At the same time, the Carefree Black Girl is more than just image and representation, it is practice and embodied performance as well. As with many modes of visual production via social media such as selfies or mirror pics, the CFBG often involves the performative act of taking or posing for a picture. The selfies most often involve hair, makeup, or styling choices that the subject sees as deviating from normative images of black women. I have encountered Carefree Black Girl images that feature naturally or un-naturally textured hair that is dyed purple, or pink, CFBGs with braids or locs past their waists, or with springy joyful teen weenie afros. These stylistic choices as well as the decision on the part of black girl users to label them as carefree involve a performance of self that is both created and fantastically imagined.
Images of CFBGs frequently include those of singer Solange Knowles, Janelle Monae, and various black models in outfits and poses that communicate their comfort in their bodies and happiness being where and who they are. When a black woman labels an image of herself or another black woman as #carefree it is not merely a comment on an image that could be described as looking cheerful, but a radical act of the owning the state of being and becoming free. She is enacting, reenacting, and embodying an affective state that was never supposed to be hers. Queer scholars such as Jose Munoz have argued that aesthetic productions play an important role in imagining hope for the future of marginalized populations. The circulation and production of images of Carefree Black Girls creates an inhabitable present that looks towards a future in which they are recognized as fully human.
(via the dopest ethiopienne)
When schools ban historically black hairstyles from being worn at school, it is sending the message to girls that their natural hair texture isn’t respectable. Only painful, more ”white”-appearing alternatives, such as straighteners, weaves, or chemical relaxers, can be worn in public. When I, or other women with curls, dare to wear our natural hair to our school or to our job, we have to worry about retaliation. We have to worry about being sent home from school, like Tiana, or watching our employer fire us for “intimidating” ethnic hair, which Melphine Evans says she experienced at BP. Setting these standards on curly hair, whether explicit or not, shapes the lives and minds of black and mixed-race women everywhere.
Women are looked at as if our bodies (including hair!) determine our desirability. That’s why my New Year’s resolution feels so hard. Every day when I wear my hair down, I wonder if an acquaintance finds it empowering, if a cute peer finds it attractive, or if a potential employer finds it presentable. That’s also why it’s my favorite New Year’s resolution. Instead of constricting it with hair ties, I smile as it keeps poofing and frizzing and taking up space.
–Annemarie McDaniels, “My Hardest New Years Resolution? Embracing my Curls” at SPARK
This was absolutely fascinating. I *never* hear about how hair is tied up in the identities of other non-white folks, and to combine that with queerness is just all the makings for something awesome. It delivered.
A note from Sally:
So two summers ago, I independently worked on a short documentary on how hair plays a role within shaping our identities and explore what are the factors that render them.
Before I began this project, my hair was at the length of my hips. People have told me that during this time, i looked and presented more “straight” and “femme” and that “I was too pretty to be gay.”
Beauty privilege? Passing privilege? Asian privilege?
Every time anyone told me, “Oh you look so fucking pretty because of your hair,” i began to believe that my beauty could only exist because of my long silky black hair.
I felt vulnerable, I felt restricted, i felt conforming. That this piece of hair that was dangling side to side from my scalp is what defined my beauty.
Within queer spaces, i felt as if there were levels of “queer authenticity” that I had to pass in order to be taken seriously. I felt that I wasn’t “queer enough” because I had long hair, and because i had passing privilege, I felt a lot of femmephobia and the pressure to do this DYKE INITIATION and finally cut my hair which is one of the reasons how this project came about.
I wanted to document the experience of individuals within the queer and Asian womyn/trans community throughout California and explore how gender presentation plays a big role in shaping our different, unique, and intersectional identities.
**note this is my first ever film, so theres several glitches in there so be gentle… and i luhh you**
queer desire: do I want to date you, or present like you?
…also, where’d you get that hair cut?
(via come correct)
THIS IS SUCH AN ACCURATE PORTRAYAL OF MY LIFE.
