Seems like every day, somebody somewhere is saying something rude, insensitive, and untrue about Black hair. This week's offender is Ouidad, a hair product company that prides itself on educating people about their curls so much that it publicly calls itself "the curl experts." Based on their target audience, you'd think they'd realize that a huge portion of their customer base is comprised of women of colour, but I guess they weren't thinking about that when they updated their website this week. On one of their webpages, Ouidad added a feature of four models with varying hair types: normal/healthy, frizzy, brittle or broken, and colour-treated. Seems fine... until you look at the models. (Images courtesy of @oSoBRANDnew and @MadBlackStudent on Twitter)
That's right, you don't need to adjust your screen. The only model with desirably "normal and healthy" hair is white, while the rest are visibly women of colour. Needless to say Twitter has descended on Ouidad, and whoever manages their social media is now dealing with a barrage of Tweets like these.
Hands down the best response came from badass activist Crissle from the infinitely hilarious podcast, The Read. In this week's episode she obliterated Ouidad, rightly stating that their actions were "at the very kindest... culturally insensitive, but what it looks like is stone-cold fucking racism." She and her co-host, the loveably goofy Kid Fury, go on to point out the futility of comparing such vastly different hair types. Doing so, in their opinion, proves that Ouidad clearly doesn't understand what healthy kinky/coily hair is supposed to look like. In fact, the three coloured women's hair actually looks healthier than the blondes!
Regardless of hair health, the main issue is the blatant racism behind using a white woman as the standard of beauty. They are implying that coily kinks are inherently abnormal and unhealthy, and that those of us cursed with such unruly, unfortunate hair should strive to a more European aesthetic. In a pathetic attempt to apologize Ouidad tweeted, "This discussion is important to us; we are completely sensitive to your concerns. Ouidad has been a champion of ALL curls for over 30 yrs and strives to empower curly individuals to love and care for their curly hair. The brand focuses on providing the best service & products for every curl type & dedicated to servicing our customers in a respectful manner." Does this remind you of the ignorance behind #AllLivesMatter? Crissle sure noticed the parallels and slammed Ouidad for not actually addressing their discriminatory mistake of portraying kinky coils as inferior. In their generalized, cookie-cutter, weak-sauce string of robotic tweets, Ouidad completely missed the boat and left everyone even more upset.
What depresses me most about this whole debacle is that Ouidad is supposed to be on our side! It's hard to find products tailored to our needs, whether we're shopping for hair products or skin products or anything else. When companies promise to have our backs by catering directly to our needs, it's validating. It means we matter, that our voices are heard. Ouidad has irreparably disappointed our community, and they don't really seem to care.
It's very likely Ouidad will have taken down the webpage by the time you read this post. They recently tweeted, "It has come to our attention that there are some visuals &language misplaced on the site that require concern &are being updated immediately," demonstrating once again that they don't know the extent to which they've offended us. Such ambiguous messaging indicates our insignificance to them. They probably feel like the situation has been handled. Meanwhile, we'll keep waiting for a sincere apology.
Would you boycott Ouidad products in light of recent events? Share your thoughts in a comment below!
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