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#hairpopp: Is Natural Hair Unprofessional In The Workplace? [twitter chat]

by mediabeast
17th August 2017

The #hairpopp Twitter chat is an opportunity for us to talk live about hair related topics. Last week, we discussed the perception of natural hair as ‘unprofessional’?in the workplace for the?first ever conversation. Here?s what you had to say.

Hair is a hot topic and always guarantees huge discussion amongst black women. We often arguably subscribe to a more Eurocentric look to appear less ?threatening?.?However, as black women increasingly embrace their natural hair, it changes how we care for ourselves as well as our hair. Large brands now use women with natural hair to market their products, thus changing mainstream media’s ideal of what is desirable. Whilst it may seem like a trend in the media, it is waking up a consciousness amongst black people. Black women are making black beauty acceptable; diversity is the new normal and not a trend.

The Angry Black Woman

There is the perception that natural hair makes women appear threatening. Some feel wearing it out and proud rather than opting for protective styles challenges the status quo. Assertive and confident women are sometimes viewed as intimidating. People fear black women could have a kind of ascendancy and do not want to give any of this power away.

?Is it socially acceptable for work colleagues to feel that they can touch black women?s hair?

 

The ‘angry black woman’ label is never far, despite colleagues invading our space when they decide to touch our hair uninvited.?A white woman would not have to experience such an encounter; their boundaries remain untested and respected. Black women, on the other hand, have to learn to shut things down quickly. It can be a struggle to do this sweetly, yet assertively, in tiresome efforts to avoid that other ?A? word often awarded to us: aggressive. The general consensus is that no matter the hairstyle black women have, colleagues will always have a comment to make on it at best, and at worst, find a problem with it.

 

Dear White People?<insert awkward comment here>…

What happened to your hair? Were you electrocuted? ?

Some comments discourage women from embracing their natural hair at work.

?One colleague said my faux locks looked like the predator.

Industry Dependent?

A few of our contributors shared their experiences of working in the retail sector. On one hand, company policy stated that hair should be worn in a ?neat? fashion, and felt that the policy suggests straight hair, which sends subliminal messages that the accepted norm is European beauty. Therefore it aesthetically pleases, appeases and reflects the company’s brand.?

Another person in this industry said they don?t care and that they feel comfortable enough to wear braids. They felt that the perception of unprofessional or ?negative? natural hair applies to afros and dreadlocks.

One of our contributors is a teacher who tends to wear extensions but has worn her natural hair to school. Whilst no one says anything about her natural hair, she has felt the stares. She also said she likes to wear other protective styles, so students see a black teacher rocking her natural hair with pride.

The industry you work in may indirectly encourage a certain image and employees can feel pressure to conform, especially if they represent the company externally. However, there is a need to be true to our authentic selves and embrace our blackness, whether that be our hair, music or culture.

Self-confidence

In 2017, this should not be an issue, but black hair affects people?s perception of us, says Hair and Lifestyle blogger Zahra, (Zig Beswick). The labels last longer than a week old twist out, whether it?s the angry black woman, the ?edgy? woman, or the activist. Nonetheless, some women are unapologetic and don?t care what others think. They will go to an interview rocking their teeny weeny afro (TWA), and let people know what their hair is like from the beginning.?

Perception – Breaking the Norm

Natural hair is not unprofessional, it?s all about perception. Some people see natural hair as pro black, which many equate to anti-white, anti-establishment, or anti-European and therefore reject it. There is the perception that natural hair is a statement, rather than simply a choice to wear your hair the way it grows out of your head.

One Twitter user said natural hair at work isn’t unprofessional, as long as it’s neat. Natural hair requires a bit more manipulation sometimes if you?re not going to wear it in a bun or a puff ?(unlike straight hair). So if you come to work with a few strands sitting horizontally as opposed to perfectly vertical, it can be seen as less professional. However natural hair, as a product of our blackness, is not unprofessional SIMPLY because it defies laws of gravity by staying up.

The men who joined are supportive and welcome women who style their natural hair for work.

A hairstyle does not affect a woman?s ability to perform her job role. Men love to see it in the workplace. Our male contributors view black women as the epitome of beauty. ?The oppression or judgement you?ve [black women] faced has and would have broken many others but you have overcome and thrived. That?s why you?re feared?, says Educator and Coach Adam Brooks.

Accepting that kinky, curly hair is the norm for black women, blogger of Thovghts Conveyed said “the very fact that women wear it natural makes it professional. It’s unaltered and unchanged; the texture respected and proud. Seeing women with natural hair at work, I think ‘work it girl’. Simple as that. Why shouldn?t she flaunt how natural, beautiful and strong her hair is? I love it.”

Is natural hair in the workplace unprofessional?

From our Twitter chat, it seemed the general consensus was that natural hair at work is not unprofessional. It would seem that a European beauty standard portrays the norm. This standard excludes kinky hair, yet measures beauty against it and deems it unacceptable. The European standard of beauty is not THE standard of beauty. Black women are waking up to this.

We need to stop conforming to social norms that do not include black women and instead embrace being unapologetically confident within ourselves. If other women and black men support us, eventually employers will have to accept that this is normal for black women and accept our diversity.

The topic of hair opens up many conversations that white women are oblivious to in the workplace. The ‘angry black woman’, defiance, and cultural appropriation to name a few. Ultimately, hairstyles are a choice. Black women should feel comfortable to wear their hair as they feel without judgement for being too black for white people or too white for black people.

Why do black women seem to favour wearing protective styles to work over natural hair? It is cause for concern that black women do not feel comfortable wearing their own hair for fear of appearing untidy. Many don’t feel black beauty is socially acceptable. No matter what industry we work in, black women should feel comfortable and professional when wearing their natural hair if they choose to. ?

Do you think natural hair in the workplace is unprofessional? If you have suggestions for future hair related topics, let us know.


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Read a previous post I Am Not My Hair.

 

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