Straight Hair Privelege

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Hi guys,

I'm Toella and I wrote the article "Does Straight Hair Privilege Exist in America." I saw a lot of people commenting but I'd like to extend the conversation to CurlTalk. Do you guys agree? Do you think it isn't that big of a deal and people are saying too many people have different types of privilege? I'd like to hear from you guys! Thanks so much!!
While it is an interesting idea, I think it is stemmed from sexism and judging a woman on her looks. It also could be involved in racism as straight blond hair is seen as white and curls are often (not always though) seen in multiracial women. Just my 2 cents
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So you mean straight-haired people getting more 'benefits' and curly folks being a bit discriminated against?

If so, I'm not sure. I don't know what it's like in other countries, but in the UK I don't really think hair makes a difference. I have read some stories about schools discriminating against natural hair, but to my knowledge those schools weren't in the UK.

So yeah, in my experience it's never been an issue. But I do think situations where it could be an issue would be down to racism. I can imagine a lot of the cases that do occur would be regarding black or multi-racial folks, rather than Caucasian people with curls.
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It definitely exists as a social stratification. Throughout school I had very few female friends, because I was condemned for "not caring" about my appearance enough to straighten my hair and look like a "normal person". I got a lot more positive attention from both friends and potential romantic interests when I gave in and started flat ironing.

I also attended school with a girl who had natural blonde hair and a 4a curl pattern, and she was the subject of a lot of racism-based taunting until she began getting chemical relaxers to fit in.

I don't think my curls have ever affected me getting a job, but they've definitely had an impact on the social circles I am welcome in, which may by extension change the jobs available to me through networking.I also tend to feel obligated to put my hair up and out of the way when going on interviews, which I never really thought of, but maybe I'm subconsciously minimizing the visibility of my curls?
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I think it is an issue. Curls are perceived as ethnic, "funky," different and sometimes ugly. I received the most positive feedback when I straightened out my waves. In fact, I still get grief from stylists complaining about my Type 2 hair: "If only you had waves by your crown!" or "Maybe you should just straighten the whole thing so you at least match."

I also don't think it's a subject that affects only women; why else would Justin Timberlake have straightened?

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It definitely exists as a social stratification. Throughout school I had very few female friends, because I was condemned for "not caring" about my appearance enough to straighten my hair and look like a "normal person". I got a lot more positive attention from both friends and potential romantic interests when I gave in and started flat ironing.

I also attended school with a girl who had natural blonde hair and a 4a curl pattern, and she was the subject of a lot of racism-based taunting until she began getting chemical relaxers to fit in.

I don't think my curls have ever affected me getting a job, but they've definitely had an impact on the social circles I am welcome in, which may by extension change the jobs available to me through networking.I also tend to feel obligated to put my hair up and out of the way when going on interviews, which I never really thought of, but maybe I'm subconsciously minimizing the visibility of my curls?
Originally Posted by geekrockgirl85
I went through the same thing you did in school. I got my hair chemically straightened and one of the girls I couldn't stand, who goes to the same salon as me went to the salon and asked what they did to my hair and said how good it looked. The girl didn't say it to my face, but said it to the girls at the salon. A lot of girls I went to school with had curly hair and wore it curly but they were accepted more because they were popular.
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That Justin Timberlake comment was interesting, I never thought of that. I quickly google searched "Justin Timberlake Curly Hair" and I saw this BuzzFeed article which is epic. http://www.buzzfeed.com/mjs538/wtf-i...mberlakes-hair
claudine191 and Grace5155 like this.
Justin is honestly so much more attractive with curly hair, though he probably should stay away from that Ramen Noodle look. His natural texture makes him interesting in a way that some other contemporary performers aren't.
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It might be interesting to consider the idea of straight hair privilege along side the ideas of "good hair" and "bad hair", which are of course tied up with racism (as is straight hair privilege I suspect, though likely in a less obvious way).
I am back and forth on the idea of straight hair privilege. There have absolutely been instances where people have been discriminated against for their type and styles. I tend to think that boils down to prejudices and people being uptight. I am sorry but protective hair styles, natural hair, a shaved head, or green hair are not going to keep other students from learning. That is bull, and it is people trying to force their preferences on others.

I know some news sources also did investigative pieces where women with curly hair and women with straight hair applied for jobs. Regardless of race, the women with waves or curls were said to look less professional. Again, I think a lot of that is preference and large stick inserted in ... I can't help but think the same thing would not have been said, on such a large scale, in the 80's. I have mentioned this in other threads but (and this is absolute prejudice aside) I do believe trends also play a part in this. Perms and big curly hair were very popular in the 70's and 80's. Many women (and men) with straight hair were getting perms because curls were the most desired look. Several people still rocked and loved their straight hair and that was great too! Then things took a sharp turn toward straight hair only. I personally only heard positive remarks about my hair until 5 years ago. I had 2 people make remarks about straight hair being the most beautiful and that I should straighten my hair more. They were both younger and heavily influenced by trends. In these cases one might call it false or delusional straight hair privilege. It's fleeting and truly non existent.

So, in some cases yes it does or may exist. In others, it's simply a delusion.
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??

PS... I truly have no idea why uniformity became a trend. How boring can you be?
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??

