tdy-120524-hair-bow-01.photoblog5001The Internet has been buzzing about 4-year-old Marcella Marino being banned from her school picture over her hairstyle.

Marcella asked her father, who’s a hairstylist, to make her look like a princess for picture day and when she showed up to school with a literal hairbow, which many have likened to a style worn by Lady Gaga, the school wouldn’t allow it. What’s worse is that the popularity of this case has exposed a rather peculiar dress code rule that the Ramsgate Holy Trinity Primary School has: no braids allowed. Marcella’s hair obviously wasn’t braided, which is why her father thought the style he created was okay, but it’s still an unfortunate rule for the school to have, given that style of hair dress is most typically worn by not only little girls but particularly little black girls. But even more so, it begs the question of what message the school is sending about individuality?

On the other end of the spectrum, we have Willow Smith, a girl who doesn’t have to contend with a school’s opinion of her hair, but rather the general public who has been quite vocal about her drastic hair changes. Ever since Willow was no longer able to whip her hair back and forth, her mental stability and the capability of Will and Jada to properly parent her has been called into question, but Will recently explained why he’s given Willow license over her hair. He told Parade magazine:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that it is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

It’s a radical idea but one that makes a lot of sense. So often we tell girls not to be afraid to stand out, to be bold, and independent, to have a mind of their own, but when it comes to doing just that in terms of personal style, be it clothing or hair, we’re quick to shut them down and demand they conform. In Marcella’s case, the fact that her school appears to be private likely plays into why she was shunned for her hairstyle but that’s not much of an excuse when administrators teach about bravery and being game changers but allow a student’s hairstyle—that their own parent created—to stop them participating in a school activity.

With Willow, some of the concern has been on whether her hair is age appropriate but what makes choosing not to have hair grown? It’s an adult choice that says she truly believes she is not her hair, but isn’t that the message we’ve been trying to ingrain into young girls all along so they don’t feel they have to have their tresses fried, dyed, and laid to the side to be beautiful? In a lot of ways we’re sending girls the same bad messages we claim to be protecting them from when we seek to limit their individual style. If there’s really no harm in being different, then why aren’t they allowed to be?

What messages do you think young girls are receiving about their hair today?

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  • T. girl

    Wow. I cannot get over just how absolutely adorable this little girl looks! I mean, just TOO cute! If the school wouldn’t let her take pictures, i hope her dad took some because that is just priceless : )

  • Cha Cha

    I’m not for little girls looking like grown women just so we can say “Oh, she’s an individual with her own style.” BS. But this little girls hair looks really adorable, and it I don’t think she looks ridiculous, grown, or anything.

    And what’s with the ‘no braids’ rule? I think that is their way of eliminating black children because we all know that most black girls and some black boys wear braids at some point. I’d never send my child to a school like that.

  • Nikki

    I’m gonna be the devil’s advocate because this goes way beyond the hair issue. I don’t feel that a child has to cut off her or wear leggings and heels to express their individuality. I will also admit, I HATE Willow’s style…I think she looks a mess! There…I finally said it and I know I will get alot of backlash for it. I think i’m little more conservative and old-fashioned when it comes to raising kids and feel as though a child should stay in their place. And that whole “have command of your body” mess Will is talking would not fly with my kids. And how far is he willing to go to allow Willow to have individuality? Cutting her hair off now, but what’s next…having sex, getting tattoos, and smoking cigarettes? Children needs structure and boundaries from their parents, not a parent who’s afraid to set limits bacause they want to be their child’s friend!

    • I got sense!

      Yea, you went far left. That’s what people like you tend to do and that is why you allow you kids no freedom or room to express themselves. I especially have issues with this:

      ” I think i’m little more conservative and old-fashioned when it comes to raising kids and feel as though a child should stay in their place. And that whole “have command of your body” mess Will is talking would not fly with my kids”

      So does your old fashioned way include beating your kids, telling them not to speak unless spoken to, and never to question an adult? If your kids are not in command of their bodies then who is? You? How will they know how to protect themselves if they don’t know their body is theirs? You can’t do it 24/7. You can be ld fashioned all you want but your kids won’t be. They will be raised in a completely different world than you and I. The parents are supposed to raise their kids in the way they feel is best in the times their children are living in. You can reverse time or make it stop. Your kids will just be sneaky and do things behind your back. You will be a grandma before your kid is even legal with that type of thinking. Smdh.

