The Outrage Over Beyonce’s Bettie Page Bangs: Why the Media Must Stop Objectifying Women

Queen B stepped out rocking a new ‘do. Cue feigned outrage. Why do we care so much about female celebrities' hair?

10.15.14 3:36 AM ET

Paparazzi photos of Mrs. Knowles-Carter sporting the Bettie Page look were released. I know this because a friend emailed me about it and deemed my response—“I guess that style kind of reminds me of an electronic awning at P.F. Chang’s that’s retracted only halfway. She looks cute, though. So you want to grab coffee in five?”—as substandard. The fact that I was neither outraged nor filled with jubilation was not only unacceptable, but also placed me in the minority. It seemed that nearly everyone else had lost their damn minds over the debut of ‘Yoncé’s new ‘do. Think I’m exaggerating? Think again.  

Within hours of the pictures ending up online, a plethora of articles were written. PopSugar wondered, “Did Blue Ivy Cut Beyoncé’s Baby Bangs?” in a snarky #SorryNotSorry tone. Bustle’s “Beyoncé Got Baby Bangs, But Not Everyone’s Totally Sold” worried about the “backlash” she might receive, which convinces me that discrimination of bangs instead of race is simultaneously the America that Martin Luther King. Jr. did and did not want. Meanwhile, USA Today was much more definitive: “The Internet Says No to Beyoncé’s New Bangs.” By “the Internet,” they meant the people within a seven-cubicle radius of the person who wrote that blog post. Why the fascination, dissection, and constant conversation anytime Beyoncé or any female celebrity changes her hair? And if it is a woman of color, as it is with Beyoncé and was with Olympic champion Gabrielle Douglas, the analysis is even more pointed. What is going on here? Can’t we all get over Queen B’s hair?

Or if we can’t, can the articles that pay so much attention to famous women’s hair, and in particularly black celebrities’ hair, shift focus on to more pressing hair matters? Something entitled “Keisha & ‘Nem Were Wearing Cornrows Long Before Kendall Jenner Was Born” would be great. Perhaps "How To Get Away With Murder Still F**king Up Viola Davis’s Wig Game” would be even better because even though television hair stylists are highly-paid, they continually mess up any hair that isn’t silky straight like the cascades in TLC’s “Waterfalls” video. Someone needs to call out HTGAWM’s hair department ASAP. In all seriousness, the hysteria surrounding famous women’s hair seems to have reached a fever pitch as every cut, dye, and trim is analyzed ad nauseum. Luckily, I’m not the only one who noticed.

During this past red carpet season, Buzzfeed conducted an experiment with Kevin Spacey, interviewing him in the manner that actresses like Kerry Washington and Jennifer Lawrence are on a regular basis:

Spacey may have jokingly asked if the interviewer was high, but there’s no missing the indignation that was all over his face. The fact that an entire interview was being conducted solely about his looks was ludicrous, yet this is the sort of thing that E!’s Giuliana Rancic or Ryan Seacrest subject actresses to all the time. Sure, the interviewee plays into it by responding to the shallow queries, but let’s be real. If Zoe Saldana pulled a Kevin Spacey and said, “It’s not a big deal,” when asked about her hair, she would instantly be painted as “difficult.”

Even if Saldana were to refuse to discuss her hair, there’s simply no denying that appearance plays an unfairly significant role in actress’s careers. Both Washington and Lupita Nyong’o have used the red carpet to their advantage to get them attention, which then lead to more auditions. Unfortunately, the attention to appearance also leads to copious amounts of vitriol being spewed at famous women every day. From countless blogs trashing Douglas, claiming that she misrepresented black women to the world by using hair gel to keep her ponytail in place, to New Hampshire Representative Steve Vaillancourt recently writing in a blog post that Democratic congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster will lose re-election because she’s “ugly as sin”, it all makes me go, “Well, frankly, why do people care about women’s hair and appearance this much?”

The best reason I can come up with is that, on a certain level, famous women’s appearances are not their own. Rather they belong to the public, who has deemed that her level of chicness and having the perfect hair should rank above being a good citizen, an interesting person, a loving daughter, friend, family member, etc.; otherwise, she is not doing her job, both professionally, and as a woman. And if a celebrity is not presenting herself in a way that pleases societal standards, that is somehow offensive behavior and as a result, she ought to be shamed into acting right again—i.e. returning to the look that the people loved on her or just giving up.

That’s why Rep. Vaillancourt didn’t even have the dignity to judge a peer based on her work or stance on issues and instead zeroed in on her looks, stating that she’s ugly as if his opinion of her looks is the summation of her existence. That’s why the Internet bullied a teenaged Douglas and attempted to ruin her self-worth by implying she’s failing black woman. (Really? Of all the issues that face the black community, it’s hair that is going to do us in?) That’s why USA Today penned an article stating that the Internet hates Beyoncé’s haircut.

Memo to the media: stop holding a caucus every time one of them like Beyoncé cuts her hair. It simply doesn’t matter what you think about her baby bangs because, guess what? She is not your possession, and I’m sure she’d reply to your silly fussing by quoting the great India.Arie: “I am not my hair.”