…But who is the butt of the joke? And is it really funny? Really?
Let me start by saying that one of the best things to happen to social media in the last 5 years is meme culture ( Pronounced meeem, not mee, mee. ).There is something to be said for folks coming up with images and the perfect phrasing to accompany them that can make for hours upon hours of fun on our favorite social media sites. Especially when there is a “meme war.” I LOVE “stealing” memes, saving them in my phone and then unleashing them on an unsuspecting friend for a roar of laughter!
That feeling is different for me with hair memes, though. I cant say why. I don’t think I am someone who considers herself so “deep, spiritual, or conscious” that I can’t take a joke. Quite the contrary. I love laughing and I find balance in balance. There’s a time for deep and there’s a time for lit! Perhaps, for me, a stylist of 15 years who has spent countless hours conversing with women, reassuring and attempting to persuade them to love their hair as it is. Consulting with thousands of woman. Convincing them certain products marketed to take it from “kinky” to “curly” is just that, marketing and that there’s nothing wrong if their hair never makes it to the pinnacle of curly which is listed higher on the alphanumeric typing list…. Later, online watching some women struggle silently with hair envy over all of the women who get loads of compliments and likes who just happen to have a certain texture, thickness or length. and scared to hit the post button, afraid that no one could possibly like hers in comparison. Watching x number of posts on how to get hair to be a certain length, thickness by doing _____________ (insert trend here). Feeling as if she’s “failed” if her hair didn’t come out like the You Tuber’s tutorial, even though she’s not really following those with hair like hers, she’s following those with the hair she desires to have. Women obsessed with wearing a perfectly defined twist-out (nothing wrong with a fierce twist-out with exact definition, however) not allowing herself the joys of the versatility of watching the hair morph into other-flyness if it isn’t twisted every single solitary night.
Even personally, my hair, healthy, strong, dense, tight, thread like, coiled, shrinks to the scalp at a moment’s notice and never really stays stretched long if elongated. I can give the absolute best hair advice, and I’m spot on but if my hair doesn’t appear a certain way, unfortunately, for some, it tampers with my credibility, so… then I see things like the following:
This grouping of photographs may seem funny on the surface but at the core are issues of colorism and anti-black beauty standards. In every photograph, the desirable subject has lighter skin and/or a hair texture/thickness that is viewed as more attractive. (You are allowed to have browner skin, as long as the hair isn’t too African,right?) I mean, is it really the worst thing in the world to have to wear an afro with a part on the side like Samuel L? What happens if you twist hour hair at night and the results are still just a bit more textured than his in this photo? Or it starts out more textured,but it’s fine and cottony, so it doesn’t hold the shape of the twist out very long just by its nature. Is the style then a “#fail” or can the hybrid be just as fierce? Even Trace Ellis Ross want’s you to love your hair even if it isn’t just like hers. Trace, Cree, Karyn, their hair IS beautiful, but so is India’s so is Lauryn’s, so is yours.
And then there are the memes that deal with the variances of hair growth. Everyone has different rates of hair growth, no matter the race. That is pre-determined by ones genetics and hair growth cycles, some folks’ cycles are longer than others. Period. Some people are what I call showers (not a ton of shrinkage) so their hair will always be big see also, desirable, the prototype et cetera. Others are growers (hair with a ton of shrinkage but hair will appear short unless stretched). For some women, her 4″ afro all around is the most hair she’s ever had and it’s healthy, vs the 1 to 1 1/2 inch broken in multiple locations that she may have had before going natural. That 4″ is success! That is 2″ more growth than she normally would have experienced. At the root of it all though, is this belief that black women have hair that doesn’t grow and we are always comparing ourselves to each other as a measure of success instead of what our personal best can be. Le sigh , le loud sigh! And let me not get in to the numbers of women that had no problem rocking a short pixi relaxed but are on a mad hunt for every “growth potion” natural. A TWA or low is unacceptable, natural. Why? It’s the same length hair! Memes like this reinforce that piece. Beauty is only found in long hair when your black, when you’re black and natural and hair is of a certain texture, especially.
Then we have the downright ign’ant , straight disrespectful. Most would agree this is unacceptable, but there may a small minority that feel a slight sense of satisfaction that they were chosen to be in the “acceptable” category. I mean, let’s not pretend that just barbecue the natural hair movement has absolute momentum that we still don’t possess the same troubled psychosis that kept us bound pre-natural They’ve followed us right on over and lead the way in natural hair marketing and social media fame. Respectability politics have been governing black folks since we’ve been on the soil of the Americas but there is a special pain that comes when you know the rules have been so heavily internalized that we self govern .
This is a low blow. Instead of celebrating the beauty that comes from every hair texture represented, there is a clear divide. As aforementioned, more of us will absolutely be offended by this. But we will laugh at this…
Now, maybe because this is an animated character, it’s easier to find humor. She isn’t real. What’s the big deal? You know this is true!!!! LOL… we can toss it into the many other things we term the natural hair “#struggle” (I also hate that). The issue is, (first of all) who in the hell describes her hair as coming out like trash(yes I know it’s a simile but sheese!)? Would we be okay with someone else describing our hair that way? Trash? Next, I can’t tell you how many real time texts and pic mails I received on women who have literally struggled to leave the house, not because the twist-out didn’t come out right. For some folks, the twist out is BANGING. For others, this “trash” is the BEST her twist out will look, texture depending. She has no choice. She must go outside. It’s the one who’s hair is natural and styled naturally for the first time. It looks beautiful, but she doesn’t feel that way because 500 years of reproduced psychosis and trauma about her beauty and appearance is etched into her very being and she doesn’t want to leave the house. She hides behind headbands, flowers,bandannas, barrettes because just presenting her natural self to the wold with no embellishments is enough. This animated figure’s hair looks a lot like the hair on that dreaded “N” word on those obviously ignorant memes. We have to be careful when we are the butt of our own jokes. When our sisters, moms, aunties, besties, neighbors are the butts of our own jokes. We have enough folks laughing at our pain. Again, I’m all for a good joke but sometimes the hair memes are a little too close to home for me. I’m not just talking 1 or 2 women. I’m talking hundreds/thousands.
United we stand, divided we fall. We’ve done generations of good and bad hair. We’ve done alphanumeric hair typing. It’s all good! Defined or undefined. All good. Whether you remember to twist it or not at night. Trash or treasure. At the end of the day..
We are one.