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.
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;
Lmao no. The difference between Beyoncé's wet hair and Becky's stringy white hair is that one is a thousand dollar weave
— baldheaded (@femmeminem) August 13, 2015
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.
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?