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The University of Pittsburgh's Daily Student Newspaper

The Pitt News

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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Opinion | It’s never just a bad hair day

Opinion+%7C+It%E2%80%99s+never+just+a+bad+hair+day
Fikayomi Olagbami | Senior Staff Illustrator

I recently got a hairstyle that made me ponder the entire experience of having natural hair while living in a dorm at college. Before entering college, I assumed I would always have braids or some kind of protective style in my hair. The thought of hair maintenance was not at the top of my priorities until I had to take my braids out and face the real struggle of having natural hair whilst living in a dorm. 

Black women, like myself, often feel our beauty through our extremely versatile hair and the possibilities it holds. Our hair is connected to our identity, family and community. We can get braids, twists and locks. We can straighten it, cornrow it and wear a multitude of wigs and weaves. We do these styles because they empower us to reject the unattainable white beauty standard society has engraved in women of color. But we also do these styles because natural hair is insanely hard to manage, especially as a busy college student in dorm life. 

Black women spend on average $100 to $2,000 on hair-care annually — this is dependent on curl type, income and preferred styles. Not to mention, the natural ingredients, such as different oils and African butter, make Black hair care products increasingly more expensive, causing us to spend nine times more on products than the average consumer. To add to these expenses is the fact that finding a product that works with our specific hair textures is a costly trial-and-error process, with the products that often work best costing the most. 

Let’s add being a college student into the mix of all of these expenses. Since high school, I have often defaulted to protective styles — not only because I feel most confident in them, but because the time it takes me to wash, detangle and style my natural hair is time that I prefer to utilize doing school work and having a social life. Living in a dorm only heightened these feelings. 

Pitt first-year Mela Brown asserts that wash days take an extremely long time and energy that she doesn’t have at the end of a busy day. 

“No one has the money or time to go sit in a chair for eight hours and spend $300 to get braids or a protective style,” Brown said. 

She argues that it is sad that a majority of Black women on campus feel the need to get protective styles because their hair is starting to feel like a “burden.” Furthermore, she shared that she even considered locking her hair — not because she wanted locks, but because she “didn’t want to have to deal with doing [her] hair in communal bathrooms.”

Locks are an African hairstyle in which the hair is separated into small sections and coiled, braided, twisted or palm-rolled to create a rope-like appearance. Many people keep these locks in and grow them out, with touch-ups every couple of months. Having locks decreases the usual maintenance that comes with natural hair and is growing in popularity due to that. 

Brown is not alone in these feelings. Loyola University Chicago student Siara Abreu stated she was worried about the time her hair maintenance would take up in college and still straightens it, often for convenience. 

“I had to warn all of my suitemates before hair wash day that I needed at least two hours to get my hair washed and styled,” Abreu said.

When I finally found a braider to do my hair on campus, I was so relieved I wouldn’t have to deal with wash day in the communal bathroom or styling it at my dorm desk. However, when my passion twists turned out the opposite of how I wanted, not only was my confidence at a low, but the $200 I spent on it was gone as well. While this was a style I could easily remove, that removal also meant the money was wasted and I would have to go back to natural hair upkeep. While in college, this is something many Black women and I dread beyond belief. It is also important to note that the hairstyle I often feel most confident and comfortable in didn’t work out, and as a Black woman, that feeling consumes you and depletes your self-esteem. 

The amount of pressure put on natural hair is hugely unrealistic. In fact, employers are 2.5 times more likely to perceive Black women’s hair as unprofessional. Black women in professional settings often notice that their hair can dictate how seriously they are taken, whether it be in an interview, an internship or in the workplace. It is common for Black women to have a silk press at work so they are deemed “more professional.”

Upon deciding if I should remove my twists or not, I had to ensure I didn’t have any responsibilities coming up in which how my hair looked would translate to how my character as a whole was perceived. 

Pitt first-year Adderah Danner notes, “Since coming to college as a Black person at a PWI, I feel [as if] to keep a certain image, and old braids don’t fit into it … It’s exhausting always having to look put together because if you don’t, you pose the risk of being perceived as a stereotype.” 

This “bad hair day” was, in fact, not a day. It was weeks of sitting in a dilemma circling around a part of my identity as a Black woman — my hair. The white beauty standards and college life make it hard for Black women with natural hair to feel the beauty that their hair offers. It often converts an aspect of our identity into a burden, and that burden cannot be fixed in one day with one brush. 

Grace Harris has a passion for social justice and advocacy. Her email is always open to more ideas— [email protected]

About the Contributor
Grace Harris
Grace Harris, Staff Columnist
Grace Harris is a freshman political science major from the suburbs of Chicago, IL. You will most likely find her doing copious amounts of reading in Cathy or fangirling over Taylor Swift. She has a passion for social justice and advocacy. Her email is always open to more ideas—