Ashlei

Weaves, Wigs, Relaxers and Braids – It’s Not Just Hair.

As a child I use to hate getting my hair combed. I use to stand in a chair over a sink while my mother applied shampoo and conditioner all over my kinky hair to clean it. Then it came the endless hours of sitting in between her legs while she pulled, tanked, parted, combed and brushed every strand into perfect ponytails. After all the crying and yelling and spanking, the task is finally completed with some bright colored barrettes on the ends of my hair. I had always been told I had “long hair for a black girl” so I never really had an insecurity about my hair until I became an adult.

Imagine being told that the hair you grow naturally out of your head is unprofessional. Imagine being told you need to put chemicals in your hair, known to cause cancer, in order to be acceptable. Imagine being asked if you forget to do your hair just because your hair is in its natural state. This is a common occurrence that many black women have been facing since the time they were a child. Hair has been part of our political and social lives from the moment our hair started to grow out of our heads. Black women constantly struggle with how to stay true to themselves while entering corporate America.

As an adult, many black women wear braids, dreads, afros, weaves, perms to make their hair straight. Children in the black community as young as two get perms. Now some of it is vanity, yes, but most of it has to deal with trying to maneuver within a society that has a European standard of beauty (think Taylor Swift or one of the Kardashians).

Recently, Kylie Jenner and vine celebrity Mallory Mooke, donned faux dreadlocks and box braids. These are two hairstyles that are typically worn by people in the black community. Some people say its cultural appropriation while others say it’s just hair. While I don’t necessarily agree that its appropriation I disagree with the notion that it is just hair. If it was just hair, black women would have been getting praise for their hairstyles for decades. If it was just hair, black women wouldn’t be told their hair is unprofessional, or asked if they had combed their hair.

Black women have been getting slammed, disrespected, and encourage to do things to fit a more European aesthetic of beauty. Now you have two young, two white girls who are wearing these hairstyles and somehow its ‘beautiful”, “expressive” and just hair.  Meanwhile, it’s unprofessional for black women. It goes back to the endless debate about black people getting shamed for doing something and once white people pick it up its now acceptable. To say something is just hair downplays the plight black women face in this country.

The black hair care industry is a $684 million industry according to Mintel. However, the company notes that this doesn’t include many aspect of black hair care which would put it at almost a $500 billion dollar industry. The Huffington Post reports that relaxers count for 21% of all expenditures and 6 out of 10 black women wear a wig or a weave. When you take into consideration how money black women, regardless of class, spend on their hair in addition to the time it takes to get it done,  it becomes clear: it is not “just” hair.

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by ASHLEI MCPHERSON

image source: (http://www.cocoandcreme.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/5342871_orig.jpeg)

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Halloween: A Business

Halloween is one of those holidays that Americans hold near and dear to their hearts. Our inner child comes out; reminiscing on childhood cartoon characters you want to be and realizing that twenty four is too old to try and go trick-or-treating. The fun, the games, the candy, and the haunted houses are some of the images that come to mind when people think of Halloween. However, there is the business of Halloween to consider: Halloween is the fourth major business holiday of year.

One would think the busiest day in October is the 31st however; October 28th is when people bombard the grocery stores stocking up on those beloved Reese’s peanut butter cups, Twix and candy corn. In fact the top five selling days of candy all fall is the month of October. Not to mention the last minute costumes, decorations and for those twenty one and over extra party favors.

Do you know what the most popular candy that was sold during Halloween for 2013? No, not Reese’s…not Kit Kat…not snickers. If you guessed CANDY CORN you guessed correctly! Who knew! They are not particularly a favorite of mine but to each his or her own. But if it makes you feel any better 90 million pounds of chocolate was sold last year. This totaled a whopping 1.9 billion in retail sales according to the Alliance Data Retail Services. Yet, I wonder how much of those profits made it to the retail workers who had to stock the shelves or the people who worked in the factories making the candy wrappers.

