This time, by Time.

Why Michelle’s Hair Matters was penned by Jenee Desmond-Harris, and homegirl did her blog research. My friends at Michelle Obama Watch, Black Snob, and Nappturality all got mentioned in the venerable newsmagazine. Score! Happy and proud of my amigas in the blogosphere!

I’ll admit, my initial reaction to Desmond-Harris’ article was… another one? Another article on Michelle’s hair? Le sigh. But her perspective gave this article a bit more bite. In her own words:

“Even though I’m biracial and should theoretically have half a share of hair angst, I’ve sacrificed endless Saturdays to the salon. It is unfathomable that I might ever leave my apartment with my hair in its truly natural state, unmoderated by heat or products. I once broke down at the airport when my gel was confiscated for exceeding the 3-oz. limit.”

Based on her experiences, she gets it. In this article there’s no need to explain why for many black women the “it’s just hair, what’s the big deal” argument cannot and will never fly.

Her conclusion intertwined her own perspectives on black hair with a reality many bellas can identify with:

“I’m neither high maintenance nor superficial: I’m a black woman. My focus on hair feels like a birthright. It is my membership in an exclusive, historical club, with privileges, responsibilities, infighting and bylaws that are rewritten every decade.

Not once when I’ve seen an image of our First Lady has it been lost on me that she is also a member. I don’t see just an easy, bouncy do. I see the fruits of a time-consuming effort to convey a carefully calculated image. In the next-day ponytail, I see a familiar defeat.

A black family at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue signifies a shattered political barrier, but our reactions to Michelle are evidence that it takes more than an election to untangle some of the unique dilemmas black women face. Thanks to her, our issues are front and center. It feels a lot like when nonblack friends and colleagues ask those dreaded questions that force us to reflect and explain: whether we can comb through our hair, if we wash our braids or locks and the most complicated of all — why it all has to be such a big deal.”

And also, a black family at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue means we’re in store for at least four more years of false hair alarms, did-she-or-didn’t-she-cut-her-hair blog posts, and mainstream media attention on black hair and the trailer load of issues that come with it. Like I said in my NY Times article post — our hair is having a moment. But thanks to the Obama factor, it’s gonna last for quite a while.

** awesome illustration above is by Nicole Fineman for Time.



nyc/caribbean ragazza says:
September 1, 2009, 2:01 am
I would love it Michelle busted out with a "fro. The far right would go crazy. "See, we told she was militant!" Never mind that the ONLY black female CEO of a Fortune 500 company has one. Some people just don't get it and never will.
mixie says:
September 1, 2009, 6:56 am
"when I've seen an image of our First Lady has it been lost on me that she is also a member. I don't see just an easy, bouncy do. I see the fruits of a time-consuming effort to convey a carefully calculated image. In the next-day ponytail, I see a familiar defeat." I also never wore my hair curly when I started a job. This was a pretty good article - I hope the readers of Time will 'get' what it means to have our Diaspora hair, and maybe one day natural hair won't make any kind of statement other than one of looking good! Thanks Afrobella for posting this.
Roz says:
September 1, 2009, 10:56 am
I have been following this converstion around the NYT article for a few days now and I find the whole thing very interesting. In a way I'm glad to see this discussion brought to the American public. I remember one of our Friday night extended family discussions covered the topic of black women's hair and whether or not to go natural. The debate in my aunt's kitchen was quite heated and this took place some time in the early sixties. I was against wearing my hair in its natural state and my cousin, a college student at the time, was saying why not. When I became a young college student in the early seventies I left the straightening combs and perms at home and went completely natural. Since then I have been mostly natural, with a couple of short-lived journeys into relaxed hair. I applaud the young women of today who have made natural hair a fashion statement and push others to do the same. I am no fashionista but I do love me some natural hair. You have taken hair to another level and have provided a whole lot more good information on hair care than we had in 1971.
Gisele says:
September 2, 2009, 9:57 am
Maybe because I live in a big metropolis like NYC, but I see Black women going to work with hair in all variations (twist outs, blow outs, locs, cornrows, relaxed,-and all in one train ride to work), I have grown so weary of all this controversy about Black hair. I guess it's good that people are talking about what is bothering them, but the quote mixie posted above from the article "next day ponytail as a familiar defeat"-annoys me. Why can't a Black woman have an immaculate do one day, and a casual pony tail the next without it being considered a "familiar defeat"? We are our worst enemies sometimes because we STAY in other Black women's heads, literally and figuratively. Women in general srutinize each other to the nines, but we take it to another level by often projecting our own issues onto ladies we don't even know. It's a mental illness that I wish many of us could overcome.
Nancy says:
September 2, 2009, 12:34 pm
I am not a black woman, so I guess I've never heard any of the idiotic questions about how I take care of my hair. But as someone who does straighten my hair, I can sympathize with all those who spend hours on their hair. Why is it we can have a black woman as first lady and she can't wear an afro? What does that say about us as a country? BTW, my son has very curly, very thick RED hair which he wears in what we like to call a "Celtic Fro". I do wonder how he washes and brushes it, but since I've never seen him do either I guess I'll never know. I want one. Always have...always will.
Nona says:
September 3, 2009, 11:59 am
I'm so with you Gisele. I resent and resist being colonised by any group. As a professional woman who has worn my hair short and long afro, shaved bald, braided, cornrowed, dreadlocked and straightened in Barbados, Paris, New York and London, I resent all these projections that come mostly from black folks with their own issues. Until the day I die, hair will just be hair to me and I will change mine as the mood hits me and thumb my nose at those of any race that want to define my entire being by it.
Mimi says:
September 6, 2009, 9:37 am
Be you a creamy cracker or natural aficionado. It is important that we support our first lady. The Birthers, Tea Baggers and others of that ilk...look at Mrs. Obama and they do not care if her hair is straight or natural, they hate her no matter what. I hate how every thing about Mrs. Obama must be dissected as if she where some biology experiment and as a black woman I refuse to do the same.
KIB says:
September 8, 2009, 9:51 am
Her hair always looks good.
Dee says:
September 9, 2009, 10:50 am
I read a quote that ,to paraphrase that "the White House aint ready for a 1st lady with twist and a fro." My answer: A year ago one could have said that the White House wasn't ready for a 1st Black Lady! Also I've read to parahphrase "Michelle Obama is playing it safe by straightening hair hair." LADIES: If she really wanted to play it safe neither she nor her husband would be in the White house at all!
Meg_WGBH says:
July 22, 2010, 1:06 pm
With Michelle Obama, a powerful and poised black woman in the White House, how have the images of black women changed in the past two years? In what ways does Michelle Obama promote a positive image for black women? How will her presence as First Lady continue to change with image of black women for the public? This evening, Basic Black, the Emmy-winning WGBH, the largest PBS affiliate, program, will take a look at the image of black women and Michelle Obama's first two years as First Lady. Our panelists tonight are: -Latoyia Edwards, anchor, New England Cable News -Philip Martin, senior investigative reporter, WGBH Radio -Kim McLarin, writer-in-residence, Emerson College -Davarian Baldwin, professor of American Studies, Trinity College Join us this evening live on WGBH, Channel 2 in the Boston area, or online at basicblack.org, where you can also participate in our live chat.
Romaine Loyack says:
December 2, 2011, 3:14 pm
Comment writing is something of a new art form, and as many people who get comments will tell you, some are great and some are horrible. In fact, I've embedded a hilarious video at the bottom of this article of some girls from YouTube doing a rap song about the awful comments they get on their videos. It's called "Yo Comments are Whack," and it's worth the time. It's good to know your blog is much better than these and will never end up being made fun of.


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