My purpose of writing this is simple. I hope to spark dialogue and offer an alternate perspective. I understand what I am about to say, may possibly come off as insensitive. But I pride myself on being upfront with what I think and how I feel. At the least, you know I am willing to express myself no matter the consequence. I’m not concerned with offending anyone, because I’m not speaking from a place of malice. I simply wish to provide context to an argument that honestly started on another platform. I posed the question. Who better to critique women of color, then men of color? The question I thought, was innocent enough. I further added, who better to know when women of color are overreacting to a situation, then men of color? I was met with extreme resistance. I was reminded that my views and opinions were not warranted. I was also reminded, that I was unqualified to speak on any issue concerning the black woman. I was also given a history lesson on the oppression received by black women throughout history. But despite the unwelcoming rhetoric. I still remained grounded in my position .
I personally believe, there is no one better to critique the Black man, then the Black women. It’s a natural critique, one rooted in a mutual need for us both to improve. I accept it and I personally feel it’s often warranted. Whether the issue that’s being critiqued, affects Black women, is irrelevant. I personally feel our women are always qualified to speak on issues involving us. Many of them who raised or are raising young black boys themselves. Let’s get to the topic at hand. Shea Mositure, is a hair product company that has recently come under fire. This is because they produced a commercial marketing their products to women, other than the African-American women who buy their products. The commercial (Shea Moisture ) is short in length and features a mixed Black women and two white women. The argument is that Shea Moisture didn’t give the black women, who have championed their product, an opportunity to share why there product works for them. All 3 models in the video have fine hair. This is the opposite of the women who purchase their product. Naturally, the women who’ve been purchasing their product were outraged. You can take our dollars, but we can’t be represented right in your commercials. Adding insult to injury, Shea Moisture is reportedly changing their product to reach a broader market. This change in product alienates the very people who made the brand successful. Shea Mositure changed the brand and then created a commercial to highlight that change. The commercial was border line cultural appropriation. Except, Black women don’t own a monopoly on hair hate. I agree, the commercial is a bit insensitive and I could see how it’s a perceived attack on the Black woman. Especially, as it pertains to Black women and their hair.
I won’t get into the psychology of Black women and hair (I’m not well versed anyway). What I will say is that there aren’t many products out there, that work well with Black women’s hair. Hence, the outrage over Shea Mositure. I sympathize as much as a male can, with this inconvenience and in your face biasness. However, Shea Mositure has a duty to its minority stakeholders. Who bought a minority stake in Shea Moisture’s parent company Sundail Brands LLC. In fact Bain Capital, the company who purchased the miniority stake is quoted at the time of the purchase saying “Sundial’s sales have been largely in the U.S. and the products are predominantly purchased by African-Americans. Bain’s investment is aimed at boosting growth by targeting a broader market that isn’t defined by ethnicity” (Shea Moisture Minority Stakeholder). If they feel as a business alienating their base, in search of a broader base, is a sound economic practice, then so be it. Intent is very important here. I belive Shea Mositure is ungrateful and socially ignorant. For a product that is hugely supported by women of color. I was surprised Shea Mositure took this risk. They are either unaware or feel the risk is worth the potential reward. Does this make them bias? I think they are tied between being socially responsible and their fiduciary duties to stakeholders. I think the stakeholders are just as socially ignorant as Pepsi or any other brand that markets to people of color. The difference being Shea Moisture being a predominantly black company. Minus of course the recent minority stakeholders. These companies will gladly take our money. But working to understand us or standing by us on our issues. They clearly want no part of.
The issue I have with the outrage, is at some point it becomes distractive. Pepsi, and Shea Moisture are small issues in the grand scheme of things. The Black Feminist movement is one of pride and solidarity. They are strong and their voices are heard. So much so, that Pepsi and Shea Moisture instantly issued apologies. Vowing to do better to understand the issues of people of color. But does any of this get us closer to the overall goal? Should there be this call to arms over every issue? I made a claim that black women are overreacting a bit to the Shea Moisture commercial. I was scolded and reminded that if I was not on the side of the Black woman, I surely was against it. The idea of any dissenting voice automatically being labeled a misogynist, is harmful and dangerous. The notion that being a Black Women places you in this protective class. Where you aren’t able to be critiqued is counter to the feminist ideals. Ideals that principally want equality of the sexes. When some black women are critiqued, they invoke their black female privilege. The privilege which basically says because of the oppression you received and continue to receive. You are unable to be critiqued. When they are criticized, instantly the person offering the critique is relegated to being a mysognist, a sexist or ignorant. This privilege plays into the fear people have of offending Black women. Black Women are sensitive and rightfully so. But this doesn’t mean that as a Black Man who stands side by side with Black woman on many issues. I can’t at some point disagree with a particular issue. Black Men aren’t monolithic and we certainly don’t all agree on the issues affecting Black women. But just as we willingly accept critique, the same should be offered in return. I shouldn’t be considered a misogynist because I don’t agree with your particular fight. I am not ignorant because I don’t agree either. Some would argue, it isn’t for me to agree or disagree with. Shea Mositure changing their products doesn’t affect me. I would argue, neither does many of the issues black women speak on concerning Black men. But their voices are heard.
A business decided to change their product. Excluding the consumers who supported their brand. Its unfortunate, insensitive and unfair. But expanding to a bigger market is typically seen as a smart business practice. Where Shea Mositure went wrong, is they completely alienated a group of women. Who’ve been alienated enough. That being said, just because I buy the product doesn’t mean I have a say in the direction the brand goes. I can understand being upset, but the extreme outrage is a bit much. Black women as a collective don’t own Shea Moisture. No matter how much they’ve bought the product. There is no equity in buying a product. It’s bought for the intended use. Your reward is the satisfaction you have with how your hair looks. This sense of entitlement is confusing to me. I understand the personal connection Black women have with their hair. But I can also remain objective. It’s certainly an inconvenience and certainly upsetting. The lesson learned here is that things change, people change, products change. Everything in this country can easily be boiled down to an issue of race. But that doesn’t mean that it should be. Shea Moisture alienated, an already sensitive group, on an extremely historically sensitive subject; Black Hair. This was a recipe for disaster, as Shea Mostuire found out. But I wouldn’t say they were wrong. It’s a business, they made a business decision. The instant outrage has to stop. There are extremely important issues in front of us. I won’t dismiss this issue entirely. This issue is a small example of a bigger issue we already face; the misrepresentation of black people in this country. Jumping at every example of it. Will not help us solve the problem. Lastly, I feel any man who has taken time to understand the struggle of Black women. Is also qualified to offer a dissenting voice. We all could use correction or accept a different perspective. Especially, if it’s from someone who more than likely has your best interest at heart. Black men wish to be apart of whatever movement Black women find themselves in. But we won’t be voiceless contributors. We wish for the same seat at the table, that we’ve afforded Black women.