My Take on the Perception Institute's "Good Hair" Survey

in , by FroBunni, Tuesday, February 07, 2017
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I've been blogging about natural hair now for almost 4 years, and I've been natural for almost twice as long (8 years in July). And I can tell you that I still face discrimination against my hair. It's not always overt and obvious, but stares, odd questions, and "uniquely" timed compliments are good indications that my hair is not always accepted. So, I wasn't surprised when a survey (Just really quickly, this is NOT a study, it's a survey. So if you see a journalist or the media calling it a study, they're wrong) came out about how natural hair is still discriminated against.

The survey from the Perception Institute called "The 'Good Hair' Study" involved 4,163 participants, including 3,475 men and women in a national sample recruited via an online panel and 688 self-identified "naturalista" women who are part of an online natural hair community." The survey "suggests that a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair." Just like water is wet, this is no surprise to me.

Some key takeaways include (I will elaborate on the last two):
  • On average, white women show explicit bias toward black women’s textured hair. They rate it as less beautiful, less sexy/attractive, and less professional than smooth hair.
  • Black women in the natural hair community have significantly more positive attitudes toward textured hair than other women, including black women in the national sample.
  • Black women perceive a level of social stigma against textured hair, and this perception is substantiated by white women’s devaluation of natural hairstyles.
  • One in three black women report that their hair is the reason they haven’t exercised, compared to one in ten white women.
  • One in four black women have difficulty finding products for their hair—more than half have not been able to find products for their hair.
  • The majority of participants, regardless of race, show implicit bias against black women’s textured hair.
None of these are surprising, but it is nice to see something that validates the experiences of black women who wear their hair natural. But there are some things I want to talk about.

One in four black women have difficulty finding products for their hair—more than half have not been able to find products for their hair.

I sort of question this one. Not question it in the sense that I don't believe it, I do. But more so the question is why haven't black women found products for their hair? I get it's hard, I get it's frustrating. I've been there and done that. But, I've also talked to so many black women who come to the natural hair table with preconceived notions about how their hair should look and feel. Not how their hair does look and feel.

We all have different hair textures, curl patterns, frizz level, thickness, and so on. My hair is a completely different texture compared to two of my best friends, Kendra and Kylie. Kendra's hair is tighter, but clumps and doesn't frizz as much, while Kylie's is very wavy and seems to never get damaged. My hair is kinky curly, but it is just naturally frizzy. Three different hair textures, three different regimens. I could never fully adopt Kylie's regimen (mostly because her braiding skills are on point), nor could I Kendra's. We can trade tips, maybe swap hair products, but we can't just trade regimens and hope for the best. It won't work.

I've said this once, twice, and thrice, but if your hair isn't breaking, you don't have split or damaged strands or ends, your hair is probably pretty healthy. Everything else isn't necessary. Hair isn't shiny, some of us don't have naturally shiny hair. Hair doesn't feel "soft," well we aren't going to have faux fur soft hair. Hair doesn't have a "nice curl," learn to love it or get a texturizer or relaxer. Find products that work for your hair, not what you want your hair to be.

The majority of participants, regardless of race, show implicit bias against black women’s textured hair.

I feel like this one requires its own blog post or maybe even a video, but those in the natural hair community perpetuate this all the time. We love 3b and 3c curls. We love defined, shiny 4a curls. But when it comes to frizzy, 4b, and 4c hair, we have difficulty celebrating women with that texture. Natural hair companies have a habit of only using models and ambassadors with certain hair textures. We may not overtly say "I don't like 4c hair," but how we celebrate it, or lack thereof, is a great example of that implicit bias.

Along with texturism, here are more examples of implicit bias:

  • Assuming someone's hair is dry or tangled because it doesn't look how you think it should look
  • Detangling your child's hair and saying "your hair is so rough" (yes, your child internalizes this)
  • Asking if someone is mixed because their hair is long or curly
  • The term "good hair"
  • Placing more emphasis on genetics than hair care (I get this a lot after explaining my regimen to someone)
  • Automatically assuming they're wearing a wig

While implicit bias is hard to personally acknowledge and break, I have some tips. First, be honest with yourself. A lot of women get defensive when someone points out that they have some sort of bias with different hair textures. Stop, swallow your pride, and look at it from their point. Do you regularly and negatively critique those with kinky/coily/woolly textures? Do you only like photos of women with looser curls? Do you say things like "I couldn't be natural if I had her texture"? Stop and start thinking about how you view natural hair, instead of just making blanket statements like #TeamNatural or "I love all hair textures." Because trust me, if it's just smoke and mirrors, people can see through them.

Second, make the effort to support those with kinky, coily, and woolly hair textures. Make a Pinterest board for just women with 4b and 4c hair. Watch youtubers and read blogs from women with that texture of hair. Putting in the work to support those women and learn more about their hair can help you start to appreciate it.

So, any who, those are my thoughts. I have a few more, but none that I really had to write about. I encourage everyone to read the results of the survey (remember, it's a survey) and take the survey yourself (I got "your data suggest neither a preference for textured hairstyles nor a preference for smooth hairstyles"). It's very interesting and eye opening.

Did you read the results of the survey? Agree or disagree with my points? Let me know in the comments!

Got a question or just want to say hi? You can connect with me on my social networks!
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  1. If they had asked the opinions of men, including white men, they would've had some very interesting results. Why does a woman's opinion of another woman's hair matter? I would be more concerned about a man's opinion, and men do generally think differently about this issue. The women are showing their own insecurities. They hate "frizzy" hair on anyone of any race, African or not. Every female is taught from childhood that straight hair is the only acceptable type, and "frizzy" hair is unacceptable. Men are much more open to pretty much any hair type.