A new study from anti-bias consortium Perception Institute confirms what many Black women already know: many Americans are not fans of kinky, coily hair.
“The ‘Good Hair’ Study: Explicit and Implicit Attitudes Toward Black Women’s Hair” tapped 4,163 women and men—including 688 women who identified themselves as “naturalistas” and participate in the digital natural hair community—to explore how bias colors Americans’ view women of color who wear their hair in its natural state. Researchers sought to measure both explicit bias (directly expressed feelings) and implicit bias (the things someone might not even know they feel) as it relates to natural hair.
When it came to explicit bias, the study, which was released yesterday (January 31), observed some key differences between Black and White women:
- Black women who consider themselves to be naturalistas feel more positively about natural hair than all other women surveyed, including other Black women.
- Black women still feel that there is a social stigma associated with more textured hair.
- Millennial naturalistas adore natural hair more than all the other women in the sample.
- White women expressed explicit bias against Black women’s hair, rating it less beautiful, less attractive and less professional than “smooth” hair.
The survey also identified how natural hair impacts the lives of Black women:
- Black women have much more anxiety surrounding their hair than White women.
- A third of Black women skip exercise for fear of ruining their hair.
- About 20 percent of Black women feel pressured to straighten their hair for work, versus about 10 percent of their White counterparts.
- Black women spend more time and money on their hair than White women.
To expose implicit bias in men and women, researchers administered the Hair Implicit Association Test, a digital tool that asks questions and tracks response time to uncover unspoken feelings toward Black women’s hair. The results revealed that most of the participants—of all races—felt negatively toward kinky hair. Meanwhile, White women who consider themselves to be naturalistas were three times more likely to come across as neutral toward Black hair, though they mostly still preferred smooth textured hair.
“Many black women will feel affirmed by the Good Hair Study—it is what they have always known and experienced: wearing natural hairstyles has deep political and social implications,” Alexis McGill Johnson, co-founder and executive director of Perception Institute, said in an emailed statement. “Our hope is that those who create the images we see in our daily lives will consider how bias against natural hair can undermine the ability for black women to be their full selves and affect their professional trajectory, social life and self-esteem.”
Take the ten-minute implicit bias test yourself here.