Friday, December 19, 2014

Interview: Salem Yohannes, part 1

The first time I heard about Salem Yohannes was in the Afrotalk group on Facebook where she was looking for people to interview for her thesis. I have to admit that even though I love hair I found the topic of hair for a bachelor's thesis a bit strange. But after meeting Salem a few months ago and reading her thesis I so get it! 
After Salem published her thesis has been interviewed by media and traveled around in Sweden holding lectures on hair and race. 

Please introduce yourself!
So, I’m a 25-year-old energy ball from Gothenburg!
Shortly, I would say that I’m a political scientist, lecturer, entrepreneur, writer and professional dancer. I’m constantly on the go with at least 4759329 projects in my hands, haha :) During 2014 I´ve received my bachelors in Political Science, started my own business and been lecturing all over Sweden. It’s been an intensive but a fantastic year. I’m tired but I’m so HAPPY!

You wrote a bachelor's thesis called "Don't Touch My Hair" could you sum up what it is about?
“Don’t Touch My Hair” is bachelors thesis in Political Science, which has an intersectional character (analyzing gender, race and class at the same time) focusing on black female hair and professional norms.

In detail, the thesis describes and problematizes perceptions and meanings of black female hair within Swedish public administration. I chose to focus on the racial dimension by using hair type as analyze unit for the study. Usually the primary marker or attribute of race is skin color but I chose to give my thesis a unique twist. In this study I’ve been able to detect the racial composition of the employed public servants and the professional norms of hair that rules within these rooms. The study presents a range of different results, one is that the Swedish state apparatus is very homogeneous and consist of a majority of white Swedes, which is illustrated through the prevailing blonde/brown straight hair norm.

The seven Afro Swedish women who I interviewed in this thesis were all public servants and were often the only black person in these professional environments, often being approached in an unprofessional manner at work. A majority of the women described how their colleagues could grab and rutheir hands through their hair in the hallway or in the lunch break rooms at work. This behavior is clearly linked to the homogeneous environment of these professional spaces, where lack of racial consciousness makes their colleagues feel that they can freely touch their Afros, braids or dreadlocks.

The seven Afro Swedish women described the conflicting meanings of black female hair, where straight hair globally always been the gold standard of beauty among womenThe straight hair is also part of the professional “neutrality” norm within public administration, which puts black women in a peculiar position as they often grow nappy or curly hair. My interviewees described a complex racial dimension in female hair, where both beauty and professionalism is raced, as the ideals and norms are based on white European bodies, straight hair. So what do black women have to do in order to be treated respectfully, be seen as professional coworker and a beautiful woman? The answer is simple, straighten their hair or put a weave in it.

What was your reason of choosing this topic?
First and foremost a saw an enormous lack of research on Afro Swedes in general. So for me it was a political statement in itself to center the whole thesis on this specific group. I wanted to elevate experiences, issues and problems that are unique for Afro swedes living in a majority white society.

But I also wanted to emphasize the specific problems black women repeatedly meet – the societal, medial and cultural expectations of wearing their hair straight as a part of “womanhood and beauty”, even though natural black hair is often characterized by kinks, curls, waves and volume. The straight hair has also become a norm among black women as many of us strive to “neutralize” these attributes in the strive of beauty, professionalism and acceptance.

Hair holds so many different social and cultural meanings with the power to describe a person’s character and lifestyle. Just think about the prejudice and stereotypes linked to dreadlocks, we just don’t always put it into thought. We are all driven by norms and act according to them, it is therefore important for us to detect and discuss them, in order to work against racism and discrimination.

This thesis has managed to describe and problematize white standards of beauty (gender) and professionalism (race and class), discrimination and lack of representation (politics/democracy) in the Swedish public administration by focusing on black female hair (hair as a marker of race).

