In the natural hair community, the words “kempt”, “well-kempt” or “unkempt” are being thrown around much more in recent times than before. When I say before, I mean before the explosion of natural hair on the fashion and beauty scene. When it was just relaxed women running around here I didn’t hear it, but now it seems like the question of kempt versus unkempt goes hand in hand when discussing locs, fros, or curls.
Kempt or well-kempt means well-groomed or neatly kept. Both of those terms make my eyes twitch because what someone considers well-groomed or neatly kept is highly subjective and as we all know, everyone has their own perception of what is beautiful.
We also know about all the stories of curly and coily women being harassed at work and by family members telling them their hair is ‘unprofessional’, ‘unattractive’ or ‘ugly’. With a history that has been marred with negativity, our hair does not need to be subject, yet again, to a confinement on style preference.
Beauty is supposed to be in the eye of the beholder, but when it comes to black women, often times our beauty is under scrutiny. When embracing straightening treatments like relaxers or wearing wigs* and weaves there is no real issue, but as soon as we step away from those hairstyles, the mood changes and words and terms like ‘inappropriateness’, ‘unprofessional’, and ‘unkempt’ creep up to describe our tresses.
It is insulting and wrong to tell any woman her natural body is not good enough and when you add those types of negative words to our hair, that is just adding another layer of self-hate that we just don’t need.
Just a couple of months ago, we told you about a natural haired woman, Tiffany Bryan, 27 from Queens NY was fired from her job because she refused to “tame” her Fro. Taming her hair? So, our hair is a wild animal now? Tiffany is a cancer survivor, and had opted to keep her tresses chemical free when it grew back in after chemotherapy.
She was hired at AEG Worldwide in September 2013 but didn’t receive any flack on her hair until her security supervisor, Denise Brown, told her last March that she “look[ed] like she stuck her finger in a socket and was electrocuted.” She took it as a joke, but a few days later the security manager told her that she “needed to do something with her hair”, and was told to “tame it.” Refusing to do so led to her firing, and she’s now suing the Brooklyn Arena’s security team.