Photographer (unknown) (2014, May 14) Photos on the street in florence. Retrieved from
http://www.thesartorialist.com/photos/on-the- street-nil- florence/?replytocom=222431
Type the words “natural hairstyles for work” in your Google search bar and you will come across several YouTubers who have devoted their time and effort in to finding natural hairstyles that are “office friendly.” We aren’t talking about skirt length people. We are talking hair. Specifically natural hair. Why? Because in some situations, rocking your Marley bun, your long locs, or your beautiful afro, simply will not do. Some may view you as a threat. Others may automatically assume that you are unprofessional. Even worse are those that turn you into “the show”.
“Oh my gosh your hair! It’s so interesting!” Interesting, I thought. This woman had just taken my hair and reduced it to the word, interesting . I had gone to work that morning thinking that my hair was pretty cute. However, in that moment, I felt like my hair was nothing more than a show. Interesting wasn’t a word for my hair. Interesting was a word someone would use to describe a science project. Which was accurate since, in that moment, I felt like one. This experience led me to a few questions. Due to certain society and corporate pressures, are black women made to feel uncomfortable wearing certain styles of natural hair? Are black women fed up with the uncomfortable situations that stem from wearing their natural hair in the workplace? In the battle of natural hair vs. corporate America, are we tired of “the show?” Since natural hair is often treated like a science project, I decided to examine my theory using the scientific method.
Step One- Make Observations
I began to consider all of the women I knew. Many of these women have emphatically chosen not to wear certain natural hairstyles to work. “Girl I can’t wear my afro to work. My boss would have a fit.” or, “I can wear braids as long as they are in a bun. I have to look professional.” Is it fair? Not at all. Do I understand it? Absolutely.
While it is true that many black women are hesitant in taking the natural plunge, I personally believe that most black women appreciate their hair as well as their hair texture. So why is it that some black women are hesitant to wear certain natural hairstyles?
My hypothesis is this: It is my firm belief that many women decide not to rock their natural hair in the workplace because they are uncomfortable with the reactions (and at times ignorance) to their natural hair. In other words, many black women fall in line to avoid the annoying feeling of becoming the office science project.
Step Three- Experiment
Luckily I did not have to work too hard on this part. When it comes to the crazy world of natural hair acceptance, black women are the experiment. We feel it every time someone stares at our hair. The times where our hair is touched without our permission. The times where we turn on our television and see yet another natural hair debacle. (Remember natural hair vs. the military? Never forget.) The times where we wear a wig to the interview, out of fear that our natural hair will keep us from getting the job. The times where we desire a protective style, but fear the thought of being labeled as unprofessional. The times where we scorch our hair weekly for a blow out, because straight hair is more acceptable. The times where our locs receive disdain. Believe me, whenever I came to work with a new hairstyle, I always felt like a social experiment.
While I have no fancy charts or data to insert my analysis, (or life experiences) have shown me a few things. Natural hair is definitley a movement. It is a movement geared towards loving ourselves, and learning to appreciate the beauty in remaining just as we are. Many times this movement is stifled due to societal pressures and social construct. This is seen quite strongly in the workplace. We are told to “do this” but “not that” when it comes to our style choices. We are placed in a category based on our hair alone. With many women spending the majority of their day in the workplace, this is indeed the place we should feel the most comfortable. Not just in our skin, but also in our hair! Natural hair is not unprofessional. The attitudes towards it are.
Step Five- Conclusion
My conclusion is this, natural hair (and I would venture to say all forms of black hair), is a beautiful thing. While yes, we have come a long way in the area of natural hair acceptance, there are still many more hills to climb. While I recognize and appreciate that many are simply in awe of our hair, there is a fine line between awe and being made to feel uncomfortable. Before you treat someone’s hair like a spectacle, ask yourself a few questions. “How would I feel if someone were to say this to me? How would I feel if someone were to touch my hair without asking? Would I be flattered, or uncomfortable?
After all of my data, research, and analysis would I consider my hypotheses to be correct? Well, who’s to say? After all, it’s my hair. Not a science project.
Written by Michaela Phelps, Staff Writer, #mygirlsquad