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Huh? White Writer Says Beyonce’s Vogue Cover is a Political Statement on Stringy, Un-Done, Unkempt Hair

Avatar • Aug 17, 2015
Vogue.com

Vogue.com

In a think piece that needed a lot more thought, writer Megan Garber of the Atlantic declares that Beyonce’s slick, wet-looking hair on Vogue’s September cover is somehow a political statement on unkempt hair. Behold her thesis;

Bey and Vogue are not necessarily recommending that the Normals of the world start rocking stringy hair. What they are doing, though, is what all high fashion will, in the end: They’re setting a new benchmark. They’re suggesting that unkempt hair, Cerulean sweater-style, can and maybe even should trickle down to the habits of Vogue’s readers and admirers and newsstand-passersby. They’re making a political statement disguised as an aesthetic one. Here is Beyoncé, whose brand is strong enough to withstand being photographed with stringy hair, suggesting that, for the rest of us, the best hairdos might be the ones that don’t require all the doing.

*Long and heavy sigh*

Like, for real, please just stop. Black women don’t exist to be a mirror in which you see an enhanced version of yourself. Please stop forcing us to be that for you.

This article is basically a higher level version of turning a black woman into the magical, finger-snapping, neck-rolling pixie who sits on your shoulder shouting “Gurl you are fee-yorce!” whenever a dilemma arises. Trust me… we don’t want to do it. Stop making us do it!

And America STAY trying to force the ‘unpretty’ label on black women even when — ESPECIALLY WHEN — it doesn’t apply. Garber starts her piece by almost gleefully expressing how terrible she thinks Beyonce looks;

What is going on with that Beyoncé image in Vogue’s September issue? The cover’s background is not an actual background so much as, it would seem, Photoshop shade #858674; its cover line—“Just B,” with “Beyoncé” beneath it—seems both redundant and oxymoronic; and, worst of all, Beyoncé’s nose has been contoured into Michael Jacksonian proportions…

And here is that hair, that iconic and chameleon-like hair, looking notably, even aggressively … un-done. Here is Beyoncé, trading in her normally buoyant locks for a look that, via salt water and/or olive oil and/or mousse and/or gel, is not so much #iwokeuplikethis as #iflattenedmyhairlikethis.

Ugh.

This is the backdrop against which she writes her piece — a preternaturally beautiful and powerful black woman re-cast as hideous.

Next thought — and I know this perhaps was not the writer’s intention — but this is a classic case of a white person making something about them that is fundamentally not about them. And this is happening on two levels. First, Vogue’s September issue is the highest profile of the year. And a black woman booking that cover is historic. Theresa Avila of Mic.com sums it up perfectly;

Beyoncé has been on the cover of Vogue twice before, in 2009 and 2013. But the decision to put her on the cover of the September issue represents a milestone for the magazine world, where women of color are continually underrepresented on covers — and where young people, especially girls, are looking.

The September issue of Vogue is the biggie. A fashion magazine’s September issue is usually the largest and most influential, since it introduces fall fashion and signals the start of a new year of trends and rising stars. Vogue’s September issue, in particular, is the stuff of legend. In 2009, a documentary chronicled the story behind the making of the 2007 fall edition, which weighed nearly five pounds.

Putting Beyoncé on the cover is a testament to the singer’s cultural influence, since the celebrities who make cover of the fall issue are usually well-established stars. And it’s a statement from Vogue that, contrary to longtime skepticism, they’re not resistant to featuring a woman of color prominently.

And yet, somehow, the focus was pulled to stringy hair…

And this is why black women often question whether white feminists are allies, because don’t focus on how a black woman is making history, instead, focus on her terrible hair. (And yes, I’m having flashbacks to how white feminists dragged Michelle Obama for not being career-minded enough instead of celebrating the miracle of a beautiful, strong, highly intelligent, deep-brown-skinned African American woman being First Lady of the United States.)

