Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hair Weaves in "Toddler and Tiaras"

Had I been blessed with a daughter, no matter how beautiful she was, beauty pageants would have been something that I would have been absolutely resistant to.  They teach little girls to perform a coquettish form of femininity, as well as enforcing the idea that beauty is the sole form of value for women.  They are certainly going to get this message from the media, education, and all of the other agents of socialization; however, participation in these beauty contests comes with the added bonus of a reward for being judged the most beautiful. 

If the child is of colour, it also reinforces a Euro-Centric beauty standard, which will leave her with the understanding, that no matter how hard she tries, she will never truly be beautiful -- because Whiteness is all that counts.  All children of colour are hurt by a Euro-centric standard of beauty; however, because one of the true paths to power for women is beauty and or physical appearance, little girls of colour carry an extremely heavy burden that is often never acknowledged, even by those that love them the most.

Mother: Let's do some hair and makeup so we can get ready for the pageant.
Child: (intelligible) momma do my hair and makeup.  (Mother begins combing hair) Ouch that hurts
Mother: I'm sorry. I'm going to braid her hair and then I am going to sew the extensions to the braid in her hair.
Child: Ouch
Mother: Sorry.  This is the first time we have done this ( mother is seperating girls hair into sections)
Child: Ouch
Mother: We usually do hairpieces
Child: Your fingers hurt
Mother: How do you want me to fix your hair when we get to the pageant?
Child: Down
Mother: Down okay. I think Kaylee will  do fine with the hair extensions. (mother begins sewing the hair)
Child: That hurts
Mother: Oh it does? She likes hair and she likes it long -- so I think she'll like it even though it's a little different?
Child: It's done? ( mother clips extensions) Don't cut my hair.
Mother:  I didn't cut your hair baby I cut this hair. (shows child the extension) Kayleigh doesn't realize it but she is a diva in training and she's very vain.
Child: I'm not a diva I'm Kayleigh
Mother: Kayleigh oh Kayleigh you gonna look like a skipped up chicken.
Child: My hair looks longer, I look pretty.
We know that Whiteness intentionally seeks to cause harm to our children, but we should also recognize the ways in which the internalization of hatred causes us to pass negative messages to each generation.  I don't doubt that this mother probably believes that she is sending a positive message, but nothing could be further from the truth from the standpoint of her daughters race and gender.  Kayleigh is only three years old and already she has been saddled with the mask that Black women are often forced into wearing, in an attempt to deal with the myriad of ways in which our femininity is often challenged.  It is hard to be critical of this woman because the job of a Black mother is often an extremely difficult task, but for the sake of the larger good, I have to ask, what good can possibly come of putting make up on a three year old and stitching a wave onto their hair?  Not only will this lead to a negative self image, after years of wearing weaves, many Black women face going bald.  Of course, A&E, which in this case plays the role of the media, has no interest in pointing this out.  In this episode of "Tantrums and Tiaras," racism and sexism is well represented, and since it is the role of the media to ensure the continued internalization of ISMS, for them it is a case of mission accomplished.