Forget The Cheating Rumours, “Becky With The Good Hair” Means Something Else

Photo: Matt Baron/BEI/BEI/Shutterstock.
There was a lot to take in when watching Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade Saturday night: the imagery, the lyrics, the symbolism, the beautiful nod to Black women and their often ignored place in society. But despite the numerous facets of the soon-to-be-iconic videos that we could've — and should've — focused on, most were overshadowed by something else. As MTV writer Rebecca Thomas pointed out, too many of us found ourselves caught up in one thing, and one thing only: Becky with the good hair. People StyleWatch came out with a story yesterday titled "7 Times Rachael Ray Actually Had Good Hair (Though She Is Not Becky)." This post showcased instances in which the celebrity chef had aforementioned "good hair" — sometimes blowdried, often styled, but always, more or less, straight. (For the record, Ray got pulled into this discussion thanks to her name and social handle being similar to Rachel Roy's.) As Thomas noted, the idea of "good hair" is so much more than the straight manes atop Rachel Roy, Rachael Ray, Rita Ora, or anyone else whose first name starts with an R. It's a damaging colloquial term that often refers to someone whose hair doesn't naturally kink or curl — hair that's, historically, been labeled as the opposite of aspirational.
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"The idea of good hair actually has its roots in slavery, when white owners would deliberately separate and assign slaves with light skin and straighter ‘good hair’ household work, leaving the punishing field work to those with darker skin and kinky African hair," Thomas explained in her post. This ideal continues to be perpetuated centuries later. Thomas goes on to note Spike Lee's School Daze musical number "Good and Bad Hair" and Chris Rock's Good Hair as recent instances when the topic was brought up in popular culture. With more and more women embracing their natural texture and proclaiming the fact that Black girls (and their hair) are, indeed, magic, these harmful messages are — hopefully, gradually — disappearing. But it's a deep-rooted issue for many Black women that's going to take some precious time untangling. She concludes: "So when Beyoncé tells her cheating man he 'better call Becky with the good hair,' sorry, she’s nodding to our historical baggage and signifying far more than just a girl with a bouncy blowout."

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