I think it’s safe to say that after centuries of evidence, the world may just be out to get Black women. When it comes to appearances, it’s quite obvious what the standard is–perfection.
We must be perfect to be treated equally. Being perfect is significantly harder when every single societal idea about an entire race of women seems to contradict itself. From hair to fashion, there doesn’t really seem to be an avenue that Black women can choose without facing judgments from outside and within our own communities.
A massive part of Black culture is hair. Our hair is a way to express ourselves, in many ways it’s seen as our crown. An issue with this is that hair takes time, which is something that many college students lack. I’ve personally seen many women start to wear their natural hair through my own relationships and social media, many of those women are still figuring their hair out. But we don’t really have the option to figure it out. If your hair is not absolutely shiny, moisturized, with the most uniform curl pattern, then your hair suddenly is not a crown anymore. Many people also only view looser textures as crowns, completely ignoring kinkier hair even though it is just as beautiful.
Hair can’t be perfect all the time, because humans aren’t perfect, yet when a Black girl’s hair doesn’t look like she just got it done, assumptions are immediately thrown at her. So many will forgo wearing their natural hair and just straighten it, wear a protective style or wear wigs to avoid having to style it, but those options don’t necessarily come without their own set of judgments. These hairstyles are seen as whitewashed, boujee, or dirty. I think my biggest gripe with how we are expected to present our hair is how it leaves very little room for experimentation.
You can’t really test things out when you’re supposed to be perfect, as experimentation leads to messiness and mistakes. But college is all about figuring yourself out, even if it means you look a hot mess to some people.
I think an example of this would be Black women who lean more alt on the fashion spectrum. Alt fashion is a fairly broad term that refers to fashion that deviates from mainstream ideas. An example of one of the more specific categories would be scene fashion. People who participate in this fashion culture tend to receive a lot of judgement, but Black women seem to be judged more frequently and harshly than others.
There are so many unique aesthetics out there that non-Black women can explore freely, so what’s stopping us from doing so? Maybe it’s us wanting to avoid judgment, but it might be more internalized than we think.
The criticisms aren’t just from our society or culture but also from ourselves. We’ve had it drilled into our heads how we are supposed to present ourselves since childhood, and it only seems that in recent years that our mentalities are reversing.
We’ve been oversexualized, ostracized and judged for being ourselves. If we want the freedom to express ourselves, we must take it despite the struggles that come with it. It will be difficult sometimes to ignore the judgmental stares and microaggressions but when we need it the most, we will be there for each other.