I know I know its probably a weave but yes its still a big deal.The decision of more and more highly visible black women to not wear their hair straight impacts what we understand beauty standards for black women to be. When Viola Davis came to the Oscars with a short fro instead of a wig, my news feed was ablaze with the pictures. The audacity! To take off the wig and embrace the natural texture of her hair. Especially after Viola received a lot of flack for playing a maid in “The Help”. Many asked her why she took the role and few were satisfied with her response. I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t really pass judgement on her choice or her performance.
I remember when I saw the poster for the movie at the 42nd Street theatre. My boyfriend pointed it out to me as we were leaving the theatre and we both laughed knowingly. I remember remarking that it was clearly going to be the most racist movie ever before slipping into my yowza boss voice. It was all in good fun. At the time I wasn’t purposefully taking a critical eye to the composition of the advertisement or even noticing the actresses that were featured. I took a cursory glance and immediately knew that the movie had to be directed at white people who had no real grasp on american history. Because here I was in 2012 looking at the reincarnation of hattie mcdaniel and some bubbly white teen.
Usually movies make more of an effort to reinvent the black servant role. Jennifer Hudson in the first Sex in the City movie was considered a personal assistant, who border lined on filling a friendship role, but its still clear throughout the film that she’s actually Sarah Jessica Parkers employee and that theirs a clear power dynamic there, that parallels that of the old school housewife and maid.
But back to Michelle Obama. The first lady receives a lot of criticism for how she dresses. I remember seeing a headline about her wearing shorts, and another about her having her shoulders exposed? It’s all very silly to me. But the first lady wearing a natural hair style definitely sends a statement about whats acceptable in particular for professional black women. A lot of women will straighten their hair because they feel it makes them more likely to be hired or to get a promotion. These things are probably true but the more often black women shirk these biases, the more acceptable natural hairstyles become. And as someone who loathes to put chemicals in her hair, thats good news for me!