To my beautiful Afro-American sisters, the verdict is in, and the bonnet is out. We love a good silk or satin bonnet to protect our afro-textured hair from the worst: split ends, breakage, dryness, tangles,single strand knots etc. Our satin scarves help us to preserve our two day hairstyles for up to an entire week. Our Bonnets keep lint out of our hair as well as our hair pieces for those of us who like a little extra. I believe we should expand that Philadelphia doo-rag festival to include bonnets and scarves for all they do for us. So many times we are taught that it is a level of true confidence to be able to leave the house in our bonnets, robes, and rollers, because it displays that we aren’t living for outside validation. Kudos to you if you can, like I can, run errands looking any kind of way without feeling any less beautiful as a result. However, in the vein of leveling up, I have to say: cut it out.
I and so many other school children would be embarrassed by our beautiful mothers coming up to the school with their bonnets and house clothes on to turn in permission slips and last minute monies to fund them. We knew our mothers were plenty beautiful, but a fist fight that leads to suspension was easy to get into when kids made their mean jokes. “That’s why yo’ mama looks like the Wayans sister when she plays Miss Jenkins on In-living Color – but I ain’t one to gossip so you ain’t heard that from me, noooo you haven’t!” Brutal.
Leaving the home in your satin scarf or bonnet is a poor representation of the people you love and are associated with. If your children can be embarrassed, what about the man you are with? He wouldn’t want his people to come across you that way after spending months bragging on your beauty. It is a social faux-paux no matter how much we seek to normalize this behavior. We must leave our bonnets at home because they signal unkempt, low worth.
I’ve seen so many sisters at the airport sporting bonnets. They are wearing them for good reasons: to protect their hair on flights to those they actually want to impress. As a minority group however, that ghetto look is a representation of all of us and hurts our image as a group of women worth vying for. It sends a subconscious message to men that says this woman is less valuable than the one who is all gussied up and proper looking. Embellishing your looks is part and parcel of femininity. One goes hand in hand with the other. Dressing down is an obvious and effective deterrent to every man but a dusty man.
Speaking of dressing down as a deterrent. I must admit that Afro-American women who grow up in inner cities especially, have plenty of reasons to dress down as a deterrent to sexual male attention. Getting hit on by a man only to get jumped by him and his aggressive friends after you politely decline is a “pretty punishment” whereby women are treated terribly for being beautiful. I do understand why and how we have evolved this way. Sagging my pants in middle school was better than having my behind smacked by some teen on a bus or worse an adult, due to these degenerates discovering my curves in a fitted dress. We are a group of women known to dress down in religious circles as well, for fear of sexual attention.