Where there any of the results that surprised you?
You very clearly point out the link between hairstyles and race. How have people in Sweden - a country that often refuses to acknowledge race - received this?
I learned so much in the thesis writing process. But nothing really surprised as I personally share many of the experiences (e.g. hair touching) described in the thesis. But what I discovered more and more was how previous history has its hold on the present and how the situation of Afro swedes today is tightly connected to history of colonization and racism. We tend to brush off the colonial history of Sweden and the part that was taken in the slavery.

The Swedish self-image rests on anti-racism and gender equality because of our generous immigration policy and gender aware society. But underneath that image we struggle with racism, inequality and structural discrimination. This is very uncomfortable for us Swedes to talk about, but is an inevitable part of many lives, including my own. We love to brag about out democratic structures and our wide welfare system, but we don’t want to erase the n-word in popular culture or problematize high unemployment rates among highly educated Afro swedes.

In the Afrophobia report (binette, Kawesa and Beshir) released this year the statistics was very clear, Afro swedes are discriminated in all areas of the society from job sector to housing. There is also a rising trend of hate related crimes towards Afro Swedes, which is already high for such a small group in Sweden. Race matters and racism is plays a huge role in Sweden, which makes both, skin color and hair type important attributes to research on, as power/influence and resources are directly connected to these.

If we really want to talk democracy and fight for reale quality, we need aim higher than a set of common democratic values. We need to start treating and each other
equally too, individual by individual.

Where can we find you online? 

Part 2 of the interview will be posted in January. 
A big thank you to Salem for taking the time to answer these questions!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Week of Hair

This is a post I've wanted to do for long, but kept on postponing. Here's a typical week in the life of my hair.

Day 1
Wash n go. Didn't take pics, but you can find lots on the Instagram. 

Day 2
Fresh out of bed. These day I sleep with some kind of loose top bun.

After spritzing with water and fluffing it out with my hands I end up with my beloved 2nd and 3rd day hair. I occasionally add some extra leave in if I feel my hair is in need. 

Products used on wash day: 

Products used day 2 and beyond:

Day 5 or 6 
Sometime I just wear an updo other days I finger detangle and apply extra water and leave in. 

The pony tail is an easy go to style of mine.

This is the amount of Kinky Curly Curling Custard to slick down my edges. Took this pic because I know many struggle with this gel. You don't need much of this product for it to work. 

And that's a week of hair! Sometimes I wash on day 7 other weeks I can stretch it until day 10 or so. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Behind the Blog: Ads On the Blog

Don't know if this is really a "Behind the blog" post, but anyways...

The blog is closing in on four years old (in April 2015) and countless hours have been spent on researing topics, writing posts, marketing via social media, etc. Thus far I've been extremely picky with which ads I have allowed on the blog, there of almost no ads on the blog. But I've decided to give AdSense (Bloggers own ad gadget) a try. So for six months there will be ads on the blog, and in six months I'll re-evaluate this choice. 

The reason why I'm trying this is because I want to see if I can generate some income this way, blogging is hard work and I've been doing it for free, just want to try the next step. 
I also wanted to see if adding ads would affect the views of the blog in any way. 

This post is just my way of being transparent with my readers. I didn't start the blog to become a famous wealthy blogger, I started it as a way of paying it forward. I hope to continue this way. 

What are your thoughts on ads on blogs? 

Alma of Sweden

The holiday season is here! It's already December, time flies! Have you started your gift shopping yet? 

For all my readers in Sweden I have something fab; 
Alma of Sweden is giving you 15% off on your next purchase! 
So hurry up and order your gifts today! Don't forget to treat yourself to something nice as well ;) 

Expires Dec 31st 2014

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: Jessicurl Deep Conditioning Treatment

This product was sent to me by Jess (Jessicurl) because she thought it would work well for my hair.
So I've tried this product on both my hair and my daughter's hair and here are my thoughts. 

The Deep Conditioning Treatment is a very thick product which I like. Unfortunately this thickness also made it difficult to get out of the bottle. But it's easy to apply - great slip. And has a very subtle scent, like Jessicurl products usually do. 
For my hair it's not moisturizing enough, my hair needs more. It's more like a conditioner when used in my hair. But it's great as a DC for my daughter's hair; it leaves it soft as silk! 