So three Black women in maybe two thousand pages of women’s magazines and all of them biracial or racially ambiguous, so they could be Indian or Puerto Rican or something. Not one of them is dark. Not one of them looks like me, so I can’t get clues for makeup from these magazines. Look, this article tells you to pinch your cheeks for color because all their readers are supposed to have cheeks you can pinch for color. This tells you about different hair products for everyone—and everyone means blondes, brunettes, and redheads. I am none of those. And this tells you about the best conditioners—for straight, wavy and curly. No kinky. See what they mean by curly? My hair could never do that. This tells you about matching your eye color and eye shadow—blue, green, and hazel eyes. But my eyes are black so I can’t know what shadow works for me. This says that this pink lipstick is universal, but they mean universal if you are white because I would look like a golliwog if I tried that shade of pink. Oh look, here is some progress. An advertisement for foundation. There are seven different shades for white skin and one generic chocolate shade, but that is progress. Now let’s talk about what is racially skewed. Do you see why a magazine like Essence exists?
excerpted from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah (2013)
I came to Femme as defiance through a big booty that declined to be tucked under; through bountiful breasts that refused to hide; through insolent hair that can kink, and curl, and bead up, and lay straight all in one day; through my golden skin, against her caramel skin, against her chocolate skin, against her creamy skin; through rainbows of sweaters, dresses, and shoes; through my insubordinate body, defying subordination, incapable of assimilation, and tired, so tired of degradation; through flesh and curves and chafed thighs, which learned from my grandma how Johnson’s Baby Powder can cure the chub rub; through Toni Morrison and Nella Larsen and Audre Lorde, and Jewelle Gomez who, sometimes unwittingly, captured volumes of Black Femme lessons in their words; through Billie Holiday who wore white gardenias while battling her inner darkness; through my gay boyfriend who hummed show tunes and knew all the lyrics to “Baby Got Back,” which he sang to me with genuine admiration; through shedding shame instead of shedding pounds; and through learning that growing comfortable in my skin means finding comfort in her brownness.
I actually need this on everything. I haven’t identified with a quote so thoroughly in a minute. I went through so much to get to the “effortless” femme look I feel so comfortable with now. I remember wearing oversized sweatshirts in the 5th grade to try to hide that I was already a B-cup. I remember being scolded by a teacher in 7th grade that my shirt was “too revealing,” even though it was perfectly within the school’s dress code–I was just already a C-cup by then. I remember walking around the streets of Chicago, of New Brunswick, sometimes even of DC and trying to move my hips as little as possible so that I might look less worthy of being bothered. I remember getting ready with my girlfriends before junior prom and having to just sit there while they helped one another with their makeup; my mother didn’t wear any, so I had no clue how to dress up a brown face. And lord, don’t even get me started on the hair struggles.
My mother is a woman of color and size who has spent her entire life hiding in three-quarter length shirts and capris. I remember being surprised that I could pull off cute, pull of girly, that I could be all that I am and still be femme. I am flesh and curves and thighs that rub together. I am also jewelry, colors, fabrics that flow and move, and things that smell pretty. I am all these things together, and it feels like home.
I often hear black girls complain that their hair is difficult to control, and it’s precisely because we are not meant to control it.
I have always found that jeans hurt my body with waistlines digging into my stomach as I try to exhale.
T shirts that cut into my arms, bras that dig into my flesh leaving scars that remain today.
We were not the architects of this system, of course these things won’t fit us when they come from people who refuse to acknowledge that we exist. We know this because we see their runways, their print ads, their magazines. We are not wrong.
Beige is not the definition of ‘nude’, my hair does not need to be restrained, it needs to be liberated. My hair isn’t so thick, I didn’t go through puberty too early, my mama is not ‘plus sized’ – these statement all use an invented standard of whiteness and then define me in relation to that standard.
Fuck mainstream. Fuck counter culture and sub culture. We are our own mainstream. We are our own culture.
Fuck standards and constructions of normal. Nothing ever grew by being measured. We grow by being nurtured and affirmed for who we are as we are. Standards are always relative.
–Kim Katrin Crosby