Raising Willow

Nov 23, 2012 @ 1:51 pm | By TheFeministGriote | 8 Comments

The policing of Black women’s sexuality, lives, hair, politics, and humanity is a national pastime. As Black women, some of us struggle with self love and acceptance within ourselves, and we often project our dis-ease with ourselves onto others who look like us. Like Audre Lorde said, in her essay “Eye to Eye,” “We do not love ourselves, therefore we cannot love each other.”  With that said, there are some women who often reserve their most cruel and harshest of comments for those women who dare to be different, and love themselves fiercely. For e.g. the amount of scathing criticism that Jada Pinkett-Smith gets in regards to how she raises her daughter Willow (one would think that Jada was caught doing lines of coke with her daughter).

Virtually everyone has an opinion with the way Jada allow’s Willow to express her individuality especially as it pertains to Willlow’s hair. Recently, Jada took to her Facebook page to pen an open letter:

This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete. 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. More to come. Another day.

Every time Willow does something to her hair the Black blogosphere goes crazy.  One of the biggest reasons, I think some Black people have an issue with the Smith’s form of parenting is because this form of parenting doesn’t fit the “normal” Black parenting model. Too many of us either believe that we are either raised by The Huxtables, The Evans, or a crazy Madea. I call attention to these two tv families not because of their class and socioeconomic status, but because these are the two parenting styles that many of us believe that all Black people interfaced with. The Evans were strict and didn’t run a democratic household. While the Huxtables appeared to be more democratic, and tended to rationalize with their kids more, but at the end of the day it was Claire or Cliff’s way. The Smith’s in my opinion are not adopting a new parenting model, it simply  may be new for many of us who are Black and Brown. Will and Jada don’t treat their children like objects that they posses or facsimiles of themselves. They see their roles as parents in relation to their kids in a more egalitarian fashion. Will and Jada approach their power as parents differently, their power that doesn’t seek to silence or oppress the power and individuality of their children.

I think the main reason why so many people criticize Jada and how she raises Willow is because many Black women are jealous, Willow has more power, autonomy, and  freedom over her domain at age 12, then many of us will ever know in our lifetime, and that scares some of us! 

Imagine, Willow may never have a tragic hair story. So many of my friends and I have a tragic stories attached to the first time we got our hair pressed, permed, or transitioned to being natural. So many of us missed out on life, and our health suffered trying to maintain, and preserve our straight follicles. I have been growing my hair out for a year now, and I have never felt so ugly, undesirable, and lost. It is a daily painful struggle to find my center within my hair journey. All of these feelings are being conjured up by the state of my hair!  I look in the mirror some days and say WTF!  Because as an adult woman, I have to unlearn the many subtle, and overt messages that I received over a lifetime about my hair. I also have to reshape my concept of beauty in relation to my hair. I would’ve killed to have been Willow’s age and learned the lesson that hair is not everything. Willow is learning lessons about her self-worth that I am trying to learn through the help of therapy, good friendships, reading, and journaling.

Willow as a little girl is learning that she is a force to be reckoned with in this world, and that her gender, and gender presentation will not serve as impediments. Jada who is now championing the cause against human sex trafficking, of which girls are disproportionately victims, understands that women need to own themselves fully, if not someone else will. Girls are being trafficked at an alarming rate and not just abroad, but also in our own backyards.  In the U.S. alone 80% of human sex trafficking victims are women and girls and 50% are minors. Jada is making the conscious choice to take her daughter along with her on her journey to help end human sex trafficking. In a world where little girls are raped, stolen, and sold as a commodity, hair isn’t all that important.  Sometimes I wonder, have some of us adult Black women forgotten what it’s like to be a little Black girl in a white heterosexual patriarchal society? Again to quote Lorde, “easier to crucify myself in you than to take on the threatening universe of whiteness…” Our Black bodies and Black psyches are always being assailed and violated. Healthy validation is often hard to come by in these streets riddled with harassment. Therefore, let us save our vitriol and condemnation for more important things like the perpetuation of rape culture or Donald Trump.

A 12 year-old Black girl who isn’t a slave to her tresses is not a problem that needs to be solved, neither is the warrior woman who is raising her daughter in a very deliberate and strategic manner. Truth is, we don’t care what Jaden does to his hair because he is male, and for many of us male means to be beyond reproach. Live above the influence good people.

pic from justjared.com

8 Responses to “ Raising Willow ”

  1. Phoenix Rising | November 23, 2012 2:36 pm

    Wow! This article is very well written and argued. Your points and your rationale are clear and concise. I haven’t been on your site in awhile and I can see that you have grown tremendously in your mental prowess. A force to be reckoned with prior, but I can see how your studies are expanding your critical thought processes and how it is manifesting in your writing. Very well done. Bravo.

  2. Phyllis Alsop | November 23, 2012 3:37 pm

    Totally agree. Enjoyed reading this article, finally someone has made a good argument about Black women hair and that Birther Guy (will not say his name).

  3. I’m so glad to have found something online that does not bash the Smiths in regards to the methods used to raise their kids; particularly Willow. I, too, was bought up with the notion that a womyn’s hair is her “crown and glory” therefore it should be maintained a certain way in order to best represent her femininity, value & beauty while forfeiting the inner self worth, femininity & beauty. Jada is merely breaking the chain of generations past by giving her daughter the foundation & tools to being a young girl who will 1 day become a womyn in control of her body, mind and spirit, no matter what others may think. It saddens me to see how many grown womyn find comfort in hurling insults at a child, a little girl, with high self esteem and who happens to know & understand herself at the age of 13 better than womyn who are 25 and up know and love themselves. I recall watching 106 & Park a few months back when Willow was debuting a new video for a song entitled ‘I Am Me’. The messages of self love, respect & unity were refreshing to hear and see but it blew me away to hear this little girl proclaim that she is going to be herself, hair or no hair and others should be true to themselves as well. I also knew her video would never be played on BET again. But ‘Pop That’, ‘Round of Applause’ and ‘Bag of Money’ continued to receive major exposure although the 106 & Park demographic is 12-18 year old Black kids.
    No, there is nothing wrong with Willow or the way Jada and Will raised her. It’s the insecurity and damaged spirit of others who didn’t receive those life lessons as early as the Smith children and THAT is the real issue.

  4. Great read!

  5. […] Pinkett Smith on Willow’s new hair, from the Feminist […]

  6. Super article really enjoyed it. What you said about black women being jealous of the freedom given to Willow really struck a chord with me, so very true. Thanks for this is was great to read an open, honest and insightful opinion.

  7. […] You may also enjoy reading:  Raising Willow […]

  8. pitbullgirl65 | April 14, 2013 9:38 pm

    I have always admired the Smiths: this just adds to it. They also helped Ceser Millan get started on t.v.

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