(The Root) — Over the weekend, a popular gossip site posted a cutesy picture of Beyoncé and her daughter, Blue Ivy, having a playdate at a park. Bey was dressed in her casual '90s best, her preferred look when she's not preening for the cameras or performing (as she did Sunday night at the Essence Music Festival). Blue Ivy looked, to me, adorable in a poofy pale-green dress with a Peter Pan collar as she clutched a pink toy in one hand and held Mom's hand with the other. The baby's typical "curls gone wild" hair was decorated with a simple black headband.
I looked at the picture and thought, "Awww," as I think most socially adjusted adults would do, and kept scrolling. Nothing to see here except perhaps the world's biggest superstar spending mommy time with her kiddie. But if that were the only reaction from other viewers, I wouldn't be writing about it, of course.
Some onlookers seemed scandalized by the state of Blue Ivy's hair. How in the world, they asked, clutching their figurative pearls, could Beyoncé, a woman whose hair inspires mass copying and envy in some circles, let her baby walk out like that?! And by "that" they meant undone, with no baubles, barrettes, bubble ponytail holders, plaits, cornrows — something other than just leaving the baby's hair be.
"No they didn't put a headband on that rough wild-looking ish," read the first comment. "Come on Beyoncé, get your daughter. No reason she should be looking this way. DO HER HAIR FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!"
Another commenter wrote, "I hate parents who keep themselves tight, but their children look as though they are not loved!"
It's an ongoing complaint about Blue Ivy Carter. The Carters, like the Jolie-Pitts with their adopted Ethiopian daughter, Zahara, seem to take a "leave her be" approach to their daughter, usually dressing her in casual comfort instead of what's deemed chic, and letting her hair just be. The hair aspect apparently drives some folk crazy.
In 2009, writing for Newsweek, Allison Samuel had a meltdown over the state of Zahara Jolie-Pitt's hair. While noting, "It's no secret that black women and their hair have always had a very complicated relationship," Samuels, in summary, found the state of the then-4-year-old Zahara's hair "wild and unstyled, uncombed and dry."
I don't think anyone needs a refresher course on when some people in social media circles freaked out about the state of Gabby Douglas' edges as she competed for an Olympic gold medal last year. The complaints over Blue Ivy's hair haven't reached that pitch … yet.
In part I get where the ire comes from. Women's hair in general has oft been called their "crowning glory." And for black women, even in these days of the natural revolution, it goes a step further. To many, hair isn't just an accessory to beauty; it can also be a political statement, a reflection of self-love (and hate), an indicator of socioeconomic class, an equalizer for other perceived beauty flaws and more. To pretend that hair is considered "just" hair would be foolish.
But to be genuinely irritated over the state of a child's hair is foolish. To point out the obvious: It's not your kid. Children, as evident to anyone who has a child or has observed a few, also run, roll and jump as fast and as hard as they can. A well-groomed head in which painstaking time was spent to create a style of any sort can go to crap by midday, if it takes that long. And whatever free-for-all style was undone by all that expended energy should not be taken as a reflection of how much they are loved or their overall well-being.
And too, some kids, especially the little ones, don't like their hair fussed with. A well-meaning mom (or dad) has to pick her (or his) battles, and maybe the time and energy to get the baby's head "together" that morning just wasn't worth the fight. That's fine, too.
There's also a deeper issue here: the idea that black girls — and, of course, women — have to "do" something to their hair to be presentable and acceptable. Clean, moisturized hair isn't enough. In the case of black girls, it's got to be pulled up into puffs, neatly parted and braided with baubles at the root and barrettes at the end, cornrowed, braided with extensions and, in some circles, even permed. Just letting it be and sticking a headband on it, based on some of the reactions to Beyoncé's Blue, seemingly isn't enough.
I wish the energy directed at the mothers of little black girls who just let their hair be were directed at the moms of young girls I've spotted with limp, overrelaxed ponytails or red bumps dotting their hairlines because their braids are too tight. A message definitely needs to be sent to the moms who, whether from styling their daughters' hair in tight ponytails or heavy braids, are essentially erasing their daughters' edges. That's a real cause for concern. But Blue Ivy's free-for-all curls? Hardly worth the effort.