What is Fairness?

Dark and Lovely For some odd reason, when black women decide to wear their hair naturally, this decision is construed as a social commentary. When I came home for the first time, my grandfather asked me was I a social activist now because I had not straightened my hair.  Contrarily, a white woman leaving the house without styling her hair is inconsequential. Without sounding like a toddler, this system is incredibly unfair. In a fair society, people would be able to make similar chooses with similar consequences. Instead, we face a system in which even our understanding of hair is subject to bias.

In the Dark and Lovely Ad, there is  language entrenched in civil rights, including “You have a right to unstoppable curls” and “never shrink from who you are.” While our hair can be used to raise consciousness, this certainly should not be the assumption.  Spade fights “for a world in which diverse gender expressions and identities occur, but none are punished and membership in these categories is used less and less to distribute rights and privileges” (29-30). His statement certainly can be applied to the world of beauty and hair care to create a fair environment for everyone.

Sources: http://cnysextremecouponing.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/image.jpg

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal(n.d.):15-37. Print.

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2 thoughts on “What is Fairness?

  1. tiffanygomez1

    I completely agree with this post! The first person it made me think of is Vanessa VanDyke, a twelve-year old girl who was a victim of much controversy last week for almost being expelled from school as result of wearing her hair naturally. While many valued the fact that she was making a statement, it seemed to me that this young girl was the victim of social activism being imposed on her in a way that she did not expect. She simply thought that her hair made her unique and she wore it the way she did because she liked it. She was in no way trying to take a stance nor spark any type of conversation. I agree that the society is unfair in this way and pushes people into positions that they may not want or intend to assume. Furthermore, society is unfair in the way that some beauty is valued over others. VanDyke’s hair was not considered beautiful in the school she was in but was considered a “distraction” instead. VanDyke mentions herself that because her hair was not straight, she did not fit in.

    More unfair, is the fact that she was aware that she would get made fun of for her hair and the school, by threatening with expulsion, blamed her for being on the receiving end of ridicule. While it seems that VanDyke will not be expelled, it seems the school wants her to style her hair within the guidelines of the school. I can’t imagine a white woman being told she needs to style her hair in a certain way to receive an education. Your post, along with her story, resonated with this idea of unfairness so thank you for bringing this up! Here’s a few links if you want to know more:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/26/vanessa-vandyke-expelled_n_4345326.html

    http://www.clutchmagonline.com/2013/11/vanessa-vandyke-wont-expelled-hair/

    Reply
  2. jordand93

    Certainly, you make a valid point about hair. You are right to say that the implicit racism of hair care is problematic and I admire your choice not to straighten your hair, even if it was not an overt attempt at social activism. Although my racial background is different from yours, I too have avoided straightening my hair in college as often as I did in high school. I think that if we embrace our natural appearances that we can together help to redefine what society considers as beautiful. The first Bell Hooks article we read this semester suggested one underlying problem with feminist pursuits is the attempt to unite a group that has too many dissimilarities to truly work together. (1) She provides an interesting take on the matter when she writes, “We can be sisters united by shared interests and beliefs, united in our appreciate for diversity, united in our struggle to end sexist oppression, united in political solidarity.” (2) While your critique highlights important differences and inequity that needs to be addressed, I challenge you to search for one of Hook’s uniting factors through this advertisement. What can the female population take away from this ad that will help to empower us? Personally, I see it is as a shared love for our natural beauty. I am also partial to the suggestion that we need to unite around separating female physical appearance from activism in every way. It’s time to think about bigger issues, like racial inequality in health care. Perhaps, the uniting factor it is a shared political vision to eradicate implicit racism. In essence, the next question to ask is “What can we do to correct this unfairness?”

    If this ad is particularly inspiring to you, I recommend you check out Huffington Post’s pieces about the Natural Hair Movement: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/natural-hair-movement.

    Also, this is a really interesting NYTimes Op-Ed piece I came across last year: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/01/opinion/black-women-and-natural-hair.html. (Some of the comments are quite thought-provoking as well)

    Thanks for exploring this issue! We briefly touched upon it when we watched “Killing Us Softly 4,” but there is definitely a lot more to explore.

    (1)Bell Hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women,”
    Feminist Review, No. 23, Socialist-Feminism: Out of the Blue (Summer 1986): 125-38. Accessed September 01, 2013. http://www.jsotr.org/stable/1394725,
    138.

    (2) Ibid.

    Reply

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