Hair politics exist. It's just a fact. But for those lucky enough to rarely have to experience it (read: those with naturally straight hair), this truth is nearly missed. With new candidate for Texas Governor Wendy Davis, all things hair and political get intertwined.
A little over a month after her notorious and highly publicized filibuster in the Texas senate, Vogue ran a story on Davis that struck a chord. In the article, Davis' daughters chat the reporter up about their mother's naturally curly hair and the vast amount of products she uses to "tame it" (their words, not mine). Davis, overhearing them, agrees, telling Vogue:
“I have super-super curly hair, and it’s a constant struggle,” Davis acknowledges. “Pull out that picture of me from Patti’s son’s bar mitzvah.”
The reporter goes on to explain that in the photo, Davis' hair was indeed quite frizzy, to which Davis responds,“That was bad. That was so bad."
Enter the Wendy Davis "Truthers." The Truthers started an anonymous blog, rallying around what they call Davis' anti-feminist actions, as reported by Salon. They criticize Davis for straightening her hair, dying it blonde and they make some pretty low blows at her natural beauty, saying, "If she has not found the Fountain of Youth, at minimum she has found very talented plastic surgeons and image consultants who have readied her for her closeup."
But let's get back to this curly hair issue, the one reported in Vogue, the one that was supposed to make Davis seem relatable rather than beauty-obsessed. These Truthers, and anyone who uses her hair as a reason to hate her, are not and have never been, in our shoes.
Naturally curly hair, as you well know, is not prominent among successful women in the spotlight. It is unfortunate, but it is the truth, and perhaps it's because there aren't many successful women in the spotlight to begin with.
As of 2013, women hold 98, or 18.3%, of the 535 seats in the 113th US Congress, 78 in the House and 20 in the Senate. Of those 98 women working on capital hill, 11 of them wear their hair curly, only 10 of them in natural styles and, of those natural styles, 7 have a TWA.
Now, considering that 60 percent of women have curly hair, those numbers should skew a bit differently. Not only is curly hair not a commonality in politics, but should you choose to wear your hair curly, you may be made fun of for it. Look up Debbie Wasserman and all the jokes that have been aimed at her curly hair (you will be appalled, we guarantee it).
Ok, ok. So Wendy Davis straightens her hair. That is her prerogative. That is any woman's prerogative. It is your natural hair best friend's prerogative if she wants to suddenly look like Beyonce. For that matter, it is even Beyonce prerogative, though we don't like to admit it.
Straightening your curly hair doesn't make you anti-feminist, it makes you human. It means a myriad of things, but most likely one of two reasons:
- You like the way your hair looks straight. Might that be influenced by the media? Sure. Might that be some type of straight-hair supremacy bouncing around in your eyeballs that tells you you look better with straight hair. I mean, probably. But let a women's rights champion straighten her hair if she so feels like it!
- You don't know how to take care of curly hair. Maybe your friends and family didn't encourage it, or maybe it's because prior to 1998, no one was teaching anyone how to care for curls! So wearing it straight is easier. That's fine. Sounds like you're pretty busy. Let's meet up on a weekend and I'll show you how to make your curls look beautiful in under 24 hours (because we all know there is a steep learning curve when it comes to caring for curls).
The point is, when it comes to the way that women look, how much makeup they wear, which designers they like and how they get their hair in whatever 'do they choose, none of that is important in light of getting women into powerful positions so that they can speak for other women. That is the goal. That is what is important. Let the curly hair and the makeup-free days come as they please, and I promise you, with more women up there, they will.
In the meantime, buckle down for one heck of a ride. Because Wendy Davis is no where near finished.
Women in politics with curly hair: