic bag, and you don’t want to be that woman…
The rain will be out to steal any straightening you had done and the wind will just mash up your ends if you leave it out for too long. So winter is without a doubt the time for protective hairstyling. So this would be the best time for buying hair for braided/twisted extensions, crochet, wigs, and weaves. Plus, depending on how heavy the hair you use is, it can also keep you warmer.
By Priscilla McGregor-Kerr