Early in September, Ithaca College senior Mirelle Tinker launched the website Our Hairstory, which focuses on how hair influences the self images of people belonging to marginalized groups.
Tinker explains on the website that she wanted to call attention to how hair has influenced different groups and identities. Ultimately, the website sets out to prove that hair and the intricacies that come with it resonate deeply with many different people.
The site is making a political statement concerning those who do not fit into mainstream society. Hair, especially the hair of women of color, has a long history of being policed and condemned by white society. Many women of color feel pressure to succumb to Western, white beauty standards by straightening, perming or using other treatments on their hair to separate it from its natural style. In recent years, there have been movements to further celebrate natural hair, but those have been met with some opposition. The policing of hair also reaches the LGBTQ community due to hair historically being dictated by socialized gender norms, which members of the LGBTQ community are trying to contradict.
Ultimately, this website serves as a new way to challenge racist, heteronormative and cisgender ideals. There is strength in numbers, and by creating an outlet for people to publish and share their different experiences with their hair, the site is further promoting these experiences and normalizing them. By encouraging users to share stories about their hair, an intimate but bold experience is created.
By sharing these stories, the website is taking something often viewed as trivial and portraying it in a light that shows its true significance. By discussing their hair, the contributors to the website are not simply addressing it in the context of fashion and vanity but rather sharing with their audience how their hair is a facet of their identities. Many of the stories include the journeys that contributors have gone on to accept their hair and, by extension, themselves. Self love is viewed as a powerful force on the site and as something to be sought after, empowering both its contributors and its audience.
It is important to have a medium to celebrate these different facets of people’s identities created by members of our campus community. Because Our Hairstory is a website created by one of our own students, members of the college community are encouraged to contribute to the site and to celebrate their identities themselves. The website works with the environment of inclusivity the college has been trying to create and is a step in the right direction by creating another space for intersectional, overlapping or collaborative identities.
Tinker should be commended for consciously creating a site where people can celebrate something that has a daily impact on their lives. This website is intimate, innovative and compelling, and it is sure to spark positive conversations on our campus.