Second, the description of Beyonce’s hair as “stringy” is incorrectly ascribing a white phenomenon to a black woman. This tweet sums it up perfectly;

The writer has a fundamental misunderstanding of black weave culture. If she did, she’d know that the ‘wet and wavy weave’ is a mainstay. Superstar stylist Kim Kimble, who has her own reality show and a rolodex full of celebrity clients, did Beyonce’s hair for the shoot and we’re 100% sure she wasn’t going for “unkempt” and “aggressively un-done.” And so, because the writer is ignorant of black woman’s hair culture she views it through the lens of white woman’s hair culture, in which stringy hair is a sign of poor grooming.

woman-with-tangled-hair

And I don’t know what’s more unnerving; that Garber concluded Beyonce would sacrifice her glamour to make a statement of empowerment for white women (extreme narcissism much?!), or that she wrote a 700-word piece on a black woman’s hair without researching black women’s hair.

Ladies, what are your thoughts?

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aja
aja
5 years ago

Who cares about what White females think about our hair? We pay too much attention to their negative soundbites trying to define us. Who cares? Seriously who cares.

Guest
Guest
5 years ago
Reply to  aja

Thank you! When are we going to stop caring about dumb white women like this? Her whole piece should have been ignored.

AfroQueen
AfroQueen
5 years ago
Reply to  aja

Tell ’em !
Seriously this writer sounds dumb lmao.

DeepCherrish
DeepCherrish
5 years ago
Reply to  aja

Yes, the fewer white thoughts and feelings I have to consider the better. I’m definitely not seeking them out, or thinking deeply about them in areas of little consequence like how some chick feels about Beyonces wet sew-in. Furthermore Beyonce put her self in this position by dancing around in lingere screaming that she is a feminist to sell concert tickets. Let the white folks have her, her convoluted interpretation of their feminist movement, and her stringy weave.

Tiffany Williams
Tiffany Williams
5 years ago
Reply to  aja

For goodness sake it’s not about caring what white feminists think about us but instead calling them out on their bullcrap that affects us in real life. Should we not care about racism, stereotypes, prejudice? Since it all boils down to white people and their opinion of us?

StraightShooter
StraightShooter
5 years ago

I can’t believe articles like this are still being written. One would think that these journalists would get a blue’s clue.

k.h.
k.h.
5 years ago

.….Tbh I didn’t like her hair styled this way in the first place. It is stringy and not all that cute, in my opinion. I’ve seen Beyoncé with the wet and wavy hair (her Drunk In Love performance with the blonde bob), and I liked it. I don’t think it looked as good this time though. I don’t think Garber was trying to “force the ‘unpretty’ label on black women”. Lol just as much as she read a little too into the cover, I think your reading a little too much into her response. And what does her piece have… Read more »

blackgirllonghair
blackgirllonghair
5 years ago
Reply to  k.h.

The vast majority of black women don’t get stringy hair. When our hair gets wet it shrinks (unless it’s relaxed). The Atlantic author racialized her own piece by introducing the word “stringy” and if you read HER piece, you will see that she spends some time clumsily discussing the politics of black hair. All I am asking is that if a white woman is going to write on black hair and talk about some ‘politics’ that she at least do some research. Like, she couldn’t have reached out to Kim Kimble? This is The Atlantic we’re talking about… one of… Read more »

k.h.
k.h.
5 years ago

We recognize Serena the same way we recognize Stephen Curry and LeBron. Not so much for making history, but for being the best, or one of the best, in their field CURRENTLY. I don’t see how using the word stringy racialized her piece.… I mean, if you could point out the part where she actually references race specifically it would be gratefully appreciated. Also I’m black and my hair is loose wavy and gets stringy.…and it’s not relaxed or heat damaged, never has been. I will go read her piece to try to understand your view point but I didn’t… Read more »

k.h.
k.h.
5 years ago

“Add to that the fact that hair is racially fraught (see this great Collier Meyerson video directed at “white people” and tellingly titled “Stop Touching My Hair”), and hair becomes not just a beauty thing, but also a feminist thing and a class thing and a race thing—much more even than fashion and makeup and all the other elements that constitute a Vogue cover. Hair is, along with so much else, political.” I’m guessing that’s the part you were talking about? Honestly, I don’t think she was out of place. To me her article was just saying how women usually… Read more »

blackgirllonghair
blackgirllonghair
5 years ago
Reply to  k.h.

