Chris Rock’s daughters inspire a film

Comedian Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair,” just out on DVD, begins with stills of his two young daughters. “Those are my daughters, Lola and Zara,” Rock narrates, “The most beautiful girls in the world. And even though I tell them that they’re beautiful every single day, sometimes it’s just not good enough. Just yesterday, Lola came into the house crying and said ‘Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?’ I wonder how she came with that that idea?”

So begins Rock’s quest to discover why so many black women don’t like their hair and what they go through– money, time, refusing swimming and sex– to ensure that it stays “beautiful.”

Six year  old getting relaxermediacommons 

Six year old getting relaxer

Actress Nia Long tells Rock: “There’s always a sort of pressure within the black community, like, oh, if you have good hair, you’re prettier or better than the brown skinned girl that wears the afro or the dreads or the natural hair style…The lighter, the brighter, the better.”

Rock travels from Greensboro, North Carolina, the capital of the 100 million dollar hair business (and also, the former capital of the Confederacy) to India where hair is the country’s biggest export, and finally to the pricey salons of LA. He interviews black women, their boyfriends and husbands, and even the well coiffed Al Sharpton trying to figure out the root of the hair obsession.

Comedian Paul Mooney explains it most concisely: “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If you hair is nappy, they’re not happy.”

The chemical many African-Americans use on their hair is, in fact, called “relaxer.” The “creamy crack” or “napidote” is the dangerous chemical sodium-hydroxide. “Get some in your eyes, it’ll lead to blindness,” explains a worker at Greensboro’s massive relaxer factory. “If you inhale the chemicals, its will have an adverse affect on your body.” Rock visits a scientist who dips aluminum cans in sodium chloride, showing them in various stages of charred decay.

The movie has sad scenes like when Rock interviews a group of female, African-American college students and young professionals, most who agree they wouldn’t go on a job interview, nor would they even hire someone, who was sporting the kind of hair that looks too natural, even a “cute” short afro that one girl in this group wears.

Also poignant but funny is when both genders adamantly agree on the rules of “weave sex:” never touch a black woman’s hair. Taking a shower together is more intimate than practically any other act; swimming ranks a close second if it involves getting in past the chin.

Actress Nia 

Actress Nia Long

All cultures include people who do crazy stuff to their hair and bodies, and Rock leaves pretty much everyone except for African-Americans out of his film. Reality star Kate Gosselin’s much mocked do and subsequent makeover could be its own documentary. Not only that, poker straight haired white girls have always pined for curls and vice versa. But teen dreamers and reality stars generally don’t experience anything as profound as being black and living in a culture that celebrates and rewards whiteness every day, and that unique experience is exactly what Rock set out to make a movie about.

“Good Hair” ends as it begins, with images of Lola and Zara, now shown at a playground, Rock musing: “So what do I tell my daughters? I tell them that the stuff on top of their heads is nowhere near as important as the stuff inside of their heads.”

Congrats to Chris Rock for listening to his small daughters, taking their words seriously enough to make a film that communicates how tyrannical and insidious our ideals about “beauty” can be. “Good Hair” gets a triple ***GGG*** girlpower rating (though it’s not a movie for kids, too much weave sex.)

Kate Gosselin’s ambition doesn’t make her a bad mom

Kate Gosselin graces the cover of People Magazine and US Weekly again this week. She wants fame, she wants power, she wants money– she’s a bad mom!

John Gosselin, the father of Kate’s eight kids is a deadbeat father, still out of a job, and giving no indication that he’s the least bit interested in finding a career to support his family. But John’s not choosing to exploit his fame to get a gig on a hit show, he’s only using it to attract young co-eds and crash out in their houses.

Kate  GosselinKate Gosselin 

I’m not saying Kate Gosselin is a model mom. From what I’ve read, she often seems selfish, angry, and narcisstic. I don’t understand why she had eight kids in the first place. But here they are, and she’s got to support them, otherwise your tax dollars will be. I suppose there are other jobs she could find, besides her stint on “Dancing with the Stars” and the continued money she’ll get from keeping herself in the spotlight. Kate was formerly a nurse, but her problem now is that you can’t support eight kids on a nurse’s salary. You can’t support eight kids without working your ass off, which is just what she’s choosing to do.

Past media coverage of contestants on “Dancing with the Stars” usually involves waxing effusively on their hard work, along with kudos for how their dedication transformed their bodies. For no other cast member, have I seen attacks about what monsterous parents they were for leaving their kids, or even much coverage about whether or not those contestants were parents at all. But in Kate’s case, Us Weekly reporters have become the mommy police, staking out Kate’s house and clocking the exact minutes she spends with her children. (I hope none of these reporters are moms, neglecting their kids while keeping vigil on Kate.) Certainly, people wouldn’t be directing this level of ire at John Gosselin if he were spending hours a day at rehearsals for the demanding show.

Kate Gosselin happens to be the breadwinner for her family; being a breadwinner is an essential part of being a good and present parent.

Yet, in the year 2010, our definitions of being a good mother and being a good father remain diametrically opposed. Today, when a father goes in for a job interview, his potential boss will usually think: “This guy has a family to support, he’ll be a good worker.” A mother interviewing for the same job is considered by different standards: she could be an unreliable worker, running off for school meetings or staying home if a kid is sick. Being a good mom is being a nurturer; being a good dad is being a breadwinner. But in reality, outside of the spotlight, plenty of moms work long hours to support their kids including lawyers, doctors, and CEOs. Sometimes I think we should take a break from these mom/ dad labels and just use “parent” to get across how differently we perceive these strikingly similar roles of raising and supporting our kids.

Kate Gosselin has eight kids so we think she ought to be “maternal” kind of like how Martha Stewart excelled at homemaking so she should be warm and fuzzy– it makes people dislike and distrust these women for their contradictions within the constrained cultural definitions of femininity. Clearly, Kate Gosselin is not a natural nurturer, but hopefully, she can still find some way to be a somewhat decent mom to her kids.