An Explainer for Folks (Dudes) Who STILL Don’t Understand The Shea Moisture Ad Uproar
Supreme. Jordans. Build-a-body IG models who advertise that paste-on bra every 5 minutes. Defending Nate Parker. The Decision. These are just a sampling of things dudes go ballistic over, when in the grand scheme of things, they don’t really matter. So why come these same ninjas act like they don’t understand why the hell Shea Moisture—the former black hair care brand– was blowing up on black girl social media for hours the other day?
Given the intelligence of the VSB community, I’m sure none of y’all are hopping on the mansplaining bandwagon. But in case there are some strays who didn’t get the memo that we’re piping down on the condescension in 2017, I’d like to lay it out for the critical mass of mansplainers I came across who are confused as to why the brand’s erasure of kinky-haired, brown-skinned black women in its latest advertising campaign caused such an uproar.
So speaking of The Decision, imagine you’re a lil black boy growing up in Cleveland in the early 2000s. Basketball is your favorite sport, but like every other pro team in the city, it sucks balls. The highest profile member of the 2002 Cavaliers is Carlos Boozer, and you’re sitting on a 17-65 record. There are other important things going on in the world and in your city, but basketball is a part of your identity. So it matters to you. You have intense debates with your homies about the best players in the NBA. Y’all share stories about how you respect Jordan but hate him because of how he did your team. Your best friends came through your rec league. When other cities celebrate a championship win, you envy their sense of unity and universal elation, however brief, that you never get to experience. Everyone shits on Cleveland. Not just the sports teams, but everything about it. You, and your city, are the underdog. But you’re scrappy and undeterred. And you wouldn’t leave, even if you could.
Miraculously, in a matter of months, your city’s luck changes. The Cavs have the number one pick in the draft and you choose a phenom who is heralded as the Cavs’ savior. The first season isn’t perfect, but it’s a marked improvement. And there are signs it’s just going to get better, especially since your franchise player has promised his commitment. He’s a hometown hero. He’s in it, or so it seems, for the long haul. For the first time in a decade, it looks like you might just win the whole thing. But then you don’t. And after you’ve invested energy, season passes, and loyalty to that franchise player he’s just like, nawl, I’m taking my talents to South Beach. He’s going to a shinier, newer city. Yeah you know it’s a free market, and yeah he’s gotta get paid, and yeah he wants to cement his legacy. But yo ass was loyal, and he’s stepping into the limelight to proclaim his affinity for another team despite his purported commitment to continuing to lift the Cavs, and subsequently your city, up. And worst of all, he expressed his change of heart in a supremely shitty, bad enough to burn his jersey and piss on the ashes kinda way.
This is what Shea Moisture’s latest advertising campaign feels like for us. It’s the Decision for kinky-haired black chicks.
The analogy does have its limits. Shea Moisture isn’t necessarily going to stop servicing its black female customers adequately, though there are rumors that some of its products have indeed changed formulas. Yeah, we know Shea Moisture–particularly with its relatively recent investment by Bain Capital—is a business and wants to thrive in this capitalist world.
But, like LeBron repping for Cleveland and raising it up when few other athletes did so successfully, it’s not just about the money. It’s also about representation. Whether it’s something as inane as basketball or protein strands coming out of one’s head, representation matters. And anyone with a modicum of knowledge about black culture knows that black hair is also political, particularly for black women.
Shea Moisture, as a product, has used ingredients specifically formulated for black chicks’ unique hair challenges. But the hair care company, like LeBron and his relationship with Cleveland, didn’t just offer a service. It became a part of our culture. It eased the process of us getting to know, and being proud of, our hair as underdogs in a world that centers whiteness and white beauty. And Shea Moisture unapologetically represented for black women. It was created by black people for black people. And it did its job well. For years, it’s been the franchise player. So suddenly having advertising that now centers white people, a group that doesn’t need any more gatdamn wins–the South Beaches of the world who already have sexy beaches, sunny skies, and King of Diamonds–was utterly and embarrassingly, well, tone-deaf.
Shea Moisture can focus on their bottom line all they want, but it doesn’t mean black chicks’ reactions to their Decision are any less reasonable than dudes who are still crying about LeBron’s damn near a decade later.