Guest Post: Jada Pinkett-Smith Defends Willow's Right To Her Own Hair
While I'm still in recovery mode from my personal backaggedon, Heather Greenwood-Davis has stepped in to cover Jada's "controversial" remarks about her daughter Willow's hair. You may know Heather as The Globetrotting Mama, who travelled the world with her two kids and husband last year. They recently won National Geographic's Travelers of the Year, which is a huge honour.
Guest Post: Whip It Good
Jada Pinkett Smith, wife of Will and mother to Jaden and Willow, had the Internet talking last week when she posted “controversial” remarks on her Facebook page. What was the earth-shattering news that sent more than 40,000 people to her page and almost 3,000 to share her remarks? She told the world that her daughter Willow, 12, is in charge of her own hair.
Yup. Whether she’s whipping it back and forth in music-making history or shaving it all off, Willow decides what she’ll do with her own locks.
And to some, judging from the comments, that idea is outrageous.
Jada justifies the decision (or lack of decision, I suppose) on her Facebook page:
The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.
Or, I would add, “little boys.”
I don’t have a daughter but I was one. I understand the angst that can come from wanting to grow up too fast. I wanted longer hair, shorter hair, straighter hair, and curlier hair. I get the pressure that all young women (and older women) face to change themselves to fit a societal standard.
Surprisingly, despite being the mother of two boys, I’m finding myself facing a similar issue with them. At 8 and 10, my boys suddenly have opinions (I swear I didn’t authorize this.) Alongside choosing what they want to wear, they’re making assertions about their bodies: What they like and, scarily, what they don’t. At this young age I’m already seeing how the outside world is reaching in and threatening to dictate the self-esteem of two boys who were quite happy being who they were without question only a few short months ago.
Two recent events have convinced me that we parents have no choice but to aggressively empower our children when it comes to control over their own bodies.
First came when we were travelling around the world, we were constantly (though with no clear mal-intent) pursued by camera-wielding locals in China. What started off as flattering, became a bit disconcerting a few days in and I began to see the children’s discomfort with the situation. We took the boys aside and stressed that they have the right to say “No” when someone is putting them in an uncomfortable situation and to enforce that right with force. Our guide taught them how to say it in Mandarin and we stressed that it wasn’t “rude” or disrespectful (in our eyes) to decide when and which people could capture their image. The result was a complete change in their demeanor. Confidence replaced fear.
Secondly, for most of their lives my kids have had one of two hairstyles. Shaved bald like their dad in true Michael Jordan fashion or enough of an afro to warrant a trip to the barber. I, selfishly, like when their hair is low. It looks “neat,” it’s easy to maintain. But it’s not my hair. And so recently when they banded together and declined a trip to the barber, I, too, faced a moment of recognizing that what I want for my children more than a neatly groomed head of hair that my generation finds acceptable, are children who have the self-confidence to express their desire and the courage to follow through. And if the price of that is a bigger ‘fro than I’d like, dreadlocks or purple highlights, I’m in full support.
Do you side with Jada? Or do you veto your child’s haircuts? Would you let them do a radical style?
For more of Heather's thoughts on family life, check out Globetrottingmama.com.
Want more chaos? Last year, I covered another hairy issue for kids: is 12 too young for bikini waxes?
Image credit: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images