Here, I sit.
Of reading crap like this:
Researchers found about two of every five African-American women said they avoid exercise because of concerns about their hair, and researchers say that is concerning given the United States’ obesity epidemic.
“As an African-American woman, I have that problem, and my friends have that problem. So I wondered if my patients had that problem,” said Dr. Amy McMichael, the study’s senior researcher and a dermatologist at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
McMichael and her colleagues, who published their findings in the Archives of Dermatology on Monday, said hair care can be tedious and costly for African-American women.
Rochelle Mosley, who owns Salon 804 in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, told Reuters Health some of her African-American clients come in once per week to get their hair straightened at a cost of about $40.
They may not want to wash their hair more than once a week to keep their hairstyle, and may avoid sweating because of that.
To find out if women were putting hair above their health, the researchers surveyed 103 African-American women who came to the dermatology clinic at Wake Forest University in October 2007.
They found that more than half of the women were exercising for less than 75 minutes per week, which is less than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
That’s also less than U.S. women on average, according to a 2007 study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found about half of all U.S. women were exercising close to 150 minutes per week.
More than a quarter of the women in the new study said they didn’t exercise at all.
About a third of the women said they exercise less than they’d like because of their hair, and half said they have considered changing their hair for exercise.
McMichael and her colleagues found that women who avoided exercise because of their hair were almost three times less likely to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. That finding, however, could have been due to chance.
Also, scalp issues, such as itching and dandruff, played a role in the women’s decision-making process. [source]
I’m going to be honest. I’m struggling with the input of a “salon owner” in this, but not a single registered dietician, a sociologist, a personal trainer, a nutritionist, or any of that. An epidemiologist, a physician, a public health official, someone on a government health committee.
The root cause of obesity… is being discussed publicly, on major national platforms… by a dermatologist… and a salon owner. No one could wait and get the input of anyone with any real, legitimate, input to this situation?
This leads me to my next question.
This counts as legitimate research, worthy of being published in a journal somewhere?
Look at it: a dermatologist – with no visible credentials in studying either obesity, its causes, nutrition, exercise science or even sociology – and her interns asked a bunch of Black women – pardon me, exactly one hundred three Black women – about their exercise habits and found that approximately 40% of them said they don’t work out because of their hair.
This counts as legitimate research? This is worthy of media attention? Publishing? Is the standard so low for research into the lives of minorities that this counts as “study?” The only credential you need to study obesity as it pertains to minorities is actually being a minority?
Let’s say that there really and truly is a national average of approximately 40% of Black women who don’t work out because of their hair. Let’s say that.
Where does the conversation go from there?
Do we discuss what compels so many women to prioritize their hair over physical fitness? Do we discuss corporate American culture that says you have to look like a wh– er, something you’re not, in order to succeed? Do we discuss media standards and fashion industries that imply that looking the way we do is unacceptable, and we must change? Does anyone in the media ever feel complicit in contributing to an environment where women sacrifice their health for vanity’s sake? Does anyone ever express any guilt? Shame?
Do we actually listen when women say “Well, the men in my area don’t like women with natural hair?” Do we ever challenge the men and tell them they need to consider how they’re contributing to women making what society considers to be “silly” decisions? Do we ever shame men for saying negative things about natural hair?
Do we ever have any public outcry against any of this, to the point where it grows legs and walks from office to office and man to man and actually changes things?
Or does it just result in another opportunity to shit on Black women for being stupid, prioritizing poorly and being, ironically, vain?
There’s also an obvious question, here, that I think says more about the researcher than it does anything else. I think back to high school, with all the girls who would admit to waking up at 5AM every morning just so that they could straighten their long, naturally curly hair. Girls who were not, in fact, Black. What about all women, race notwithstanding, who have hyper-curly hair? Do these women get a pass for not working out because, well, they’re not Black… or something? Or is it because they don’t have the high blood pressure, high rate of diabetes, high rate of obesity and high rate of goodness knows what else??
Except… they do. And then some. Besides, if Black women only make up maybe 7-8% of the entire US population, and even if 2/3rds of us are overweight, there’s still a good 65% of the rest of the overweight population that needs to be accounted for… where are the specialty studies on them?
So, I ask… what’s the point of the unnecessary attention? Let me rephrase.
What’s the point of the unnecessary attention if it’s not going to culminate into something worthy of being called “a solution?” You put people into a system that demands they look a certain way, mock them for complying, then demand they put their livelihoods at stake so their bodies can look like they’re not “costing us billions in health care.” What do you suggest these women do? Cut their hair and go natural, even if their industry is hostile towards natural hair? Learn a completely new way of styling their hair just to please you? You don’t complain about the system, you don’t publicly fight the system, you just fuss at Black women for being “silly.” Because it’s just easier to do that than actually affect change.
Listen. I think we are all acutely aware of the obesity epidemic in this country. All it takes is looking at your group of girlfriends (boyfriends?) and you can see that things are changing.
The urgency doesn’t change the need to be realistic in our analysis. Mocking the decisions people make without critiquing the influences on those decisions does nothing but pigeonhole the ones we’re trying to help. It is not “tough love,” because there are no solutions. It is not “bitter truth” because there’s no truth being doled out to anyone else in terms of how they’ve contributed to this problem, only messages to Black women in how they are the problem. It is not “helpful” because, when Black women tell you what’s affecting their ability to “do what they need to do,” you ignore their cries for help and guidance. It is nothing.
What do I think? I think we should worry far less about these 103 women, and worry more about the women we laugh with, love with, cry with, watch movies and fuss about work with. Talk to them, one on one, and find out what’s going on in their lives. Tell them you love them, and that when they’re ready to talk about their health with you, you’re there. And, when they come to you, do some real and legitimate problem solving. Do some listening. Do less mocking. In fact, do no mocking. Do all the loving. And, if you’re not capable of loving her through it, you’re not capable of the conversation with her, and you should leave her alone.