September 11 2020
Don’t Touch My Hair! This has been said before, and it is being again until it finally Clicks. Black women’s hair serves as a crown for their identity and it is incredibly frustrating that this notion has constantly been challenged throughout the years. One truly hopes that at some point the world can move past the point where people can recognise that black hair is not a mere object which should be scrutinised by anyone. If it isn’t already clear, this piece has been galvanised by the fact that Clicks, along with Tresemme, have turned its back on black women who have supported the stores and products for years.
You may be asking yourself, what is a branding and marketing agency in Johannesburg doing writing about a racist campaign from Tresemme and Clicks pharmacy? The answer is simple, this particular advert not only affected the people who make the heart and soul of MIN Creative Co (and thus the matter at hand is close to our hearts), but it speaks to a bigger issue, which is the lack of opportunity and inclusivity granted to young black people and companies within the marketing and creative industry. What Clicks and Tresemme have shown us is their lack of diversity and inclusion at their head office and agency level, which is ironic due to the demographic makeup of South Africa.
In 2016, Solange Knowles released the groundbreaking hit ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ which has resonated with most, if not all black women. This song has given black women something to hold onto and is a representation that black hair goes far beyond its physical beauty. It is a metaphor for the bodily autonomy and a depiction that black women should not live their lives in a manner that compromises itself just for the sake of the comfort of others.. In the very same year Mail & Guardian reported that black girls at Pretoria Girls’ High School protested against the school’s racist code of conduct which dictated the way in which their hair should be presented. Young girls were told to relax their hair or tie their dreadlocks a certain type of way in order to ascribe to the school’s perception of ‘neatness’. This notion is incredibly detrimental to the self-esteem of little black girls who then have to grow up believing that the hair growing on their heads is unacceptable.
It has over the years become exhausting to have to be the voice of reason while you are simultaneously invariably on the receiving end of racist workplaces and industry. Don’t touch my hair! This is what the creatives down at Clicks, Tresemme, and Unilever should have understood. The lack of diversity and inclusivity show when one asks ‘but surely there was one black girl who could have told them that this was never going to pass?’ You then realise that the tales of being ignored and shut down, that are told by young black women within the creative space and within big agencies and corporations are now more evident than ever.
The American comedian Paul Mooney once said “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they are not happy” and one could not have said it better. A simple Google search saying “unprofessional hair”, gives a shocking amount of black women rocking their perfectly coiled and healthy hair. Systemic racism is all that this is and all black people want to do is to reclaim their black autonomy and not be perceived as an exhibit to their white counterparts.
One thing about black women’s hair is that it is versatile and we will always come through with innovative styles and methods to maintain it. From braids, to cornrows, dreadlocks, relaxed hair, bald, weaves/extensions to donning a headwrap, India Arie’s ‘I Am Not My Hair’ sums it all up. Over and above that, hair textures are so different, even on the same head! One can wear one’s hair however they want to. There is certainly no space in today’s world for anyone to tell any black woman how to wear her hair, whether she chooses an afro, weave, locks, or wig amongst others.
The inclusivity, empowerment and acknowledgement of black women in the creative industry is central to the advancement of it, due to the mere buying power that black female consumers have. There is no one who will know how to talk to the black women better than the black woman. We as an organization boldy shame Unilever, Tresemme and Clicks for their racist ads. We shame them for their lack of inclusivity and engagement with black women on this particular campaign, and we call for the creative industry to boldly pursue a more inclusive and equitable playing field that recognises black women as equals within the industry.
Last but definitely not least, Don’t Touch My Hair,even if you ask nicely.
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