Let’s Be Fair, It’s In the Hair

February 15, 2012 § 2 Comments

Jill Nelson’s assertion in “Who’s the Fairest of Them All?” is something that has plagued women for decades. The idea that the lighter-skinned black woman is most desirable has become one that has transcended easy detection. Sometimes called the “Lily Complex”, this instance of moving away from one’s natural appearance to better suit the Eurocentric values of beauty has been seen throughout the various forms of media. Plays, such as “Color Struck” by Zora Neale Hurston, deal specifically with a darker-skinned woman and her insecurities around lighter-skinned women. But Colourism seems to focus on hair more often than not… And the question always is, why?

Personally, upon reading this article, I was struck with the accuracies of the basis of attraction within groups of people based upon hair. For African-Americans, as Nelson said, the trend is to push towards the Eurocentric value of beauty with long, straight hair. The difficulty that always presents is the damage that can be done to one’s hair while also demonizing those that choose to leave it more “natural.” But the issue of hair and style being an assertion of attractiveness does not end with the black culture. In the queer culture, for a lot of non-male-identifying persons, the issue of hair is a big deal. Hair for many needs to be short and styled in a come-hither kind of way. Long hair on non-male-identifying persons tends to give them too much of a “straight” look or will automatically put them in a more “femme/lipstick” category than those with short hair. Personally, I can’t say I deviate from this either. I adhere to “hair rules” and I typically judge the non-male-identifying persons according to said “hair rules.”

It appears that, regardless of who you are and what you’re judging, hair is important in this process.

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§ 2 Responses to Let’s Be Fair, It’s In the Hair

  • ihowells says:

    I don’t think she put that great of an emphasis on hair alone. She put the main focus on race and talked about the characteristics that african americans have and those included hair, lips, nose, and figure. I do however like that you have recognized yourself as following these rules. I think it will help you to better understand these ideas if you are honest with yourself.

  • bibliogay says:

    I agree that the article itself didn’t primarily focus on hair, but I suppose I was venturing off into a focus in Colorism that has always struck me as interesting. Aside from working towards more Eurocentric features of beauty, the stylization of hair is a focal point in many arguments. As told by a girl in class, there were women in Ghana–I believe–that found such immense beauty in non-African hair that they resorted to stroking it and bringing attention to other women to witness it.

    But yes, I do agree that the article has more prominence on the overall features of African-Americans in regards to face and body type. And it does help that I understand that, within a sect of my own identity, I follow the beauty/appearance standards that are stereotypical. It helps me understand better the plight other cultures experience in terms of standardized appearances.

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