A few months ago, I had watched the film “Good Hair” by comedian Chris Rock. This film is about hair culture in the African American community.  This film predominantly focuses on African American women and their take on the perception of beauty and “good hair”.  One portion of the film that always stands out to me is when it touches on the chemicals women put in their hair to straighten and hair dye women use. Chris Rock and a hair chemist, experiment with the chemicals used to straighten hair by placing a coca cola soda can in the chemicals for five hours.  They check the can hourly and by the fifth hour 75 percent of the can has disintegrated; the only part of the can that still existed was the top portion that didn’t touch the chemicals.

A close friend and I have frequent conversations about African American women and our view of their hair. Many African American women naturally have short hair that isn’t straight.  To “change” this, many often put chemicals in their hair to straighten it/ sew fake hair (horse hair or human hair)into their own, thus making it look longer.

I feel subconsciously that many African American women want to have long hair in order to blend in or look “natural”.  There are very few African American women I know that have natural hair and don’t put any chemicals in it.  However, there have been times when I thought it was all of their hair when it wasn’t or that their hair was naturally straight and it wasn’t.  In the African American community, I think many people few non straight, curly, rough, “nappy” hair is wrong or isn’t accepted.  There was a time when many African American men straightened their hair as well but isn’t very prevalent today. Oddly enough I also feel that different races of women want to be other races of women. Hair straightening is one example; to have straight long hair like european women, tanning salons to have darker skin, make up/ eye liner that can make your eyes look slanted or make-up that makes your skin complexion darker or lighter than what it really is.

This youtube video is a trailer of “Good Hair” and briefly discusses the chemicals women put in their hair as well as hair they sew in.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1m-4qxz08So

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2 responses

  1. I love that you wrote about this! I watch this documentary not too long ago and thought about writing it but totally forgot!

    I never knew a thing about black hair (this is the term I’m going to use because it applies to more than people who are of African descent) and this film opened up a whole world to me. I never realized how much of a market there was for hair products, or the lengths (no pun intended) people would go to for a good weave. But it’s capitalism at its best. The finest weaves are from India–given up by people who shed their hair as a spiritual cleansing process-collected, and then sold to the highest bidder. The amount of money people will spend on their hair! There was one point in the film where Chris Rock asks several men, and I suppose some women, about the high-maintaince lifestyle that generally comes along with hair upkeep. It was fascinating to hear the men’s responses because some of them said they wouldn’t want to get involved with someone who had really nice fake hair because it meant the women would be too high mantaince! I won’t lie, after seeing the movie, I’ve been checking out people’s hair around the city, on the train…it’s such artwork!

  2. fbernard89 says:

    Okay I am a little conflicted with the different aspects of black hair. I myself am a Black woman and I do chemically straighten my hair. I prefer straight hair because its easier to manage and I just think it looks better. Now I can admit that I am not sure if I prefer straight hair on my own accord or if my perception of beauty has been altered by the media and other factors. I don’t feel the need to chop off all my hair and go natural just to make it seem like I am more proud of being black then I was before. Honestly it seems that the women that go the natural route are more pretentious then other Blacks because they are not embarrassed to wear their natural hair. Not every Black woman that chemically straightens her hair is ashamed or embarrassed of her natural its all a matter of choices and preferences.