Monday, March 3, 2008

Glamour's mea culpa

Remember last year when Glamour editor, Ashley Baker, told a room full of female attorneys from Cleary Gottlieb that natural black hair was a definite don't.

American Lawyer reported on the incident in its August issue:

First slide up: an African American woman sporting an Afro. A real no-no, announced the 'Glamour' editor to the 40 or so lawyers in the room. As for dreadlocks: How truly dreadful! The style maven said it was 'shocking' that some people still think it 'appropriate' to wear those hairstyles at the office. 'No offense,' she sniffed, but those 'political' hairstyles really have to go.
Glamour was flooded with angry e-mails from sisters who are a-okay with their natural tresses, and mocked on sites like Jezebel where female readers were appalled (but maybe not surprised) that a women's magazine would castigate women for finding beauty in their natural selves.

Glamour axed the editor and promised to hold a roundtable to discuss the incendiary issue of black women and hair. As a happy nappy I've been waiting with baited breath to read the result of the magazine's great kinky hair summit. Well, my wait is over. The latest issue of Glamour includes the hair discussion led by NPR's Farai Chideya. Read it here.

My verdict? Meh. I don't know what I expected from a beauty magazine, but I found the discussion less than substantive. What I really want, and what women of all races need, is an end to the narrow definitions of beauty that magazines like Glamour promote. In addition to the traditional models of silky-haired European ancestry, I need to see models with cinnamon-brown skin and closely-cropped naps. When the magazine publishes an article about the latest lipsticks for summer, include shades that work on skin that is darker than olive. I don't need "a very special episode" of Glamour to appease me. It's going to take more than that to convince me that this magazine, along with others, don't embrace and reinforce a hierarchy of beauty that places women like me at the bottom.

Women's History Month Blog Carnival: Come Together

written by Brittany Shoot, originally posted at

As an abuse survivor with a father who cheated on my mother, I’m not set up in life to trust men easily. I spent the last several years in intense feminist psychotherapy to finally own the demons of my past, and I’ve come through some incredible personal grief. In the end, I emerged ready to try my hand at love again, and I was lucky enough that it found me.

My closest friends have been wildly supportive, knowing the hurdles I have faced, and many fewer have acted in spiteful, jealous ways. I speak to almost no one about the negative reactions I’ve tolerated because they’ve been so painful and incomprehensible to me. Mostly, bitter feedback comes from those who don’t know me very well. They don’t know that my partner and I have spent countless hours deciding how to maintain independence while trusting and relying on one another. They don’t know how much I’ve personally navigated to be able to trust him, to trust myself. Perhaps they’re just angry that they can’t heal the way I have.

So in thinking about the pain this has caused me lately, how deeply hurtful I find their negative reactions to a major point of healing, survival, and triumph in my life, I made this little image, ala Post Secret, to showcase my confusion and frustration. It is incredibly unfortunate that in a time of such happiness, I feel my most secretive and isolated to protect what I have. I realize this isn’t the positive ray of light the feminist carnival is probably aiming to shine, but it sure felt therapeutic to make this, and that’s gotta count for something.

Brittany Shoot is a graduate student who lives with her partner and 20lb. cat, splitting time between Boston and Copenhagen. She believes in furniture and worries about the unfulfilled promises of feminist friendship.
Read more submissions to the Women's History Month blog carnival at Women's Space.

We have room for more submissions! If you missed the deadline or are inspired by the words of another contributor, send your essay, poem, artwork, video, etc. to or


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