Not long ago, my comment was deleted from a FB page for being ""ëthnocentric."  The discussion was about Black women styling their hair in European styles versus the nappy natural.  I clearly stated that I thought both were beautiful and wondered aloud whether choice of hairstyle on any given day might not just be a woman's prerogative.    What I did say that might have been offensive was that if a woman was working in fashion modeling or entertainment and insisting upon wearing her hair in the natural style would cost her the job, might the better part of self-esteem be to take the money and quietly fight to change opinion on the need for  European styles.

After all, we all make similar concessions to "professional dress and appearance"all the time.  Is my brother really a better lawyer in an expensive suit and tie than in jeans and a Tee?  Nope, Legal work goes on in his mind, not in his clothes.  Yet he has spent decades wearing those suits and ties because the prevailing attitude is that they inspire confidence in the clients.  I could have a juicy thing or two to say about clients who have to see expensive clothing to have confidence in an attorney, but I'll keep it short.  They're too stupid to understand the law and gain confidence in the attorney from listening to him or her speak, so they have to rely on things like seeing "successful"clothing on him.

A similar thing happens in European fashion markets and European and American entertainment.  Demographically, the majority of the clients of the fashion houses and purchasers of the entertainment are European or European Americans.  Leaving aside the discussion of whether or not it's racist for natural hair to make them uncomfortable, it appears that in fashion part of the sale is for the client to picture herself in the clothing.  Conceivably, it's a little more difficult to picture one's white self in a gown worn by a black woman with natural hair.  Why, if the client can get past the skin color, would the hair matter?  White women can't get their hair to style that way.  When a woman at a fashion show is trying to envision herself in the dress, she is thinking about the whole "look" that is presented, a hairdo she could never achieve acts as a deterrent to seeing herself wearing the outfit.  With a European hairstyle, however, she can see herself in it despite the model's skin color.  Kind of like the lawyer's suit.  

It is a little harder to make the same kind of argument with respect to people in the entertainment field.  I suppose it all comes down to seeing the entertainer as "radical"or not.  If Whitney Houston had appeared in The Bodyguard with natural hair,  or if Beyonce appeared in videos with natural hair, might the huge potential customers of the movies and the music balked?  it is true that for many whites, Blacks with nappy hair and African heritage clothing are seen as radicals, and they are scared of that.  I think some secretly fear that if the Blacks ever took power, they'd become slaves in retribution.  

At another level, however, there is a great human social compulsion toward conformity and similarity.  As a feminist, I made a lot of women and men uncomfortable by not conforming to the "feminine behavior" and pattern of dress.  The truth be told, I was not wealthy enough in college, not even financially "comfortable" enough to dress ""like a lady." So I wore jeans and work shirts and sandals in the summer and hiking boots in the winter.    Not designer jeans either.  They were cheap, easy to launder, and durable.  In fact, I still have a work shirt, patched on one sleeve and threadbare from the 70s hanging in my closet that I wear around the house sometimes.  

What rankles me about the way my comments were treated is this:  as a woman, I very much resent someone telling me what I am SUPPOSED to think, say, do, how I'm supposed to dress, or act "to be a real woman."  I find it very hard to imagine that if I were a Black woman, I would bristle just as much at someone telling me I'm "self-hating" if, for professional or any other reason, I wear my hair a certain way or not.  Call me peculiar, but I have always consider the root of self-love to grant nobody ELSE  the right to be the decision-maker of WHO  I AM AND WHAT I DO.  If that's ëthnocentric," then perhaps all races need a little more of that kind of ëthnocentricism!  


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