I never used the term racially offensive. I stated that a. this piece wasn’t well thought out b. she was perceiving a black woman’s hair through the lens of a white woman and c. she incorrectly assumed that Beyonce was making herself look unattractive as a political empowerment statement for women whose hair gets stringy (which excludes, like, 80% of black women). Never did I say “racially offensive.” And funny how it’s being assumed that I’m somehow out of line for pointing out, as a black woman, the poor thought behind this piece when few people feel the white writer… Read more »

k.h.
k.h.
5 years ago

First of all, I didn’t tell you to be intimidated about Ish ?. You’re right; poor opinionated writing isn’t my Web space?. Just because you disagree with her doesn’t make it ill well thought out. Your piece talks about white women making us an enhanced version of themselves, and us being ghetto fairies.….Tbh it was a mess. Just because she didn’t like the hair it doesn’t make it a race thing, which you’re saying it does. If she said the same about, oh say: Katy perry. Would you care then? Hair would still be political but would you blink twice… Read more »

Summer
Summer
5 years ago

Honestly, I think what this author was trying to get across was “Hey! W.O.C. are rarely represented in such media! You made her look bad! Why?!?” Whether the stylist intended to go for a certain look or not the author though it looked bad (which I very much agree with and scrolling through the comments many others do too.) Just because the hair cost a lot of money, doesn’t mean it looks good. And if expensive hair = good hair is a part of black hair culture, I’d like no part of it. And let’s not forget that white celebrities get $1000… Read more »

blackgirllonghair
blackgirllonghair
5 years ago
Reply to  k.h.

The writer’s words… not mine: “Add to that the fact that hair is racially fraught (see this great Collier Meyerson video directed at “white people” and tellingly titled “Stop Touching My Hair”), and hair becomes not just a beauty thing, but also a feminist thing and a class thing and a race thing—much more even than fashion and makeup and all the other elements that constitute a Vogue cover. Hair is, along with so much else, political.”

Ajah
Ajah
5 years ago

Well I would say pump the breaks. Though the author is a snobby writer, she didn’t say Beyonce was hideous or ugly parse. She stated that her hairy was stringy. Which clearly this lady doesn’t like the wet look it’s a matter of preference. She is talking about how they chose to captivate her by speaking on the contouring and the shadowing that she felt was not needed and probably in her opinion is overdone. I don’t think that her nose is that bad.The woman said Stringy hair. So what? Whether it was a Mexican, Asian, White, or Black woman… Read more »

Dee
Dee
5 years ago
Reply to  Ajah

I agree with you.
We need to stop being so quick to be offended
Omg

Elle P.
Elle P.
5 years ago

So in short Ms. Garber is making black hair political when she knows ABSOLUTELY nothing about it! Isn’t that special!

I left a comment on her ‘lovely piece’ at the Atlantic online, please feel free to read at your leisure…

good2bfree
good2bfree
5 years ago

Yet another writer dissing Black women, and doing so to get a response. We need to stop taking the bait.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago

I personally don’t care for her hair style. I think it looks awful but hey that’s just my opinion. but since when wet weave is a “political statement”? Can you make a political statement about hair using someone else’s hair.I often hear white people use “stringy” to insult each other’s hair to mean it’s limp lifeless. I remember a white coworker being upset that her grandma said that about her

jjac401
jjac401
5 years ago
Reply to  Cosita

And that’s exactly what it is — Wet Weave. Nothing political there.

London
London
5 years ago

The writer of this is ridiculous. She is literally making this up. The Atlantic never called Beyoncé ugly… Please stop looking for offence where non exists. If you complain about this kind of stuff people will stop taking real issues seriously and lump serious people in with this nonsense!