I think that people see straight hair as polished and professional. It also carries the assumption that the person cares enough about their appearance to do all of that work.

I don't know that there is much discrimination when it comes to curls that are taken care of, but more so when they are frizzy and not cooperating. When I started to take care of my hair, everyone went wild. People would compliment me and say "if I had curls like that, I wouldn't straighten my hair anymore!". On the contrary, when my hair was a mess and I started straightening, I got a lot of complements as well.

Curls are always assumed to belong to "ethnic" individuals. Everyone verbally assumes that I'm mixed race, latin american, or jewish. I am none of the above, but my curls apparently paint the illusion that I'm not white. I actually met a girl at my college orientation who complained to me about how many white people were around, as if my curly hair clearly made me another race.

I think people mainly discriminate those with type 4 hair because it is unknown to them and so different than their own. Also because some people don't know how to take care of their coils and they can get matted. My closest friend relaxed her 4a hair, then stopped, but added straight glue in extensions. She never washes or brushes her hair no matter how much she sweats, and loads it up with silicone based oil serums multiple times a day. It honestly looks like a greasy rats nest, which isn't cute to anyone, regardless of their own hair type. Not everyone lets their hair get this out of control, but it definitely affects people's assumptions of curls.

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How many presenters of factual programs and news anchors do you have with curly hair on US TV?

In the UK we have always had a few both men and women, and one of the women wasn't White. There were always more comments on her skin colour than her hair. This means curly hair isn't regarded as unprofessional.

If the media doesn't allow people on TV regardless of ethnic background to have curly hair then the general population is going to regard it as unprofessional.

I remember when a TV presenter came on a very popular program wearing braid extensions. Suddenly it became OK for professional Black women who worked in all areas to wear them. Until then only if you worked in certain industries was it acceptable due to the fights that had happened in the 1980's. Then some companies where threatened with legal action as they refused to employ Black people in public facing jobs. Some then hired prominently non-White staff in certain places to avoid this and the staff had a range of hair styles.

So it's a vicious circle as until enough people in the general US population wear their hair curly then TV producers won't accepted it's an OK "fashion" and so TV presenters and anchor people will not wear their hair curly in order to keep their jobs. This in turn means other people especially employers won't accept curly hair as being professional.
^ One would think the salons and stylists who work on news anchors would like to show a little more diversity in their work. I watch some of the larger news networks and laugh because everyone looks like a pageant contestant (exactly the same even with differences in length and color) and the stylists/salon who get an honorable mention at the end of the program comes across as a one trick pony.

*Same with the thread someone posted a couple months ago about popular haircuts for professional/powerful women. It's basically the exact same thing with slight differences in color and length. Uniformity...

That said, I think the majority of your average Janes and Joes could care less about the hair on a persons head. They are the ones not commenting so it seems otherwise.
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??


Last edited by Fifi.G; 06-26-2014 at 06:08 AM.
I don't know what to tell anyone about the crap kids say in school. Kids have always found things to pick on someone for. If it's not hair, it's glasses. If it's not glasses, it's your height. So on and so forth.

When I was in school I never heard people tell others to straighten their hair and be like everyone else. *Or to get a perm and be like everyone else for that matter. One more ETA: Some of my earliest memories of hair product adds were campaigns for Wella Balsam in magazines (and Prell on tv. The commercial stuck with you . I posted a few of those in SIIDY a while back. That or Apple Pectin were my moms brands of choice. WB showed how the shampoo and conditioners worked for natural, permed, straight, etc hair. Several different people were featured, men and women. Good universal add, and back to it** It was a free for all. Do whatever you want with your hair, but we didn't have numerous commercials on main stream tv showing any type of texture as unruly hair that needed to be tamed and straightened either. That became a big push in the later 90's, going into 2000's. Hair products changed a lot during that time as well.
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??


Last edited by Fifi.G; 06-26-2014 at 06:42 AM.
It wasn't an issue until non-lye straighteners came along, and flat irons were invented. Once there was a product, they used social pressure to create a market.
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How many presenters of factual programs and news anchors do you have with curly hair on US TV?
Originally Posted by Blueblood
It's interesting that you just posted this a few days ago, I didn't see this, because I don't watch this program, I only saw news about it after, but a morning show host (who isn't white) just wore her hair natural in the US: Tamron Hall. All the coverage I've seen has been positive, although I'm sure if one went searching one could find criticism, and I'm sure some of the positive stuff has weird stereotypes or ideas, but this is a big change, especially after the anti-natural hair army rules earlier this year.
@wavypen It needs more like her plus curly haired men to do the same.
Blueblood, I know we need more for things to really change, but it has to start with someone, and I'm encouraged by the positive response she's getting, maybe more people will try it because of that positive response.
It wasn't an issue until non-lye straighteners came along, and flat irons were invented. Once there was a product, they used social pressure to create a market.
Originally Posted by Morgan_Adcock
^ That they did. I can remember the first flat irons that really started hitting store shelves in the 80's. I still have mine. It came with 3 interchangeable plates. Straight, wave or crimp. People got it for the crimp and that thing never got hot enough to straighten hair. Styling tools really progressed over the following 20 years.
When I hear terms like "hipster" I think, who told cliques they could leave high school??

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