On Saturday Brooklynite Jasmine Toliver decided to launch a petition calling on multi-million selling megastar Beyoncé to comb her daughter's hair.
It followed the release of a picture showing the Carter-Knowles contingent trotting off their private jet from the Hamptons with baby Blue looking sleepy in Daddy Z’s arms.
Her “plane hair” caused Toliver to jibe that the three-year-old was “developing matted dreads and lint balls.” So far the petition has over 5,000 supporters. NBD, right? Just another person trash talking on the internet?
Wrong. Though she's called on people to “chill out”, the backlash – from US chat show presenter Wendy Williams, to musician India Arie, suggests this won't be happening anytime soon. Why? Because black hair is a loaded topic.
Historically it’s been tangled with meaning: from the first “respectable” straightened dos of the post-slavery era to Malcolm X’s dyed-orange "conk" to the afros of the 1960’s and modern-day weaves – which Beyoncé herself knows can invite enough unsolicited scrutiny.
Hair is also a feminist issue, or, as perhaps Bey would prefer, a 'womanist' one. Womanism being an alternative definition of female unity created by black women – in response to feeling continually maligned by conventional or 'white' feminism – but that’s a whole other story. Back to hair:
Black hair has routinely been denied the right to grow naturally without some outward statement of self, or black identity politics being attached - it’s what Ghanaian-British art historian Kobena Mercer calls the “burden of representation”.
I'm a fair-haired, white woman with no personal experience of this, and will leave it to Ingrid Banks, a professor of black studies at the University of California, to sum it up better than I can. “For black women, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t,’’ she has said. “If you’ve got straight hair, you’re pegged as selling out. If you don’t straighten your hair,” she said, “you’re seen as not practicing appropriate grooming practices.”
If this sounds like a mountain/molehill situation to you, let’s recap. Malia Obama was labeled “ghetto” and unfit to represent the US by the right wing American press when she wore a natural twisted style on a state visit to Rome in 2009.
Even teenage gymnast Gabby Douglas was served a dose of hair hate for her straightened locks and ponytail of extensions alongside side her gold medals at London 2012. Earlier this year, the US army banned cornrows, dreadlocks and twists in favour of “neat”, (read: straightened) styles.
Un-Bey-Lievable: Ridiculous things Beyonce has done
Un-Bey-Lievable: Ridiculous things Beyonce has done
1/15 Beyoncé admits lipsynching at Barack Obama's inauguration
The 'Crazy In Love' singer performed US national anthem 'The Star Spangled Banner' at the president's Inauguration Day in January 2013, but lipsynched to a pre-recorded track. She blamed the decision on her being a 'perfectionist' and wanting Obama's day to be memorable. 'Due to no proper sound check I did not feel comfortable taking a risk,' she told a press conference.
2/15 Beyoncé attacked by PETA for Super Bowl outfit
In February 2013, Beyoncé was publically attacked by animal rights organisation PETA for wearing a Rubin Singer-designed leotard made of 'python, iguana and cow' for her Super Bowl Half Time performance with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child.
3/15 Beyoncé makes people cringe in sickly sweet documentary
It's the sickly-sweet Bey-and-Z love-in that was her Life is But a Dream documentary. Released in February 2013, just after Valentine's Day, the autobiographical TV film was directed and produced by the singer herself. Her marriage to Jay Z, her miscarriage, the birth of Blue Ivy (not literally)...it's all here.
4/15 Beyoncé breaks US trade embargo and visits Cuba
The pop star sparked a small furore in April 2013 when she holidayed in Communist island Cuba with Jay Z to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. A long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling their without a government license. It is unknown whether they had obtained a license or not.
5/15 Feminist icon Beyoncé refuses to say she is a feminist
Leading women's magazine Vogue asked the pop star whether she considers herself a feminist in April 2013. Her non-committal response? 'That word can be very extreme but I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality but why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? I'm happily married. I love my husband.' Because you can't be a feminist and love your partner too Bey?
6/15 'Independent Woman' Beyoncé names her world tour after her husband
She is hailed as a feminist icon around the world for tracks such as 'Independent Women', 'Survivor' and 'Run The World (Girls)'. But Beyoncé chose to name her 2013/14 world tour after her husband, Shawn 'Jay Z' Carter instead. She values her marriage - great - but what message does this send to young women who look up to her as a symbol of self-empowerment?
