Hair-raising article shows ugly side of beauty brands – The Philadelphia Tribune




Lifestyle online outlet and beauty brand POPSUGAR recently published an article about women who “rock their natural hair,” featuring three white women, claiming to defy traditional beauty standards by letting their hair fly free. While historically the descriptor natural has been attributed to Black hair, the piece failed to feature a single Black woman.

An obvious lack of cultural awareness and apparent cultural appropriation in parading white women who are boasting of their “textured” and “frizzy” hair caused a collective eyebrow raise across the internet. The article, originally titled “These 3 Women are Making a Serious Case for Rocking Your Natural Hair,” was subtly edited to “These 3 Women are Making a Serious Case for Not Processing Their Hair,” following the backlash on Twitter after readers quickly noticed a blaring absence of diversity.

When an article about natural hair excludes and ignores Black women, it also ignores the history and politics attached to Black hair and Black women’s lived experiences. The natural hair movement was pioneered by women of color as a form of resistance against whitewashed beauty standards.

Black women have historically been pressured by Eurocentric ideals of beauty to manipulate and process their hair. The strength and resilience of the natural hair movement and the struggle Black women have undergone to be able to celebrate themselves and wear their natural hair with pride despite Black girls on the honor roll being suspended from school for wearing braids and Corporate America legally allowed to ban dreadlocks in the workplace.

White women wearing their hair naturally simply does not carry the same professional and academic consequences that is does for Black women who choose to wear natural hairstyles.

POPSUGAR co-opted the term from women of color and then proceeded to leave them out of the narrative. The oversight drives home the importance of inclusion, both in the media and in behind-the-scenes decisionmaking. When Black women and women of color are present and in positions of power, these offensive mistakes don’t happen.

This feature idea was a fantastic opportunity for the outlet to raise up the beauty of Black hair, but completely missed the mark and spiraled into an online controversy, because – yet again – a white-led organization failed to take ownership of the real problem – lack of Black women around the decision-making table – and swept the situation under the rug with a subtle title change.

Another beauty brand, Shea Moisture, came under scrutiny earlier this year for their #EverybodyGetsLove ad campaign that sought to highlight women who have “learned to love” their natural hair and also failed to incorporate women of color, resulting in an internet uproar and eventual pulling of the ad. They later released a second ad which aimed to celebrate women of color and their unique hairstyle concerns. However, Black women deserve more than an afterthought amendment.

The backlash against these brands reveals a blossoming widespread refusal to normalize underrepresentation and indicates a step forward in holding media entities accountable for the detrimental acceptance of outdated beauty standards.

Black women need space to embrace and share our identities, which includes our hair. The way Black hair is talked about — or not by PopSugar and society at large — is a symptom of the real problem: Black women are disregarded and disrespected because of the double oppression of sexism and racism.

The voices of Black women and their experiences should be elevated and weaved into the mainstream media landscape. Black hair is a symbol of identity and when brands fail to consider that identity, they contribute to a larger systematic oppression of Black women and girls.