n Communicare : Journal for Communication Sciences in Southern Africa - Embracing natural hair : online spaces of self-definition, e-sisterhoods and resistance

Volume 38 Number 2
  • ISSN : 0259-0069


This paper reports on the use of online blogs as spaces where Black South African women create sisterhoods and self-define. Using online blogs, the women learn about natural black hair, affirm blackness and resist hierarchal ideologies of beautiful hair. Whereas predominantly, existing studies find that media representations of beauty and beautiful hair are defined via whiteness and that Black women also participate in self-production in ways that suggest an acceptance of the hierarchy that locates Black looks at the margins, very little research has been done about Black women who resist the hegemonic representation of and assumed superior status of white looks in general and flowing hair specifically.

Drawing on two theories: whiteness and Africana womanism, and using purposive sampling, this study examined 17 qualitative interviews with Black South African women and Chocolate Hair Sisters, Natural Sisters, and FroChic three online blogs started by Black South African women advocating for natural hair.

The findings indicate that online spaces have become sites of resistance, learning, positive Black affirmation, and support for and by Black women – sisterhood nets. In interviews, women narrated stories of how they had to learn to nurture and love their hair, something they were not taught from an early age. The absence of knowledge about dealing with natural hair led women to the online blogs where they found e-learning communities of sisters. This study’s focus is how social hierarchies of appearance are contested online and overflow to offline spaces to affirm physical features of a race long-marginalised in social understandings of beauty.

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