In my last post, I introduced the topic of natural hair in the workplace. For any individual who has transitioned to natural hair or is considering the switch, I think this is a very relevant subject. One thing I’ve struggled with since transitioning to natural hair is finding hairstyles that I feel are appropriate and professional enough for the workplace. I oftentimes struggle with wearing natural styles since I’ve been told that I look more appropriate with straight hair. It seems that feedback like this is fairly common for natural women. There have been multiple cases where women have been scrutinized or punished as a result of wearing their natural hair.
For natural women, hair in the workplace can be a sensitive subject. Some women are deterred from transitioning to natural hair out of fear that a western workplace will be unaccepting of the natural hair culture. Although some may find this hard to believe, discrimination based on hairstyles is a very true reality. But I’m not talking about the 16-year-old girl with messy blue hair that is trying to get a job at the local McDonalds. I’m also not talking about the 18-year-old girl with 12-inch spikes on the top of her head. Those are extreme cases where the individuals have chosen to significantly alter their own hair. I’m talking about qualified black business professionals who have been scrutinized based on their well-groomed natural styles. I’m referring to the individuals who have chosen to let their hair grow, unaltered by chemicals and straighteners.
Some battles are truly unforgettable. In biblical times there was David and Goliath. In the 1800s, there was the Union and the Confederacy. In film, there was Batman and Bane. For the African American woman, the greatest battle of them all is the battle between “good hair” and “bad hair.”
Good hair is understood to be hair that is straighter, longer, flowing, and more manageable. Bad hair is traditionally considered to be coarser, shorter, and kinkier. It is at a young age that African American girls are exposed to the battle between the two. I can still recall when I was in the second grade and sang what I thought at the time was an innocent childhood rhyme.
“Bald headed hood rat, your hair can’t touch your back. Perm it. Weave it. You know you need it. I’m so happy. My hair ain’t nappy. It used to be nappy. I was so unhappy.”