FroBunni | Why I'm Upset About Google's "Unprofessional Hairstyles" Search (and it's not for the reason you think)

It's a well known fact that I love Google. Almost everything you need is at your fingertips. Want to bake a cake? Google has thousands of recipes just for that. Looking for apartments? Yeah, Google can help with that. Want to send your racist friend articles about how they're privilege? Sure, Google can help you there too. And while Google is useful in sending your racist friend articles, it also reveals just how racist, and sexist, society really is. From search results comparing the phrases "three black kids" to "three white kids," the very solemn suggested results from searching "women are...", and seeing mostly white, blonde women in a Google search with the keywords "beautiful women," Google mirrors the sentiments of our problematic society. But the most recent controversy, the image results of "unprofessional hairstyles" is NOT in the same category.

Surprised at my position? Let me explain. Google is a search engine; it's designed to crawl websites, metadata, and hyperlinks for keywords. Then, when someone searches for something using those keywords, it gives you all of the websites that contain those words, with the most relevant and popular results first. For example, type in "natural hair" in Google, and you'll get thousands of results from natural hair blogs, to images and infographics, videos, and even tweets. So when you search for "unprofessional hairstyles," you are getting results from websites that are using the words "unprofessional hairstyles," and more specifically answering the question "are natural hairstyles unprofessional?"

The unfortunate reality is that many naturals, or women who are thinking about going natural, do think their hair is unprofessional. They have reservations and are apprehensive about wearing their natural hair to work because they have been conditioned to think that natural hair isn't professional. And no, not just by white society, but by family, friends, acquaintances, and significant others.

When I first went natural, I was entering my senior year of college. I was worried that my natural hair would bar me from a campus job, as my potential employers would think it unprofessional, and even strange, that a woman was wearing her hair in a low cut. It didn't really help that a couple of my family members were cosigning my concerns and telling me that I needed to "figure out" what to do with my hair. Luckily for me, this wasn't the case, and I got a job a couple of weeks into the semester. I have been wearing my natural hair for almost eight years now, and have yet to have an issue about it with an employer...but I know that my experience isn't applicable for every natural out there. I receive emails and messages from women asking me what's an "appropriate" natural hairstyle to wear to work, or if I think that their natural hair will somehow prevent them from moving up in the workplace.

So, to me, it's no surprise that naturals are going to Google to ask the same questions that I am receiving. The images shown are attached to articles that are telling women that their natural hair IS professional. Those images go to sites such as CurlyNikki, NaturallyCurly, and TheRoot just to name a few. Unlike the many other Google image searches that reveal societies problems, in this instance, you cannot separate the images from the articles. Those articles instill confidence in those who are still concerned and anxious about their first day at work after their big chop. They are empowering to those whose hair was just mocked by a coworker. And they tell HR managers everywhere that forcing black women to conform to straighter hairstyles is both racist and illegal.

I'm going to be honest; the natural hair community isn't always roses, sunshine, and cuddles. There are a lot of women that feel that their hair isn't enough; that it should be softer, silkier, and more curly and less kinky. There are many women claiming that their hair is hard or difficult to manage. And even worse, some women saying that their hair is ugly or nasty. While I have come along way in my journey, and I love all of my natural kinks and curls, to presume that others are the same is both illogical and insensitive, and doesn't do anything to instill black women with self love and acceptance. People may not like that these images are attached to "unprofessional hairstyles," but it just proves that there's still a lot of work that needs to be done in the natural hair community.

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  1. Interesting...I'm sure many have not considered this perspective. I know I didn't! Great read and thanks for enlightening us.