The National Retail Federation reports that consumers spend 330 million on pet costumes, 330 million on greeting cards and 1.96 billion on festive decorations. In total consumers to spent about 6.9 billion on Halloween in 2013 and it is expected to be about the same for 2014.

6.9 billion in revenue sales and yet there are poor working conditions in the garment industries, an unemployment rate of 6.1% in the United States and the gap between the rich and the poor steadily increasing… The business of Halloween is a representation of the reality that is the discrepancy in American priorities.

by ASHLEI MCPHERSON

image source: (https://mosaicsjsu.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/7abc2-halloween-business.jpg)

Can I Enjoy My Minority Status?

I work in the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center as a Diversity Advocate Intern. Part of my job is to be able to advocate for social justice and shed light on things that may be prejudice, racist, discriminatory so on and so forth.

As a Black woman living in the Silicon Valley my blackness has been put on the forefront ever since I arrived in August 2013. Now working in the social justice space another part of our job is writing blogs on things that we find interesting that address power dynamics, racism, the gender binary and other things.

I am physically, emotionally, and mentally drained from having to constantly talk about my minority status, the implications of being a minority and how I am set up to fail according to society’s standards. I am all thought out to the point where I am about to plagiarize myself.

At what point do people of color get a break from talking about the things that discriminate against them? At what point does social justice take a back seat so that one can enjoy their minority status, whatever that may be.

The expectation of people of color to always be the representative of the struggle is taxing. As a person of color I would love to have a moment where I can find peace and enjoy being black, enjoy being a woman, enjoy being middle-low income and not think about how that negatively affects me.

by ASHLEI MCPHERSON

My Boobs, Her Boobs… Whose Boobs are Normal?

My roommate and I were hanging out in the living room when she started adjusting her implants. I have never seen anybody adjust implants before and it really caught be off guard. I must have been staring really hard because she said “would you like to see” I said “yes” and she opened up her shirt. Now I should have been looking at her boobs but I got so distracted by her areolas, the darker skin surrounding the nipple in a circular fashion.
Her boobs and areolas look nothing like mine. They were tiny, like the size of a penny, and a peachy pink color. Mine are the size of two half dollar coins put together and dark brown in color. I haven’t seen many boobs but the difference between her boobs and my boobs was so drastic I was mind blown. Is mine normal? Is hers normal? For some reason it never occurred to me that both of us could be normal. I began questioning if there was something wrong with my boobs and it prompted me to take a trip to the health center just to ask general questions about boobs.
The appointment involved a breast cancer examination which took less than 10 minutes however, I was instructed it is best to get the examination a week after a woman’s menstrual cycle because it allows the glands and other things to get back to normal.
Areolas vary in size but typically range from the size of a half dollar coin to half the size of your boob. The color tends to be darker than ones skin tone, often times much darker. My areolas are darker than the rest of my body and it always made me a little insecure. Some women have hair and or bumps around their areolas and nipples. A couple of facts I learned were that areolas tend to be darker than the boob and some of them have hair and some of them have little bumps around them. The doctor told me that I have nothing to worry about because my boobs are perfectly normal.
The media portrayals of women are often different than how the average woman looks. With all the makeup, the retouching, and photo shopping it is hard for women to know to what is and isn’t normal. I know my boobs don’t look like any of the girls in Hustler magazine, Playboy or any of the music videos. Women’s body are often under intense scrutiny to be perfect but what is perfect? To know what is perfect one must know what is “normal” and I learned that although my boobs may not look like another woman’s boobs, I am still normal.
As women, society puts a lot of pressure on us to be perfect and often times perfection is unattainable. If you are in search of other women to talk to I recommend the Women’s Resource Center in MOD B. They can give you information on the Womyn of Color group. Also, I recommend making an appointment with your health care provider or if you don’t have insurance you can make an appointment at the Student Health Center to find answers to all the questions you may have.
by ASHLEI MCPHERSON