Friday, July 2, 2010

The Root of the Problem

I submitted this post a few days ago to another blog; in the event that it is posted, I'll be sure to attach a link!

Initially, I wanted to be outraged at "The Health Care Bill Should Tax Weaves Like It Taxes Tanning", an blurb written by Cord Jefferson of The Root. Here's why: 2010 is the year of scrutiny for Black women. We've been under a perpetual magnifying glass; the blog world and mainstream media have been studying Black women, like a new species that has gone from the wild to domestic life in recent years. We have become a major topic of discussion for makeshift anthropologists who are interested in our lifestyles, mating practices, relationships and income. Not to discredit the social sciences, but news reporters and blog writers are not sociologists and the much focused on question of "why are you successful Black women single" has been given so much attention in 2010 alone that is has become disgusting.

The aforementioned post at The Root was not that, though. As a matter of fact, I found myself nodding in agreement instead of shaking with outrage at the author's rationale. In short, Cord Jefferson proposes, in a tone that mixes logic with a bit of parody, that since the health care bill has recently added a tax to tanning because of its medically unhealthy consequences (otherwise known as cancer), it should follow that fake hair is also taxed for the same reasons. This may sound a little offputting at first; after all, the use fake hair does not cause cancer or other medical repurcussions...does it? Well, I don't have the answer to that, but I will say that the article uses weaves as an example to identify more than it's really saying: the chemicals and other things that Black women use in our hair are unhealthy for us. This isn't simply an attack on relaxers, which is also why I'm not convinced that it is solely an attack on Black women more than it is an attempt to identify that our self-image needs adjusting. There are photos all over the web of women and girls that have had allergic reactions to relaxers, hair color, texturizers, and other chemicals that we plaster ourselves with to adjust the way that the world sees us, and to boost the way that we see ourselves. Some allergic reactions are so severe that they do, in fact, require medical attention and while the dermatological effects may not be as expensive or long term as cancer treatments, they are parallel experiences. White women, too, suffer from body image issues which is one reason for unhealthy behaviors that may just cause cancer. Equally, Black women participate in other unhealthy behaviors that, similarly to white women's issues, have been recycled and evolved over time. That is not to say that we do not suffer a longer, more severe systematic form of psychological oppression simply based on our perception of beauty; rather, it is hitting on just that.

Jefferson pulls examples from Tyra to Beyonce, and even posts a recent picture that hit the web of Naomi Campbell's major hair loss. Even so, the most important thing brought out in this post is the following sentence:

Perhaps some of the money saved could even go toward things like social welfare programs designed to help young black girls stop fetishizing straight blonde hair in the first place.

This is the bottom line of it all: image. While the author did not go in great depth about the historical contexts and the evolution of how Black women view themselves, consciously or subconsciously, I gathered that this was a light hearted attempt for a man to speak out about Black women's body image issues and, in my opinion, it did what it was supposed to do. Disgusted, irritated, confused or, like myself, satisfied with the article, it was meant to create a dialogue amongst ourselves. Black men might just be paying attention to our behaviors, and that makes me wonder if we are giving as much thought to our rituals as some other people may be. As a self-identifying Black feminist/womanist/women's rights activist, there are so many battles that Black women face in our macro- and micro-societies; it's just as important to channel some sort of energy within ourselves to reflect and understand the traditions that we recycle and identify whether or not the real root of the problem is worth defending.

Be Righteous.

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