Week 7 Post-Class | Self-Love Your Own Good Hair

As a child growing up with wild and sometimes uncontrollable hair, I have always been presented with the terms “good hair”. As I have examined this question in class, I thought critically to myself what is “good hair”? In this film the comedic narrator,Chris Rock, discusses the touchy and complicated relationship between black women and their hair. He touches on topicsincluding sew-in hair extensions, chemical processing, the women behind the imported weaves and even the sobering facts about the multi-billion dollar black hair products industry. While this film doesn’t really enlightened me on what I don’t already know, it may begin to start the dialogue about our countries cling to a conforming norm of acceptability and beauty.

I have recently had two friends who have cut off a majority of their hair, into a short rebellious hair cut. They describe this rebellion as going “natural”. Both of my friends have discussed with me the amount of women who commend them on going all natural and back to the afro. During the film I experienced an “ah-ha” moment when one interviewee said “it amazes me that to keep our hair in the same state as it grows out of our head is looked at as revolutionary”. This quote examines the concept we discussed during week seven about “faking it”.To have hair that is not weaved, chemically treated, or straightened is a ground breaking concept that our society is not accepting of, but these hair styles make us more authentic.

This goes hand in hand with what we discussed as the word of the day: class. Back in the days of slavery when blacks were looked at as less than human, there was no pressing combs/flat irons and no relaxers. Pushing past the 1960-1970’s during the civil rights movement and black power and pride movements, where self-love waspromoted, and progressing in history where hair styles that emulated European culture became highly desirable. Eurocentric ideas of beauty became the basis for judging women based on their physical appearance. The film good hair addresses a number of issues pertaining to black hair, and the struggle between the acceptable ways to wear it. This brings me to a few questions for those in the class who have not previously had a discussion about “good hair”. What themes relevant to the idea of “faking it” do you see presented in the film? What ideas do you have about the concept that “keeping our hair in the same state as it grows out of our head is looked at as revolutionary”. What does the second highest export out of India is hair say about our societies idea of beauty? Do you believe our societies idea of beauty will evolve?

Janelle Hampton


12 thoughts on “Week 7 Post-Class | Self-Love Your Own Good Hair

  1. Until recently, I actually didn’t know about weaves and all the effort that had to put in to maintain hair in black women. When I see black women celebrity figures, most of the time their hairs are straight and smooth looking, like Beyonce. I thought she was just born with it, but I guess that’s not the case? That just goes to show how everyone is working towards the social norm. Why is it so weird for black women to leave their hair the way they grow out? This reminds me of the discussion we had in class about what professional hair looks like for black women and how afros aren’t considered professional. The social norm equivalates to beauty and the norm is to have that soft and smooth hair. And people will do what they have to in order to attain it. There seems to be a rebellion towards the commercialized sense of beauty, but I feel that its essence will always be there.

  2. I really enjoyed the documentary “Good Hair”, it opened my eyes to a lot of the struggles that Black women encounter everyday to fit into a society that deems what is natural undesirable. I think that the idea that letting your hair grow naturally is a revolutionary statement is especially interesting. People make all kinds of statements with their hair. Whether shaving your head, dying it an offbeat color, or cutting it into a unique style, hair has the ability to make bold statements regarding personhood, individuality, race, and class. Hair is also perceived as a very individual choice although we are influenced by other people’s hair decisions every time we look around. If people want to wear a weave or use relaxer there is nothing wrong with them making that decision. The problem is in the value that society places on “good hair”. A person is a person no matter what’s on their head. It becomes especially troubling when you realize that the process of achieving “good hair” looks so excruciatingly painful.

  3. I enjoyed watching “Good Hair” in class. I had never heard of this documentary and at first I was asking myself why someone would make a documentary about hair. I also didn’t really know all the care and the whole process that was used for black women hair. I think that to society especially in our society, hair is something that is very important. I feel like if you don’t have hair or take care of it you are looked down upon. Hair is related to beauty and I feel that that is why people spend so much money and time buying products and fixing their hair. One of the most interesting parts of the documentary was when Chris Rock went to India and we got to see how over there giving up their hair is a good thing. I don’t think that in the U.S many people would just donate their hair just because. I know that in India they donated it because it had to do with their religion and what they believed in. To them shaving all their hair off wasn’t a big deal, it was actually an honor for them. In the film I felt that some of it was “faking it.” Many people fake their hair by wearing extensions or getting other things done. There are many people who don’t use their hair. I have many friends who have gone to buy hair extensions and have paid over $100 for them. I asked them why they did this and they said because their hair looks prettier and it looks full. One day I complimented my friend on her hair because it was really straight and long. I asked her about her hair and she said that she actually had some clip in extensions that made her hair look fuller. I think our society looks at hair a lot and it is a sign of beauty. For example if someone walked around campus with a big poofy hair, people would stare and probably comment about it.

