Hair Politics: Hair at work

AFROCENTRICThis weekend, I heard some women who I volunteer with talk about their hair experiences at work and I was fascinated. One of them is a transitioning sister who wears her hair is a gorgeous fluffy ‘fro, another is wearing kinky twists, two more are relaxed and there’s me. The woman with the fluffy ‘fro said that at some work functions, people don’t even want to look her in the eye. Could it be her hair?


The woman with the kinky twists said that where she works people love when her hair is straightened, but as soon as she does something afrocentric – twists, curly ‘fro – suddenly people have nothing to say.

I didn’t say much because I was interested in hearing about their experiences.

I haven’t had that experience – or at least, I haven’t noticed. People comment on my hair regardless of style. If it’s straight, they may or may not compliment it. If it’s bushy (as it so is today), they may or may not compliment it. I’ll get stopped in the street or at Tim Hortons by someone wanting to know how I got my hair the way it is.

At work, I don’ t feel uncomfortable wearing my hair natural. I don’t feel ostracized or that people view me differently because of my hair. Maybe they do – I don’t know, but that’s not the vibe they are giving me.

Or maybe it’s just that I don’t care… I really don’t at this point.

I do what I have to do when I’m at work and that should speak louder than what my hair is up to. I would be highly disgusted if I were made to feel that my hair, as it grows out of my head, was not good enough or not professional enough. Why should I feel forced to relax my hair to make someone at work feel better? I feel fine about me and my hair.

Now, the day that I decide to change jobs, will my hair be a hindrance? I would hope not, but I have heard stories about women with locs hiding their hair under wigs to go on job interviews. Personally, I would not wanna work for a company that doesn’t respect me enough to look past my hair, but if you’ve been looking long enough and need a job, is hair respect really that important?

For me, it will come down to this: when you ask the straight-haired blond to get a curly perm, you can ask me to straighten my hair.

So, my lurkers, what do you say? I know you guys are out there – I’m getting emails!! Don’t email me, leave a comment on the blog and share your feelings about natural hair at work.


13 Comments Add yours

  1. Alesha Hinds says:

    Great job on your blog, I saw the post on facebook last evening, read it and it brought me to the “Accidental Natural”. Your post today brought me back to a chat that I had with a girlfriend last Saturday. She’s a professional who has natural hair but she always gets a “blowout” and wears her hair straight or where wigs. She’s convince that for her to continue climbing the corporate ladder she has to blend in and that mean’s she can’t wear her hair in any style that looks too “ethnic”. We also started talking about the host of Cityline,who’s an associate of my girlfriend (she’s a black lady, I’ll refrain from using her name). She use to wear her hair in twist and is now wearing a weave (looks really good,wasn’t sure it was a weave until my girl confirmed) and from what she shared with my girl, she was pressured to get rid of the twist by the “higher ups” to the way her hair is now.

  2. urbansista says:

    Thanks! I’ve heard stories like that as well, but I always think: if at some point we don’t be ourselves, won’t that always be the case? Way back when only people of a certain skin colour were allowed to work in offices — we didn’t agree with that and we fought back. So, why should we so easily agree with changing our hair to be acceptable to higher-ups?

    I’m sorry that she changed her twists! She seemed to be doing quite well at Cityline — I didn’t hear about a ratings drop because this Black woman was wearing a braid style. If higher ups were pressuring her, I’m angry. As I said before, why not pressure the blond with straight hair to get a curly perm?

  3. jdid says:

    have you noticed any difference in the way the fro is viewed as opposed to the locs. I think locs are actually more acceptable than the fros here in the T-dot.
    Of course I’m a brother so what do I know.

  4. urbansista says:

    I haven’t — but, I haven’t worn locs, so I’m not sure. And, to be quite honest, I haven’t seen many men with locs in the financial district. I have seen quite a few women wiht locs… Any loc’ed brethen or sistren can comment???

  5. Rac says:

    Interesting blog which seems to be on the minds of people lately…for the past week I’ve had conversations with other women on this topic and my husband recently cut his locs after 10 years of growing it. He said it was time, but something tells me that maybe 2% could have been contributed to the J-O-B.

    A natural girl for 4 years now, wearing my hair most of the time in twists. In the beginning the office was literally devastated when I came in one day with a very low fro and they were quite frank with their comments. My manager then, said that he hated the new look. It hurt, but my husband supported me through my ‘hair journey’ and now I think it was the best thing I ever did. I will always be myself…but there are times I think especially now looking for other employment, should I take out the flat-iron and sport a straight look? I don’t know, I guess it depends on how I feel that day and how bad I want that job.

  6. Sidjazz says:

    In the end she did change her twist, I just wonder if she wanted to or if she caved in to the pressure. If its the lather, I find it very upsetting also. In the above piece I noticed that you didn’t mention what the women with the permed hair thought. Is your blog just dedicated to those with natural hair to have a voice? Not sure if I should be adding my two cents while “flashing” my straight hair.

  7. urbansista says:

    @Rac – He cut them off? That’s a big decision… One good thing with natural hair is that you can decide to switch it up and be straight the days you need to. I hope in 2009 we would be closer to the point that hair wouldn’t be such a big deal in the workplace.
    @Sidjazz – I didn’t mention the permed girls because they were listening to the conversation like I was. The blog focuses on my journey with natural hair, but any and everyone can comment and put in their two cents — no matter if you’re relaxed, natural or curious. Feel free to keep commenting!

  8. rox says:

    I like the blog! So is this the topic for your new book??

  9. rox says:

    I love the artwork! Sorry. I just had to say it.

  10. Fred.D McMillan Jr says:

    I love the pictures.

  11. Michelle says:

    Hey can I use that Power Equality photo as my profile pic on Facebook? Who designed it?

    1. urbansista says:

      *looking over my shoulder* I just grabbed it from online somewhere — is that horrible of me? I just thought it was a cool image — I don’t know who designed it… That’s really nice of you to ask.

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