What Britney and Beyonce have in Common

By Malena Amusa Feb 23, 2007

The world stops when a white woman goes bald. Britney Spears’ big hair cut last week, shortly after checking into a rehabilitation center, was proof. Since, the pop singer and her royal baldness have enjoyed more than a week of massive news coverage. That’s just about as many news days Beyonce has gotten for her recent Sports Illustrated debut which made her only one of two black women in history to solo-cover-shoot the magazine that has long set the tone for who’s sexy and who’s, well–better suited for snatching green balls bouncing across tennis courts. Between these two mega stars, one can clearly see that hair plays a bigger role in our culture than we’re ready to give credit to. But I’d argue that Britney’s real news story was not her hair while Beyonce’s news story should have been. The main crux of my argument lies in our social construction of femininity and its subsequent shortage of freedom of hair expression that exists for the spectrum of women along the color line. When Britney, made famous for huffing and puffing over a mike sheds her locks, she becomes a paragon of mental problems? Her latest behavior, running around town banging on cars, is more indicative. When Beyonce swirls her booty with the same might she does her long locks of fake, blond weaved-hair, she becomes a statue of beauty. Both the taboo and the norm are very narrow parameters for women to work within. Further, Spears’ hair scandal says a lot about expectations of femininity for white woman, and indirectly, that those expectations are not held for black women. Today, it’s much more acceptable for a black woman to sport shorter hair—because its tandem to our expectation that she is also strong and prone to militant outbursts. But at the same time, it’s only when black women wear European hair weaves that they are able to become pop culture news stories, sit on Oprah’s couch, and appear on the Red Carpet. For black women, weaves are touted as our solution to our problem of un-femininity, for white women, their baldness is seen as an indicator of their personal problems. Ultimately, a woman remains tied to her hair that binds her identity to her sexuality; and if she strays too far, she’s treated like an abomination of femininity, an embarrassment to her people. Together, Britney and Beyonce show this. And also that to the extent a woman can achieve long, luscious European hair—is also the extent we view her as rational, sexable, and ultimately, female. Recently, I conducted a hair experiment where I transformed my afro to a long and straight weave to see how it would change my perception of self. You can read the full conclusion of that trial here. I consider it the contextual bridge that connects me to the stars…