FreeTea
FreeTea
5 years ago
Reply to  London

So…where are your receipts that this is made up? This kind of thing is something I’ve seen before: White feminists thinking they were doing something by not shaving their legs while continuing to wax their upper lip and shave their pits, White feminists railing against human trafficking while continuing to eat shrimp from Thailand and wearing Banana Republic, White feminists ignoring the roles of prominent Black women in the America Women’s Suffrage movement and deifying Margaret Sanger, White feminists insisting that high school girls should be allowed to wear crop tops to class, even though the early sexualization of adolescent girls… Read more »

Tiffany Williams
Tiffany Williams
5 years ago
Reply to  London

If people lump serious things with this then that means they weren’t that smart to begin with.

Chevanne
5 years ago

Dear Ms. Garber,

IT’S NOT THAT DEEP.

Signed,
C

Heaven
Heaven
5 years ago
Reply to  Chevanne

agreed.. wasted words on paper. we see you reaching ms garber..

Ruth
Ruth
5 years ago

I think Beyoncé looks beautiful. However, I recognize that as multi-faceted individuals with diverse experience, opinions, and thoughts it is only logical that we will view the photos of Beyoncé differently. That’s cool. We should be able to honestly and respectfully express those thoughts. That includes the author of the piece in The Atlantic and the writer of this article on BGLH. I may not agree with the writer of The Atlantic article and I may think she should have done more research. Someone else may be okay with her article and may disagree with the piece by the BGLH… Read more »

Oratilwe
Oratilwe
5 years ago

BGLH, I usually love you’re articles but on this one I feel you are picking get fights. It is a “political statement” (a stupid one ill admit) because Bey’s rocking wet hair which defies the stereotype of black girls never wetting their hair.

It’s not meant to be anything too serious especially considering that the author failed to see that Beyonce was sporting a weave.

I feel BGLH should stop bashing and start promoting. PROMOTE loving language between women of all races. PROMOTE real feminism and afrocenricity/afrocentresism.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago
Reply to  Oratilwe

I don’t get the impression B was thinking that deep. If I had a dollar for the time I hear black women making broad generalized comments to white people that black women don’t like to get their hair wet I’d live in a mansion. Then we wonder why some of them would think that. It’s because a lot of us think like that. I have been looked at crazy by black women for saying I wet or wash 2 to 3 times a week while I can tell that to a white person and they think nothing of it. I… Read more »

curly 3C long hair
curly 3C long hair
5 years ago

Really you
have to be kidding me these white people have nothing better else to talk
about it just shows you how jealous they
really are to think a African American woman can wear her hair like that and
still look beautiful don’t hate white America. Lmao lol

aja
aja
5 years ago

Once again, who cares what she thinks? This article is NOT that deep. Puleeazze

zee
zee
5 years ago

I don’t usually subscribe to or acknowledge some white women’s fear of black women actually being their equals.
She was just mad that Beyonce wore the hell out of the “stringy, unkempt” hair. Unlike herself. Poor, little, insecure Garber.

eljjai
eljjai
5 years ago

Not everything is a dig at black women. Many other black women were not feeling the hair either. I swear the victim mentality is strong round these parts. Why not just celebrate Beyonce’s cover and leave all the negativity from Becky out of it. I swear this site spends more time calling out fouls than affirming the good things. It’s not a good look.

mnyama
mnyama
5 years ago

Bey did Bey as she usually does…THAT’S why SHE’S on the cover and not some hack who needed to fill her weekly story submission quota.

Kingston
Kingston
5 years ago

This article makes no sense to me. As a pro- afro, pro- natural black hair website I don’t see why you are defending beyonce’s flat and wet weave. And let’s not forget here that beyonce is not only a black hair icon, whether we like it or not she is a white hair icon too. 99% of the time she is wearing a eurocentric straight or slightly wavy wet weave or lace front. The writer, who is a white woman and who is more than likely ignorant to black hair practices, is probably looking at bey’s imitative hairstyle and judging… Read more »

lis
lis
5 years ago

Beyonce looks as beautiful as always…but.…
Oh lord.…I feel the bglh writer went way into left field with this one and over thought it.…As for the Atlantic writer, how mediocre is she…must be nice to be mediocre and still get nice gigs…and I LOVE Beyonce but I ain’t reading no 700 word article on her hair or whatever that woman was trying to say.

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