by G. Brown
‘A woman’s hair is her crowning glory’–it’s an old adage that goes back to Bible days. The Proverb meant to be an encouragement has instead been a condemnation for those not born with long, silky locks.
Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has found another crowning glory–living in her truth.
Pressley has become accustomed to her name appearing in headlines and news banners especially after she and fellow freshman representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar were dubbed “The Squad”. But the latest headlines are very personal.
Pressley had been keeping a secret that brought with it great shame and a great burden. The woman who was always pictured with not a hair out of place had been battling a crippling diagnosis of alopecia areata. Because of her condition, all those beautiful hairstyles in recent pictures were wigs to cover up the reality that Pressley had lost all of her hair.
Pressley decided it was time to be freed from her self-imposed prison by outing herself. Last week, the world saw Pressley in her real glory with the help of carefully coifed wigs.
Alopecia is a dreadful term many women fear afflicting about 200,000 people every year. The sudden loss of hair can be caused by an autoimmune disorder. For the few who may have never heard of the condition, Pressley found a way to help women understand saying “I’ve been robbed of my hair, I lost my hair, and I was saying to people that’s nothing new. Hardship is transcendent, hardship is universal and for the issue of alopecia, of which, there are millions of sufferers, certainly there are many black women. So I’ve been robbed of my hair, but black women have been robbed of things for a long time…” Pressley continued saying “We were robbed of our men that were lynched, we were robbed of our children, we were separated from at the auction block and on plantations. They tried to rob us of our beauty by criminalizing or violating our bodies, so that’s nothing new. It’s alright to stand in joy because when you are oppressed and marginalized, we give each other so much instruction about the armor that we need to put on to navigate and to negotiate the world and to do it safely, but joy is a necessary act of resistance as well,”
Pressley may have braced for some snide comments, but what she got was a wave of love…
Truth. We do place 2 much emphasis on hair. I hope Ms. Pressley continues to wear her hair just like that, she looks AbSOlutely beautiful and GOrgeoUS. I mean 💯 😍😎 and so inspiring to soooo many people, young/old—men/women—dark skin/light skin, etc.
— CoffeeLiciousLady (@LiciousCoffee) January 19, 2020
2. Why do Black people have to change how we look. I’m confident & happy to have natural hair! I’m free! We don’t ask other cultures to change their hair! We are valued & worth a lot! Why are they harassing us about our hair? I Iove my Black body& hair!I hope you loves yours too!
— Joyce E. Davis (@JazzyJoyce55) January 19, 2020
Another manifestation of misogyny. Women can’t grow old and maintain their validity but men can.
Every woman who is old enough, knows the moment she becomes invisible/irrelevant because she is no longer “attractive”.
— KateCopp (@copplestonearts) January 19, 2020
Black girls & women are indeed treated differently than other girls & women due to how they choose to wear their hair. This is not only racist, but absolute misunderstanding of history, ancestry, cultural competence & multiculturalism. Anyone who dares to be themselves is brave.
— Susan Marie ☮ (@SusanMarie_NY) January 19, 2020
Such an important conversation to continue to have. #hairispolitical And you look fabulous, Rep.!
— Annie E. Clark (@aelizabethclark) January 20, 2020
That last comment categorized the issue of Black women’s hair as a political one…and it is. It’s hard to find a Black woman who hasn’t at least once in her life been told by employers that she can’t wear braids or dreads or a natural. How many Black women do you think went to job interviews and weren’t hired because they were sporting dreads?
It’s also an economic issue. Look at how many wig and weave stores are owned and operated by people who aren’t Black?
Hair in the Black community has always been a sore spot. Tresses of Black women have always been a measure to judge one’s beauty. Long straight hair was labeled ‘good hair’ and kinky, curler texture was considered not so good. Pressley’s reveal has helped to set multitudes free from racist and misogynistic confines that determined beauty is only applicable if it follows Eurocentric rules.
Pressley’s crowning glory is no longer trying to fit an image that Hollywood, the media, the corporate world even society have deemed as a true measure of beauty. And witnessing her truth liberate so many other silent victims is truly a thing of beauty.