7/15 Beyoncé bans photographers from world tour
After the press published 'unflattering' snaps of the singer during her Super Bowl peformance in February, her publicist was brought in to put an end to such disrespectful behaviour. To prevent a repeat, no photo credentials were granted for her Mrs Carter Show World Tour and instead, Beyoncé's own photographer Frank Micelotta was hired to capture her best angles.
8/15 Beyoncé banned from Pyramids by 'Egypt's Indiana Jones'
Controversial archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass was upset when Beyoncé arrived late to his tour of the Pyramids, booked when visiting Egypt. Hawass banished the 'rude' star from the ancient site, claiming she never apologised for being impolite. 'I said Beyoncé was stupid and I left,' he said.
9/15 Beyoncé goes vegan with rapper husband Jay Z
In December 2013, the high profile couple decided to take part in the 22 Days Challenge, which aims to change people’s dietary and exercise habits by encouraging them to omit all animal-based products from their diets.
10/15 Beyoncé dines in a vegan restaurant decked out in fox fur
Newly vegan Beyoncé no doubt ruffled a few feathers when she wore a fox fur coat to a meat-free organic restaurant. The singer was spotted in the £2,915 Christopher Kane parka with a real fur collar as she accompanied husband Jay Z to a vegan meal at Native Foods in Los Angeles before Christmas 2013.
11/15 Beyoncé guerilla releases album
Comprising14 original tracks (including a collaboration with her daughter Blue Ivy, husband Jay Z and Frank Ocean) and 17 videos, Beyoncé randomly released her self-titled fifth studio album on iTunes as a mid-December Christmas surprise in 2013.
12/15 Beyoncé shops for her new album in Walmart
Not only did Beyoncé play the politician’s game at the US store (yes, she did stop to kiss a baby’s forehead on the way round), but she played Santa as well, showering shoppers with 750 gift cards worth $50 each. Presumably so they could spend them on her new album. Or a bottle of her perfume. Or something.
13/15 Beyoncé is 2013's most searched for celebrity on the internet
Beyoncé Knowles beat the headline-grabbing competition to be named the world’s highest ranking human being of 2013 according to Bing, leaving the rest of celebdom trailing in her warbling wake. Controversial pop star Miley Cyrus only manged number 9 on E! Online's list.
14/15 Beyoncé samples space shuttle disaster in pop song
The singer's decision to use a six-second audio clip from the 1986 Challenger catastrophe in which seven astronauts lost their lives was deemed 'inappropriate in the extreme' by NASA representatives at the end of 2013. Words breaking news of a 'major malfunction' open her song 'XO' from fifth album Beyoncé.
15/15 Beyoncé poses in the middle of Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' replica
Closing 2013 in distinctly dubious style, the singer posted a series of pictures on her Instagram account showing her plonked in front of the Italian artist's masterpiece. She is pictured posing in a bright green skirt and pink bustier in the middle of the painting, right in front of Jesus.
Flying in their face has been the natural hair “movement” which has been gathering pace over the past decade. Thousands of women began “transitioning” - growing out their relaxed ends, or, like Blue’s aunty Solange, chopping them off and re-growing their hair from a “Teeie-Weenie Afro” and declaring themselves “happy to be nappy”.
Many Brits have joined #TeamNatural, but either side of the pond, the language is of practical care and empowerment. In avoiding definitions of race and representation, their uniting message “My hair is just hair” is all the more revolutionary for its apolitical stance.
As Solange herself put it, by growing out her afro, “I never painted myself as a team natural vice-president.” Against this backdrop, such slapdash negativity about a child's hair feels all the more cheap and nasty.
I hope that, in the decade of so from now when Blue is old enough to choose to do whatever she wants with her hair, the petitioning public will have grown up a little. Women have the right to do whatever they want with their hair, especially if this means doing nothing.
I'm sure Blue Ivy's self esteem is “Roc” solid already (sorry) – but not every girl's got Queen Bey’s backing. As many of the legitimate petitions on Change.org attest to, women have enough to deal with already.
And yet, someone's taken to the platform to criticise the appearance of a three-year-old's hair. It’s a move so pathetic that perhaps we should, in the words of one commenter, “Petition for a life for Jasmine Toliver”.Reuse content