Since the early 1900s, Black women have had a fascination with their hair. More explicitly, they have had a fascination with straightening their hair. The need to be accepted by the majority class has caused them to do so. Though the image of straight hair as being better than coarse hair still hasn’t left the Black community, there has been a surge of non straight hairstyles since the nineteen sixties. Wearing more natural hairstyles, which ironically enough include ‘weaves’ and ‘hair extensions’ has been considered to be more empowered and more enlightened. However, this image comes with a price, and though it appears the ‘natural’ hairstyle movement has advanced Black women, it has actually set them back.
The color of the ad is done in browns, earth tones. The signifier in this ad is the colorless sketch drawing of a woman that takes up one page of the two-page ad. She is a symbolic, versus an iconic sign, because the images that lead people to assume the picture is of a Black woman are learned, symbols such as ‘thick lips’ and the way her hair looks, not straight lines, but dotted. The signified is a Black woman, with ‘natural hair’, presumably pretty.
The next part of the ad, and as equally important as the first, is on the second page. Large, in bold, is the word ‘naturally’. Beneath it are the words “If citrus sheen fell on shimmering braids and soothing mist caressed short twists. How lovely would that be?” It has the feel of a poem, and the different shades of brown add to the artistic feel of the page. The artistic feel is important, because it adds the idea of a woman with natural hair as being both bohemian and sophisticated.
Beneath the ‘poem’ is an introduction to the product. It emphasizes the product’s natural ingredients, things that seem as though they would be better in a salad dressing than on one’s hair. However, these ingredients are important. First, the emphasis the ‘naturalness’ of the product in turn emphasizes the natural state of the projected audience’s hair. Secondly, its use of Americanized products instead of typical African products (olive oil versus jojoba oil) separate this ad from the typical ‘natural hair care product’ ads. This ad is geared towards a new type of Black woman, one who is more interested in a connection to spirituality and art than to Africa.
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...ce political and socially, the harsher the beauty myth is used against them. In this case, the punishment for rebelling against the majority culture by adapting a ‘subversive’ hairstyle, the thinner you have to be in order to still be considered beautiful. Furthermore, thinness in the Black community is difficult to achieve. Typically, Black body structure, food and eating culture doesn’t easily result in thinness. This is the price Black women pay for this new expression of self.
The new face of Black feminine beauty comes with a price. It alienates nearly half of those in the culture that don’t fit the standard. While the hairstyle challenges the majority culture, the newfound search for thinness that comes with the hairstyles returns Black women to the confines of White beauty standards. The ideology that natural hairstyles bring enlightenment came from the Rastafarian tradition. However, what new ads and cultural myth discount is the religious dimension that the Rastafarians placed on their hair. Natural hair doesn’t mean immediate spiritual or intellectual wisdom. What at first seems to be the advancement of Black women, shows the backwards regression of Black beauty.
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