  4. The concept of keeping hair in “the same state as it grows out of our head” is perceived as a revolutionary concept because of the pressure to conform to a standardized ideal beauty. Personally, I have extremely curly hair. However, when I was younger, people used to comment on how frizzy and curly my hair was, so I began to straighten it when I was in the fifth grade. To this day, I have not worn my hair in its natural state for fear of it being perceived as “wild” and unattractive”. Wearing hair in its natural state is revolutionary because the person who decides not to straighten/curl/ or color their hair is embracing their natural beauty- which is a relatively unheard of concept in a society obsessed with the artificial. In the film Good Hair the idea of “Faking It” is highly prominent. Women receive weaves, perms, chemical relaxers, etc all in an effort to conform to a standard ideal of beauty. They are altering their natural selves and putting forth an artificial and unnatural version of themselves. I am guilty of this as well. As I mentioned before, my hair is curly, and I straighten it every day in an effort to hid my natural hair. Currently, I am researching hair extensions to thicken up my naturally thin hair. Each of these examples embodies the idea of “faking it”: Women receive weaves, extensions, color treatments, perms, and relaxers in an effort to “fake” the standard concept of beauty.
    Society’s idea of beauty is currently heavily based on Eurocentric principles of beauty. However, I do feel concepts of beauty will evolve. We live in a world which is becoming more globalized every day. Meaning, people from various countries around the world can more easily become connected. I feel the Eurocentric beauty emphasis will fade as the world becomes more globalized.

  5. The quote about hair growing out of your head the way it’s made to grow as revolutionary reminded me of our obsession with removing body hair. It’s crazy that lots of women ( including myself) consider hair not on their head or their eyebrows to be gross,unnatural, and make them less feminine when it’s one of the most natural things their is. I don’t know any statistics, but we must spend millions of dollars on razors, creams, waxing,and laser treatment. It’s so popular, a big part of the “groupons” and “living social” deals I get e-mailed to me are for waxing and laser hair treatment services. I saw a dance show a few days ago where one of the female dancers had full, dark, long armpit hair. It was odd to see I must admit. The dance was called ” mountain” and the choreographer was inspired to create the piece when he was in the Catskills mountains in upstate New York over the summer. I’m guessing this armpit hair was intentional, as the stage was very close to the audience,( sort of like a catwalk) and that the hair was associated with the the wild, untamed theme of the piece. Similar to the film and the natural hair of the black women, why is it that natural body hair is associated with the wild and unruly, and not just the natural?

    Also, watching the movie really got me sympathizing with these women. It’s amazing how much money they spend and that the weaves are priced so high. However, I go a special eyebrow place called ” Browtique” which charges 25 dollars for an eyebrow wax( pretty pricey in the eyebrow world) and will plan trips home to the Chicago suburbs just to go there( spending gas money to drive 140 miles). It’s not thousands of dollars, but it’s something I need to do or I just don’t feel right, similar to the way the women felt in the movie about getting their hair done.

    I can’t really explain why I remove my body hair, or feel compelled to get my eyebrows done at a salon that specializes in eyebrow waxing. I guess its something that has been influenced by a combination of the media, my mother, and my peers. And it just makes me feel good. What do other people think about their own beauty habits?( nails, hair,makeup, ect)

  6. Until recently, I actually didn’t know about weaves and all the effort that had to put in to maintain hair in black women. When I see black women celebrity figures, most of the time their hairs are straight and smooth looking, like Beyonce. I thought she was just born with it, but I guess that’s not the case? That just goes to show how everyone is working towards the social norm. Why is it so weird for black women to leave their hair the way they grow out? This reminds me of the discussion we had in class about what professional hair looks like for black women and how afros aren’t considered professional. The social norm equivalates to beauty and the norm is to have that soft and smooth hair. And people will do what they have to in order to attain it. There seems to be a rebellion towards the commercialized sense of beauty, but I feel that its essence will always be there.

  7. I didn’t get to see Good Hair because I was absent from class but this entry got me thinking about a TV show I saw called “Split Ends” that airs on the style network. This particular show takes 2 very different hair stylists and switches them to see how they work in another type of environment. The two clips below are from the show I saw where they switched a white christian girl, who of course is used to working with white woman’s hair and a black woman who is used to working with black woman’s hair. The clips only give you an idea of what type of switch was made because I couldn’t find the whole episode or any clips of them in their salons working on their unfamiliar “mediums.”

    I think the fact that something like this has even become a show, shows the importance of hair in fashion and the importance of hair when it comes to your image. I also think that this show making these clear distinctions and highlighting differences between parts of our bodies, in this case being hair, says a lot about our society and about fashioning bodies. I also really like how Josey talks about hair further in regards to eye-brows, arm-pits, legs and bikini lines. I definitely agree that being hairless on any other part of your body besides your head plays the same role that the hair on your head does to creating a fashionable body and image.

