Last year a study was conducted by The Perception Institute, in conjunction with Shea Moisture. It examined the attitudes of people towards Afro-textured hair. The Good Hair Survey measured the ratings of black and white women on a range of hairstyles. Here are the key findings:
On average, white women show explicit bias toward black women’s textured hair. They rate it as less beautiful, less sexy/attractive, and less professional than smooth hair.
- Black women in the natural hair community have significantly more positive attitudes toward textured hair than other women, including black women in the national sample.
- Millennial naturalistas have more positive attitudes toward textured hair than all other women.
- Black women perceive a level of social stigma against textured hair, and this perception is substantiated by white women’s devaluation of natural hairstyles.
The findings of this study were recently discussed on BET talk show The Real. Check out the discussion below.
The Good Hair Survey showed that white women perceive natural, Afro textured hair as less attractive than straight, smooth hair. The survey found an overall negative bias towards black women’s natural hair and that some black women even viewed natural hair as less attractive.
Was I surprised by the findings of this study, no. However, from my personal experience, I have received nothing but compliments from people of other races about my natural hair. However, black women usually have the concern that we may be perceived as less professional, wearing our hair natural. Some believe we put ourselves at a disadvantage in the workplace when we display our natural hair texture.
Of course, black women in the natural hair community were found to be significantly positive about their natural hair. It was also good to hear that Millennial naturalistas have positive attitudes towards natural hair. This indicates that attitudes of the younger generations are gradually improving. This is perhaps the solution to the issue. As long as we continue to accept ourselves and show the world who we really are, attitudes towards our natural hair will improve. I couldn’t care less what white women think of my hair, however fears of being affected professionally are not unfounded. According to the survey; one in five black women feel social pressure to straighten their hair for work — twice as many as white women.
It has been a fear that has existed for generations, and we still hear of discrimination related to natural hair till this day. Check out the post: Is it really just hair? The historical significance of black hair, where the origins of this fear is examined. For this reason, many black women continue to relax their hair or wear European style weaves.
Hearing presenters of The Real discuss this study was quite eye opening. Tamera Mowry-Housley described not getting roles simply because of her curls, and the reluctance of hairstylists to deal with her hair. Loni Love also believed she was blocked from getting certain gigs until she started to wear straight weaves. We only have to turn on the TV to see the majority of black female celebrities wearing weaves, even when they claim to wear their hair “natural”, they have a perm. The attitudes highlighted from this study confirm they have a reason to choose weaves and relaxers over their natural hair. Such reasons are all external factors though and revolve around the attitudes of others.
Even when Jeanie Mai praised certain black women for wearing their hair natural, she named bi-racial women with curly, type 3 hair, like Tracee-Ellis Ross and Alicia Keys. It was Tamera who at least mentioned Lupita N’yongo. Then there was the cringe worthy moment where the guest presenter, Remy Ma used the term “good hair”, pointing out that only the women with “good hair” were mentioned. She and Loni proceeded to imply that their hair was unmanageable, so they relied on weaves. We in the natural hair community know that it is our lack of knowledge that is the problem, not our hair. When I learned how to manage my hair, I no longer considered it “unmanageable”. I address this misconception in the post: I can’t go natural; my hair is too tough. Besides, every race, whether Caucasian, African or Asian has high and low maintenance hair types. There are white women with very thick, high maintenance hair and there are black women with thinner hair that is not coarse.
No one should have to perpetually rely on wearing another person’s hair onto their head to manage their hair. Black hair is not so weak that we have to constantly wear wigs or weaves to protect it. There are many protective styling options we can practice without using extensions. Understandably, in the entertainment industry, it is better to wear a wig than to constantly straighten the hair for work. However, for many black women, it is more due to insecurity about their hair than the need to protect it.
I also noticed that no one on the panel thought to wear their hair natural for an episode that involved a discussion on natural hair. We can’t expect others to understand black hair if they rarely see it! Even Adrienne Bailon who is Latino was wearing her hair straight, despite having naturally curly hair. Women of other races also face pressures to fit in, they may dye their hair blonde or straighten their curls too. This could be why those in the survey showed bias against hair that didn’t fit the “ideal” standard of beauty.
Tamera admitted that she now wears straight weaves because she wants to, not because she feels she has to. I hope we can all get to that point, regardless of what other people think. No other race is criticized for wearing their hair the way it grows from their scalp. There will never be a study asking black women what they think of white women wearing their hair straight, because it is considered the norm. It is up to us to remind people of other races what black hair really looks like. Maybe then they won’t hold us up to a standard of beauty that doesn’t apply to us. Most importantly we ourselves need to stop trying to fit in and be who we truly are, African features and all. We can wait around for others to accept us, or we can start by practicing self acceptance.
What do you think of this study? Have you experienced negative attitudes towards your natural hair? Please share in the comments below.