While not everyone is a confrontational diva such as myself, the desire to change one’s aesthetics should never be an option to conform to an outdated and narrow perception of beauty and acceptability. There is something very wrong with sending a child home because her hair is “unkempt” or “does not meet dress guidelines.” It is just as bad as hearing from one’s boss that our fabulous fro is “unprofessional” for the workplace. Either scenario is disheartening and needs to stop, so if you find yourself in the unpleasant space of having someone tell you your hair is unprofessional, you can easily respond with one of these:
Why is it not professional? Why is my hair being discussed?
Make them explain why your hair is unprofessional. No need to go any further than this until you get them to define what professional hair looks or why your hair isn’t meeting their standards of professional hair. This is an uncomfortable subject and the person will more than likely stumble explaining why it is not but they need to do so if they are going to personally attack your hair. Make them sweat and explain.
In many situations your hair is not the problem but rather what it stands for and for many that means our brown and blackness. Some would prefer we assimilate with straighteners like perms or simply wearing natural hair straight. Hey, this is a heavy subject but a real one, and while our country is dealing with real racial tensions, the ideals of what is beautiful is being reconstructed to involve more than European standards and some just want no parts of it. While the person is not likely to dive into what may be their motives for personally attacking your hair, they must address why they feel the need to call your hair unprofessional.
I am not going to alter my hair for fear of damage
If you prefer to appeal to their care for people in general then you can opt for this response. While one must not have to explain why straightening or perming one’s hair may be damaging to our tresses, some find this way of responding as a way to work around the problem. This may or may not work, as I am sure they can share others who either do it or wear wigs, but if you feel there is no real malice, then try this approach.
Why is the hair I was born with unacceptable?
You are letting them explain why your natural self is not acceptable and honesty, no one wants to say that. Putting this in this context forces that person to address their own shortcoming or the shortcoming of the business, school, or just their own opinion. If they are accepting of hair others are born with, then by all means they need to do that with yours.
That is your opinion and I have mine.
Take back your power that the individual is trying to take away from you. No one has that right so by making them understand that this is their opinion and an opinion only, you are letting them know you have one as well and are entitled to it. While we cannot make others love our beautiful hair, we can make them understand we are not here for them nor their limited way of seeing the world. Look, no one has the time, energy, or the concern to make everyone love our hair, so putting them into opinion status and one you do not agree with will shut down the conversation and hopefully keep them from bringing it up again.
I do not appreciate your remarks and please keep them to yourself
While, I would say this to a supervisor, not everyone is comfortable with that but if a stranger, family member, friend, or even significant other feels the need to address your hair as unprofessional, then reply back in this manner to let them know they not only crossed a line but to not cross it again. You do not have to allow others to make you feel bad about your choices including how you choose to wear your hair. Never feel you have to change yourself because someone else feels you do. They have a problem, honey, not you.