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TOPIC: Shea Moisture

Shea Moisture 06 Nov 2016 19:43 #10837

  • rebecca.w
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Shea Moisture’s new commercial challenges the conventional notions of “normal hair.” Normal hair, like most beauty standards in mainstream media, sets the default as hair typical of white people. This becomes problematic for people of color, people of mixed race, and anyone who has atypical hair. For many black Americans, “good hair” means straight, smooth hair that is chemically relaxed, flat ironed, synthetic weaves or wigs, and expensive weaves made of human hair. The pressure to conform to beauty standards set by the beauty industry and reinforced by Eurocentric cultural ideals has resulted in a culture that confers social status, attractiveness, and even “professionalism” on people of color who invest considerable time and money to have “good hair.” The commercial shows women of color bathing, swimming, and exercising, which from a white perspective seems like “normal” activities. In fact, these are activities that are often restricted or even discouraged for people of color who are socialized to forgo any activity that could compromise or ruin expensive hair treatments, styles, and weaves. There are greater cultural impacts as well. Black women are statistically much less likely than white women to know how to swim or to be competent swimmers, regardless of income level, and a number of water-related deaths happen as a result each year. Black women are also more likely to be obese, since sweating during a workout can easily ruin a hairdo. Negative stereotypes and myths persist in racist narratives that label black women as smelly or dirty based on assumptions about dry skin and hair that cannot be washed. The activities portrayed are just as important as the diverse representation of women in the commercial to combat these negative stereotypes and to help promote acceptance of natural hair that will liberate women from living restricted lives based around preserving hairdos. While black beauty salons have long been a place of community and cultural value, they also represent the pressure that women of color have faced in a society that deems their natural hair as inadequate or unattractive. Studies have shown that women of color experience more racial bias and negative character assumptions during job interviews based on having natural hair as compared to women who have their professionally styled. In fact, professional hairstyling may be as crucial in some studies as a business suit. The perception of natural hair as “unprofessional” also limits career opportunities for women of color who face the double penalties of racial bias and gender bias in the workplace. The commercial closes with a racially diverse group of women shopping for Shea Moisture hair products in the same aisle. This is especially important because hair products for “normal hair” (i.e. hair typical of white people) is usually separated from hair products specifically designed and marketed to women of color. There is a longstanding tradition of product segregation that forces women to shop in different aisles based on race, an unnecessary source of shame and awkwardness for many women who find themselves in the “wrong” aisle by mistake. Largely the beauty industry has used marketing tactics to exaggerate the differences between hair types and Shea Moisture is working to dispel these myths. I hope other companies follow their lead and continue to desegregate products and challenge the myth of “normal” to be more inclusive.
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