Michelle Lapidos, a white Jewish woman with long blonde hair, has started a blog chronicling her experience wearing an afro wig, “Before and Afro.” Joni first wore the wig for a Studio 54-themed costume party and over time, it evolved to become a tool of self-discovery.

In her words:

The afro is also a hairstyle that I’ve recently rendered part of my personal style repertoire. I originally got my fro for a Studio 54-themed costume party for AHAlife (where I handle the social media), and let’s just say the party has not ended. The afro changed my perspective; it made me think, walk, see and experience life differently. I wear it often. It’s not about feeling black… what I actually feel like is ME, understood more clearly. It’s not an alter ego. It’s an amplified ego.

People have spoken out in criticism of Lapidos’ exercise, saying it is rooted in an ignorant and elitist perspective on black culture, and it fetishizes how hair naturally grows out of our scalps. Lapidos counters by saying:

I’d like to think of the hair game as equal: If Black people can choose to get a weave to be more like “what society encourages,” why can I not choose a style that is far too often concealed because of society, but that I happen to think makes me look great?

What’s troubling for many is the idea that Lapidos feels “enlightened” and “more tolerant” because she chooses to eschew her own straight, blonde texture for a big, costume afro. Some feel she is mimicking black hair and feeding into the idea that our texture is less desirable than hers, as evidenced by her writing. For example, Lapidos says “I know that women of color do not have the option of taking off their fro at night to have long, soft, blonde hair.”

Many feel Lapidos’ blog is an exercise in white privilege, cultural appropriation and conscious ignorance.

What are your thoughts on Joni’s afro experiment, Clutchettes?

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  • curious

    don’t see what the deal is. she likes the afro, so she wears it. like others have already said, black women do the exact same thing by sporting long, blonde wigs. how she feels with the afro is probably the same as a black woman in a blonde wig: “it’s a new me!” or something.

    also, after reading her article the tone of it sounded more… air-headed and free-spirited at best, ignorant at worst, in regards to her “long, soft, blonde hair” comment. i doubt she meant anything offensive.

  • ruggie

    What’s ironic is that she’s trying to assert her identity as a blonde white woman when she comes from a historically marginalized group of whites known for their thick, curly hair (hence the term ‘jewfro’). The afro wig is probably closer to her natural hair texture and color than what she’s trying to pass off as her ‘before’ look. This is more about asserting her desire for inclusion/visibility from other whites than it is about understanding the black experience.

    • ruggie

      *dark, curly hair

    • KitKat

      You have said it all, the first thing I wondered was if she used straightening tools or dye. because giving those a rest will give you an immediate sense of your societal worth. I also find it difficult to believe that as a jewish woman she had not grown up with discussions about hair and the shiksa beauty ideal.

  • ruggie

    What’s ironic is that she’s trying to assert her identity as a blonde white woman when she comes from a historically marginalized group of whites known for their thick, curly hair. The afro wig is probably closer to her natural hair texture and color than what she’s trying to pass off as her ‘before’ look. This is more about asserting her desire for inclusion/visibility from other whites than it is about understanding the black experience.

    • ruggie

      sorry folks, tried to clarify my comments & now I’m up to 4. oops!

    • Got your meaning & agree.
      Also, I’m not offended by her experiment/curiosity/fantasy.

  • Elena

    I’ve heard of Japanese subgroup that fetishizes black American culture. They go all the way and perm their hair into an afro texture.
    It’s also interesting that she’s Jewish. I’ve seen many Jewish girls stop straightening their hair and embracing their curly fros. Maybe if she wants something closer to that texture she could just stop those Brazilian keratin treatments.

    • Patience

      Don’t forgot that married Jewish women cut their hair and wear straight haired wigs too.

    • Elena

      This is only true in hasidic communities. Other conservative/orthodox jewsh women would wear a tichel (a scarf-similar to hijab, but tied differently). Non orthodox/hasidic jewish women can do whatever they want with their hair regardless if they are single and married.

      Hasidic women do complain a lot about the wigs and makes their hair brittle and dry. Much like black women who wear front lace wigs 24/7.

  • “If Black people can choose to get a weave to be more like what society encourage…..”.

    Stop right there. She won the debate off that quote right there.

    • ?!?

      How? Non-black people usually wear wigs to make fun of black people. When black women get weaves, they aren’t making fun of straight haired women. They want straight hair and prefer that look. It’s not the same thing.

      You’re just like the annoying people who act as if blackface is no different from what the Wayans brothers did on White Chicks as if there is nothing deeper behind it or white people who think they should be able to say the n-word because Kanye West says the n-word.

    • Agreed! I don’t get the “but black women wear blond weaves or someone’s else hair” argument. Sure some black women may wear them but they don’t act like the steretypical “white woman” while they do or try to be something they are not when weaved up. I mean come on Clutch was being nice (love you Clutch) but this chick went to a fried chicken feast, strickly posed with black men (from the pictures I saw where was her white friends and black women females) and was posing throwing up signs, and picked a costumy wig, etc. NOTHING screamed authentic if she wanted to wear an afro to stand out ornfind herself she did a poor job.

    • Oops meant *black women friends not females

    • The point is she wears the wig because of how it makes her feel not to mock black people. The same goes for black women except with black women it’s for acceptance, that sad.

    • ?!?

      Please. She went to a fried chicken festival with her afro.

    • She is wearing it cause it feels good, whats black woman’s excuse? Same dang thing.