Chapter 4: Social Constructions of Black Women’s Hair: Critical Reflections of a Graying Sistah

This chapter explores social constructions of black women’s hair, based in part on the author’s experiences with gray hair. The essay begins with a brief overview of the theoretical framework (social constructionism) of the analysis. Next, it discusses four basic tenets of social constructionism, which assert that scholars should challenge taken for granted knowledge; consider the role of cultural and historical contexts in construction processes; understand that social processes sustain knowledge; and, recognize that social actions and knowledge are interconnected. The final section of the chapter provides a narrative of the author’s personal hairstory as she struggled with whether or not to dye her gray hair, and the aftermath of her decision. The chapter illuminates some of the complexities of social construction processes, including hegemonic practices of compliance and resistance. The chapter also highlights the significance of intersections of identity (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, and age) to social construction processes.