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The Politics Of Hair

In 2008 the America tabloid In touch revealed a narrative about Beyonce Knowles wig assortment. In the story they estimated that Beyonce’s wig collection was valued at in excess of $1 million. 5 years later and she might be essentially the most famous singer on the planet with a a lot larger assortment of wigs, weaves and other pretend appendages connected to her scalp, with a a lot bigger social impact. She is continuously lambasted by pop tradition and sociological pundits for getting into the Barbie doll aesthetic and promoting an unreal image of black womanhood. She has been accused of lightening her skin tone, having rhinoplasty and general altering her look from that of a gorgeous black lady to that of a ravishing white lady. Above all though it’s her hair that garners most attention. Google ‘Beyonce hair’ and of the 105,000,000 hits a large portion of them are debates on whether her hair is actual, a wig, a weave and the politics that surrounds hair in black culture. The scion of pop tradition could not identify solely as African American (she has greater than as soon as said she has a multi-ethnic background – African American, Irish, French and Cherokee, but the affect of her hair decisions resonate through debates on race, ethnicity and feminism.

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Hair has by no means been just one thing on your head. It is chopped, braided, dyed, spiked, again combed, formed, plucked, implanted and pretty much anything else you may suppose to do to it. In pre-transatlantic slave trade West African cultures hair was central to defining culture, status and id, because it still is at the moment all over the world. Absolutely the horror and private annihilation that slave traders inflicted on their human chattel would not have been as efficient if tradition, status and identification have been allowed to proceed after people have been kidnapped and shipped across the ocean. One of many principle technique of dehumanising their victims involved shaving their hair in an effort to wipe out tradition and identity. Over time the know-how and potential for personal hair grooming explicit to individuals from West Africans was lost amongst the slave population. In addition slaves did not have the hair care products that usually suited their hair kind, reminiscent of palm oil, and had to rely on different simply attainable merchandise similar to bacon grease and wool combs for his or her hair care.

Hair and pores and skin tone grew to become further politicised when second and subsequent generations of slaves have been born. Ceaselessly they had been the result of the slave masters raping slave women and ladies. Genetics being genetics pores and skin tone, facial options and hair texture clearly recognized who was associated to the slave house owners. Incessantly the youngsters of slaves and slave masters had been afforded better residing circumstances (reminiscent of living in higher houses, higher food and so on) and a greater probability at making it via what was a harsh existence.

Additional time the politicisation of hair had reached new heights. Emancipation didn’t change a lot as the extra related one was to the dominant financial culture (white) the better it was to get on in life. It’s in actual fact estimated that lots of of hundreds of African People with light pores and skin tones and straight hair passed themselves off as white and utterly changed their identities so as to mix into white society.

The ‘one drop rule’, adopted into legislation within the 1920s deemed that anybody with even a bit of African heritage can be seen as legally black, and thus subjected to demeaning prejudice in their everyday lives, made ‘passing’ as white a sexy possibility for individuals who could. They did not have to sit on designated seats on buses did not have to use separate services, could get better jobs and weren’t abused because of their race. It is tough to know precisely how many individuals crossed the ‘race line’ but various research initiatives into ethnicity have found that a whole lot of 1000’s, if not tens of millions of those that determine as white in America have some African ancestry. The identical phenomenon has been observed South Africa and little question in some other country where one group was repressed to such an extent that it was easier to pretend to be someone else. Hair, skin tone and features turned one of the principle identifiers in a hierarchy of ethnicity that for higher or worse that facilitated simpler lives. It won’t be as evident nowadays but it remains to be present and very a lot a social phenomenon.

The legacy of ethnic hierarchies permeates through American and pop tradition to today. Eurocentric models sell clothes and items. The Barbie-doll aesthetic is pervasive in music and movies. Little question Beyonce makes thousands and thousands from her numerous advertising endorsements where she is styled to attraction to as broad an viewers as possible. Having long lustrous blonde hair is static hair why central to this enchantment and central to her checking account. She could define her ethnicity as multi-ethnic and thus it isn’t fair to label her as someone who rejects her heritage. However, her visual look, at the very least in her public life, would suggest that she identifies a lot more with one among her ethnic heritages extra so than the others.

The Eurocentric media that has been pervasive in America is of course altering to accommodate the growing diversity in American society. With increasingly more individuals identifying as multi-ethnic and celebrating their variety advertisers and pop tradition is beginning to characterize this. However till the time when all hair types, skin tones and options are perceived as equally stunning in pop tradition the melting pot might be nothing greater than an inadequate illustration of a society nonetheless obsessed with race.