Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good Hair

Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair, is a documentary about the social significance of black women’s hair. Rock notes how society equates a woman’s worth with her hair. He illustrates how black women cannot attain any worth with her natural hair, but must instead strive to have hair that looks caucasian. In one particular scene, Rock visits a barbershop full of men with whom he discusses men’s relationships with women’s hair. This topic is similar to the topic brought up in Venus Boyz. Hans Scheirl shaved ze’s head because ze found that men associated women’s hair with their sexual worth. Good Hair also makes this point, illustrated by the men’s discussion about how they might prefer a white woman because she doesn’t have to do as much maintenance or limits on her hair.
Hans’ analysis of men’s relationship to women’s hair is interesting. This relationship was touched on in class when analyzing about men’s friendships. Men must prove that they are heterosexual when bonding with male friends to exhibit, and reassure, that their relationship is not homosexual in any way. As Lyman states in The Fraternal Bond as a Joking Relationship: A Case Study of the Role of Sexist Jokes in Male Group Bonding, Homophobia is inherent in straight men’s bonding, and the men in the friendships rely on objectifying women in order to negotiate that tension. One way that men objectify women is by commodifying pieces of their body. Hair is believed to be one aspect of a woman that is often commodified in society. Women are often considered sexy or sexual solely on the quality, or whiteness, of their hair. Men joining together by putting women down in a subordinate place is one aspect of socialized masculinities. According to Lyman, “shared aggression toward an outsider is one of the primary ways by which a group may overcome internal tension and assert its solidarity” (ML, 148). This is exactly what men are doing to women, which has been taught to men as they are socialized to be masculine from birth.
The men in Good Hair also used many sexist jokes when talking about black women’s hair. Lyman states, “ uncovered the use of sexist jokes in creating bonds between men; through their own joking relationships (which they called friendships), the guys negotiated the tension between their need for intimacy with other men and their fear of losing their autonomy as men to the authority of the...world” (ML, 149).
In class we discussed men in the family and the stereotypes of father/husbands in the media. Men are generally portrayed in commercials and other advertisements, as we saw in class, as unable to fulfill the women’s role in the family. This role includes child care and the emotional development of children. However, Chris Rock defies this stereotype by exhibiting that he takes an active role in the emotional well-being of his daughters. We are informed in Good Hair that Rock’s inspiration comes from a statement that his daughter made. Rock explains that his daughter asked him why she didn’t have good hair. As we’ve discussed in class, men are capable of being emotional and full-time Dads. Donald N.S. Unger talks about the negative stereotypes of fathers in the essay Judging Fathers: The Case for Gender-Neutral Standards. According to Unger, “what I’m asking for as a fully engaged father is essentially the same thing that women have been fighting for in the professional sphere for forty years or more: a gender-neutral standard of assessment” (MSO, 211).
Chris Rock also defies the stereotype of the Black man, more specifically the Black Father. The stereotype is far worse for Black men than Caucasian men. Black men are portrayed in the media (e.g., rap) as aggressive and sexist beings. Chris Rock disproves this stereotype and sheds a positive light on black men by making a movie about and for the betterment of his daughters and his black sisters. Also, this asserts Chris as being a consciousness-raising agent within the movement. Not only is he educating his daughters, but also millions of others who are unaware. Osayande discusses the prevalence of sexism within the Black community in the essay Redefining Manhood: Resisting Sexism, but Rock fights this stereotype by displaying his feminist ideals in Good Hair.
Rock’s documentary showed an aspect of masculinity that is raced. Black masculinity is something that we should think about more when talking feminism, instead of simply speaking of white men’s masculinity. Black masculinity is overdetermined due the many questions one could ponder about Black men’s social behavior that has been socially constructed for him. Through Chris Rock’s film and his open-mindedness we may gather that masculinity varies depending on the individual’s social awareness.

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