  8. Like everyone else, I really enjoyed the documentary “Good Hair.” I wish that I could’ve seen all of it and it gave me real insight into how difficult dealing with hair can be. I have heard stories of my friends getting their hair done and having it take hours on end but seeing the actual process behind it was extremely interesting. The even more disturbing part to me is that some women, even women who have to go into debt to pay for their weaves, still feel so much pressure to fit into society that it is worth it to them. Another interesting aspect of the documentary is the Indian women who have to donate their hair. It made me wonder if women who are told that giving their hair to God benefits them are actually being tricked. Is this really an essential part of their religion or is the hair industry pressuring religious leaders to get their followers to donate their hair?

    Josey also hit on a good point by talking about body hair. I must admit, I’m one of the first people to be surprised and even slightly disgusted by people who do not keep their body hair under control. My friends and I joke that we are turning into men when we take too long to shave our legs or wax our eyebrows. And when you think of how much money you throw away just to feel confident, not only to members of the opposite sex (or same sex depending on sexual orientation) but to yourself it seems crazy.

  9. I agree with you, that although “Good Hair” did not provide much new groundbreaking information, the film obviously has the power to create a dialogue about this phenomenon. That being said, it is interesting that the women who “fake it” are more accepted while those who go all natural are seen as revolutionary. I think this fact shows just how intense and deeply embedded the idea that we have to change ourselves to be beautiful is in our culture. One other commenter noted the fact that most women feel the need to remove their body hair, even though it is a completely natural occurrence. This is just one of the many things that people do to alter their bodies to look attractive to themselves and others. To me, this movie portrayed how obsessed our culture is with appearing attractive and how far we will go to achieve those means. As some other students mentioned, numerous people were shocked by how much money these women would spend on their hair. They would borrow money, go into debt, all to achieve beauty. Unfortunately, I do not believe our societies idea of beauty is evolving. Although some people strive to fight the pressure of beauty norms, most of us still happily conform.

  10. The film presents many issues related to the idea of ‘faking it’ such as the way in which women chose to cover over their hair while in its natural state and opt instead for what may be real hair, but presented in a way that is not genetically real. The biggest reasoning I can see the film giving for the choice to do this stems from a combination of vanity, Western ideals and ease of maintenance. In the film however, we see the lengths women go to in covering their natural hair and although the process is expensive and lengthy, presumably this is a happy alternative to maintaining their hair in its natural state. To address this concept of “keeping our hair in the same state as it grows out of our head is looked at as revolutionary”, I agree that it is rather humorous, however as can be seen on celebrities and catwalks worldwide, they seem to have delivered it the seal of approval and therefore the rest of society are following suit. As society comes round to accepting the shaved head look or natural Afro the idea that it is revolutionary will steadily die down, however I believe the sale of Indian hair for the purpose of giving women the Western look they desire will never die down.

    As the second highest export out of India, it is shocking that hair can come above all the other valuable products India manufactures. Not only is the hair being supplied with the intention that it will cover Afro hair, but the trend of hair extensions for women with non-Afro hair has boomed over the past 5 years. All colours, shade and lengths are available and for as long as long hair is fashionable, the industry will continue to grow. I believe that societies idea of beauty is constantly evolving and that at no point will a critical turning point arise where beauty is suddenly completely different from what it was the previous day. The extent to which this change will take place is the real challenge. Beautiful women generally hold a timeless look, however trends are ever-evolving and although Rihanna’s shaved head may not have been well received 50 years ago, she is now deemed one of the most beautiful women on the planet.

  11. I originally saw the film Good Hair when it was first released and it angered me somewhat. I felt that tehfilm was slightly miss guided and it presented black women as reliant on hair weaves and hair straigteners. I feel what the film failed to mention was that extentions are woren by several cultures of women and in the entertainment industry almost no one wears their natural hair. I feel that the film depicts black women as insecure and having low self-esteems due to their hair not looking like everyone else’s. I think that only reason why natural hair on a black woman is seen as revolutionary is because hair weaves and straigteners are made so much a big deal of. I’ve woren my hair natural, straigtened and other and my only reason for doing so is because I like different looks.

    I think the fact that most of the hair that is gathered for weaving comes from India says that we as a society feel that India people have beautiful hair. However I also believe that it has a lot to do with teh health of the hair that comes from India. I myself believe that their hair is some of the most beautiful and healthiest hair I’ve ever seen.

    I do think our society’s ideal will evolve and that’s due to fashioning evolving.

  12. Hair is a sensitive topic when it comes to most African American women. Some believe that natural hair is the best and some choose to wear weave and use perms. Why do I care? might be the question that comes to mind when some people are discussing this topic. To the women however, it is a very serious topic. Like Janelle said, wearing weave and perms may be considered “faking it”. But is it really though? In today’s society everyone makes decisions with their body and hair that may alter reality. I think it’s funny that it is accepted for white women to have cosmetic surgery and other operations similar to that but ironic that if a black woman wants to have long, silky hair, the term “faking it” can be used. I think wearing weaves first became popular when women felt the need to be on the same level as white women. I have heard stories from women with natural hair who said they have been turned down from jobs simply because of their ethnic look so they felt like they had to change and look more “western” to be successful or be on the same playing field as people in other races.

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