This is not one of my fav products, but I would buy it if I couldn't find my fav conditioners. It's a great product. My experience with Jessicurl is that their products are good, but not always exactly for my hair. 
What's good about Jessicurl that they are available in Scandinavia and the ingredient lists are fairly good. 

Ingredients: No Fragrance: Aqua (Water), Cetearyl Alcohol, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Behentrimonium Methosulfate, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf Juice Powder, Equisetum Arvense (Horsetail) Extract, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Leaf Extract, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Laurus Nobilis (Bay Laurel) Leaf Extract, Ocimum Basilicum (Basil) Leaf Extract, Urtica Dioica (Nettle) Leaf Extract, Arctium Lappa (Burdock) Root Extract, Althea Officinalis (Marshmallow) Root Extract, Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf Extract, Cymbopogon Flexuosus (Lemongrass) Extract, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Leaf Extract, Salvia Officinalis (Sage) Leaf Extract, Lecithin, Diazolidinyl Urea, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, *Cinnamal, *Citral, *Eugenol, *Geraniol, *Citronellol, *Limonene, *Linalool

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Baby Hair & Skin Care

This post I wrote in my head while I was bathing the little man. When are they going to invent a way to blog straight from your mind? Haha!

My little man has loved his baths since birth. His first bath time he did cry, but as soon as I started moving him and he felt the water against his skin he changed into a state of calm. And that is how he bathes now, calm and enjoying it. :)
I figured I'd run you through a bath time so you can see how I do it. As I know many parents and parents to be are my readers, including white parents to black and brown children maybe this can be useful for someone. 

When my son had a lot of dry flaky skin due to cradle cap I'd start bathing session by massaging his scalp with coconut oil. After letting it sit I used a soft tooth brush to massage his scalp, this lifted the flakes which I would comb out with a fine tooth comb. Then I'd get the bath tub ready; run the water with a few drops of oil in it. I like to use warm water when I bathe babies, I know body temperature is recommended but it gets cold very quickly so I put warm water, a temperature that feels pleasant but not close to hot! I usually vary the oils I put in the water depending on the state of my son's skin; avocado oil or jojoba oil if it's dry, coconut oil if it's not. 

One baby is undressed and ready to go in I let him see the water before he goes in. Then I slowly lover him in, holding him in a sitting position so he sees the water and feels it with his feet first. Now that he can sit on his own I hold him in the water sitting up until he shows me he wants to lay down. When he was a newborn I'd put him into a laying down position right away. I hold him with my right hand, my hand gripped around his right hand with his back of his neck resting against my arm. This hold gives me good control over his body and let's me have my left hand free to wash him. I don't use any sitting stand (do you know what I mean?) when I bath him because I feel it makes bath time less personal, I want to be close to him in the water. 

When he's on his back I use my free hand to wet his hair over and over, rubbing his scalp with it gently as well as running my fingers through his hair. I don't use and products excalpt oil on my baby. I don't think it's necessary and feel I started way to young with shampoo, conditioner, soap and lotions on my daughter. Babies don't get very dirty as they are cleaned during diaper changes several times a day. 
I was his body properly with water, making sure I get all the creases. Then I let him play in the water for as long as he wants, usually around 15 minutes or so. 

When I take him out I dry him off properly and then apply an oil. I prefer to use organic cold pressed coconut oil. I do a short "baby massage" when I apply the oil. I also use this oil in his hair which makes it soft and shiny. 

People of African descent have dry skin generally that's why it's important to use an oil in bath water and after a bath. I personally prefer oils and butters to store bought lotions that have lots of ingredients that aren't very natural. I by most of my oils in the grocery store or order them online. 
Caring for baby's skin and hair is important, starting it young helps get baby used to this and enjoy it. 

We haven't decided what to do with little man's hair yet; keep it short, afro or locs. Time will tell... I'm just happy to see his hair growing in on the sides finally! 

How do you care for baby's hair and skin?