I spent the early years of my career as a social worker. I did everything from working at an alternative school to doing family reunification therapy for children who were formerly wards of the state. Though I no longer practice social work my passion has always been for youth and more specifically young women. I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to interact with young women in a multitude of arenas and one of the trends that I find so disturbing is the need to feel pretty or even beautiful based on having weaved hair. Now let me pause in this moment and acknowledge that black women have a long history of issues over “good” or “bad” hair, so I will not use this forum to beat that horse- what I’m talking about now has more to do with the accessibility of weaving hair and the pervasive need for “inches”- which refers to the length of said weaving hair. I was recently talking to a beautiful young woman, around 15 years old who did not feel pretty because she was wearing her natural hair. She went on to say that she had been asking her mother for more hair as she currently only had 24 inches and wanted 28. I reminded myself to fix my face during this conversation because I remember a time when black women though not ashamed of wearing weaves spent a lot of money to ensure that their hair looked as natural as possible- now the focus is on installations and the longer the hair the better. This way down to the nether regions hair has jokingly been referred to as stripper hair as longer lengths are de rigueur for those who drop down and get their eagle on.
I find myself completely at a loss for this affinity for stripper-like hair and the endless pursuit of “inches”. The pervasive issue of the pursuit of some young black woman seeking to be more mainstream in their appearance, while their white counterparts are doing everything they can to look like US. The Brazilian butt lift is an ode to the oft revered black woman’s bottom and lip injections? Well that clearly is deference to our succulent lips.
There is a responsibility for leaders, mentors and key influencers to let young girls know that they are more than enough, and the pursuit of inches has nothing to do with the beauty that is within.