African American Women “Performing” for Corporate America: An Annotated Bibliography
African American women have been called assimilationists for many years. Black
women all across America, throughout the mainstream media, at church, and even in the school
systems are often criticized for the decisions they make pertaining to their appearance. One
matter in particular that has been up for debate since the golden ages is the lack of
professionalism of natural African American hair in a corporate work environment. I do not
work in corporate America; however, I have experienced hard stares, rude comments, and feeling
like a complete outsider because I was a black woman who had naturally kinky, coarse hair. As a
result, I often hid my hair under various wigs and weaves to avoid humiliation while many other
women resorted to getting their hair chemically straightened. In my research paper, I examined
how natural hair in the workplace was not only an “emic” affect, but how it may also affect ones
co-workers, team leaders, and even the corporations image as a whole. All of the sources
prepared for this annotated bibliography consisting of experiments, studies, and scholarly
journals happen to come from black women with various backgrounds, viewpoints, and
credentials. In the future, I will include sources from different ethnic backgrounds to provide a
more cohesive analysis. For the sake of this paper, however, I am strictly focusing on how these
stereotypes affect black women. I will present arguments from both sides stating whether ethnic
hair is or isn’t viewed in a professional sense, as well as, include a point of view that may not
have been thought of before and that is done by removing the “black woman” from the situation
and putting a white woman in her place and seeing the implications of what would happen. I
hope for people to understand where traditions of black hairstyles in reference to professionalism
come from and I too expect to learn some things that I formerly did not know.
Beal, Endia, Rosenberg, David. “Endia Beal: “‘Can I Touch It?’”Slate. Slate. Web. 15 October
Noted photographer, Endia Beal, is a Yale University graduate with a master degree in fine arts.
She has worked on projects that explored the relationships between minority women and the
corporate work place. Her research can be found in exhibits, showcases, and even this
documentary series that instantly went viral. The “Can I Touch It?” series was an experiment
conducted to show the stereotyping and ridicule that one may experience simply because they
choose to wear an Afro or cornrows. Beal took a handful of white women in their mid-to-late
forties, “gave them a new ‘black’ hairdo’” and then took their corporate portraits. Beal explains how some of the women were so embarrassed by the hairstyles that “Some of them
wanted to wear [their hairstyles] out, and some wanted to go home.” This article shows how the women who wore the “black hairdos” to work were criticized or seen as an oddity. Many noted that those hairstyles have no place in the corporate workplace. I plan to use thisarticle and the conclusions received from it to be analyzed in my third body paragraph inconjunction to another article that relates to the same study. This will help add emphasis and hard evidence to my topic.
Jere-Malanda, Regina. “Black Women’s Politically Correct Hair.” New African December 2008:
Regina Jere-Malanda is a distinguished feminist in women’s health, rights, and education. After
working as a Zambian correspondent for Agence France Press and an American Researcher at
Index on UK Censorship, Jere-Malanda wrote an article for New African Magazine. In this
article, she discussed the unique hairstyles black women have worn over decades and how it
has transitioned to today’s modern society. She focused on how women in the early 1960’s wore
their natural “nappy” hair proudly and how many women today consider it unattractive. She also
makes references to Michelle Obama’s hair and her influence to the natural hair community in
her husband’s race for his presidential election. She can be quoted saying, “Black women
globally couldn’t help but notice and discuss Michelle’s perfectly coiffed tresses… we were
moved and inspired by her devotion-filled speeches –we also wanted to know: is her hair
chemically straightened? And so forth” (15). Being a black woman, who also considers it unattractiveto wear my hair in its natural state, I will be using this source in my introduction paragraph to helpstrengthen my topic in regards to providing insight on a situation I encountered first hand. I could also use it for historical context on why wearing black hair unnatural can be seen as a way to disassociate from one’s blackness.
Onwuachi-Willig, Angela. “Another Hair Piece: Exploring New Strands of Analysis Under Title
VII.” The Georgetown Law Journal 98.1079 (2010):1-52. Print.
Angela Onwuachi-Willig is a Professor of Law at the University of Iowa. She has received many
prestigious honors to include being an Iowa Supreme Court Finalist. Not only did she write the
“National Law Journal,” but she also was elected to the American Law Institute. Onwuachi-
Willig comprised a fifty-three-page law journal that asked white women to imagine that they
worked in an environment that was an alternate racial universe. Their “employers have issued
and enforced the following grooming policy as it relates to hairstyles” (2). The guidelines mimic
how a black woman would wear her hair i.e. braids, etc., in addition to saying that they could not
file a lawsuit alleging discrimination. I loved this source in particular because it shows a different
point-of-view and how white woman would react and/ or adjust if they had to conform to a black
society. Not surprisingly, the white participants found the treatment to be racist and isolating. Many found it made them question their own beauty. The entire journal is a handbook and she includes analysis such as how “courts continueto uphold policies… on the grounds that such restrictions do not constitute sex discrimination” (20). Iwill use the information I got from this source in my second body paragraph, which will focus onwhite women and their hair in corporate America.
Payne, Angela R., Thakkar, Bharat S.. “Examination of Ethnic and Policy Issues in Grooming
Preferences and Ethnic Hairstyles of African American Women in Corporate America.”
Global Conference on Business and Finance Proceedings 1 June 2012: 421-430. Print.
Dr. Angela R. Payne and Dr. Bharat S. Thakkar are two professors at Argosy University in
Chicago, Illinois. These ladies have had extensive experience in their field of statistics and
research methods, published over twenty-five peer-reviewed journals, most of which pertain to
the society in a global and domestic context, and are active in technical societies. Their article
focuses on the research conducted in regards to the grooming preference of African American
women with ethnic hair/hairstyles such as twist, braids, dreads, etc. working in Corporate
America. After several studies, records indicated that women who wear their natural hair in a
fashion that is viewed as unprofessional end up being terminated with prejudice. Key elements
and statistics from this article will be used in my third body paragraph, which will include
comprehensive information from this article, in comparison to the study conducted by Beal.
Thompson, Cheryl. “Black Women and Identity: What’s Hair Got To Do With it?” Politics and
Performativity 22.1 (Fall 2008-2009): 1-10. Web. 15 Oct. 2015.
Cheryl Thompson studied at the University of Michigan, is the director of the Institute for
Human Adjustment, and is a licensed clinical psychologist. Her article, which can be found in
the University of Michigan’s library, was published in the fall of 2008. This is the least recent of
all of my sources. Although, it was published over five years ago, it is still relevant in today’s
society. In this publication, she talks about how hair is not a black or white thing, but, how it is a
universal thing. She compares and contrasts the characteristics of each races hair texture. She
even goes back to how hairstyles were often used to indicate a person’s martial status, age,
religion, wealth, rank, etc. She compares celebrities in the media and how what we see on TV
affects our community directly. One strong point in her article was the study done by Ingrid
Banks back in 2000 that used, “interviews and focus-group methods to explore how black
women and girls of diverse ages and socioeconomic class feel about their hair choices, and in
turn, their identities, community, gender, sexuality, and cultural authenticity” (3). I will use the
research gathered from this source to conclude my paper because it provides a general context to
the matter. It not only goes back to my thesis, but it also wraps everything up, and answers the
question of “so what?”
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