    • I am sorry I think you are wrong. I would like to begin by saying I am pretty open minded to life. But I too raise my children not old fashion but with values. What you are promoting when you say kids will do what the times call for, is children being followers not leaders. My kids are leaders not a followers. My daughter in particular is aware that times have changed. I think they have changed because generation X is comprised of the me me generation and they are not involved in their children’s lives. Willow is a HOT MESS!! I don’t think it’s about self expression. I think it’s about let’s stay relevant. I am a New Yorker who now lives in LA. Hollywood is fake!! It is pure smoke and mirrors unfortunately child celebrity ego’s become attached to the celebrity. To the point they believe it is all they are worth.

      Yes i am ranting… ha ha ha ha

    • Sticky-n-Sweet

      I think it went way beyond a hair issue because you took it there. For some people, hair is just dead keratin follicles, and nothing more. For others, it’s their entire self-worth, or at least a huge chunk of it. Considering how fragile hair is, I’d put my self-esteem somewhere else, and encourage my kids to do the same.

    • So Over This Ish

      Nikki…while I do see your point and I agree with some of what you said, I also agree with “i got sense!”

      Yes, parents should be firm with their children. They should set limits. But at the same time, you don’t want to create a situation where your kids become rebellious because you were too strict with them.

      My mother and certain other members of my family were strict/conservative to the point where it was ridiculous. I wasn’t allowed to cut or color my hair, I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or cute clothes, and I wasn’t allowed to talk to boys. They did not place these restrictions on my cousin, who was only a year older than me.

      My mother never talked much about sex either. And guess what? I was sexually abused and then raped at the age of 12. I had my first real boyfriend in high school and started having unprotected sex at 16.

      I cut my hair, colored it red and blonde, got a few piercings…these were things I probably wouldn’t have done if my mother had allowed me some freedom.

      When kids feel that too many restrictions are being placed on them, they will resent that. And when they become old enough to rebel against your authority, they will. Children should have personal autonomy over their own bodies. If a child is taught to respect ALL grownups they encounter, this can be problematic. What if the adult in question is abusive in some way?

      I’m not advocating little girls and boys growing up too fast. But what I am saying is that there is a fine line between being conservative and being too strict. I wouldn’t allow a child to get a tattoo while they live under my roof, but I see nothing wrong with body piercing or a different hair color. That is simply experimenting with a new look. It doesn’t mean the kid will run out and be promiscuous or get drunk/high.

      I plan to raise my daughter in a different way from how my mother raised me. I will teach her to be more assertive and to have control over her body. I will not raise her with the notion that sexuality is bad and something to be ashamed of. I will teach her to embrace her individuality.

      I often find that kids who are raised this way turn out to be more respectful of their parents because the lines of communication are open. Think about it…the more something is forbidden, the more tempting it is. But if you talk openly and honestly with kids, you show them that you value their opinions. You encourage them to share things with you and to ask questions.

  • mylaylique

    I think the 4-year old’s “hair” bow is too cute, but her outfit on the other hand, I feel is a bit “too grown-up” (short, and snug-fitting). Especially if this is a Christian school, I know they are not going for that. Also the ban on braids rule, is discrimination. Willow on the other hand, there appears to be a lot going on with her, that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with hair. I won’t get into that though, I’ll just leave that alone. But I will say that her parent’s seem to be in denial about the whole situation.

  • Tammy M.

    The extreme jump from making clothing and hairstyle choices to smoking cigarettes and having sex is completely idiotic. Core values are not something that can always be seen on the surface. Lunatic assumptions that suggest that just because a child is allowed to dye her hair pink, she will not excel in life makes no sense.

    So is the logic that a child that wears dyed green hair (which she deems to be beautiful) will not get into Julliard or respect her parents. That she will not strive to be her best self and respect her body is unfounded.

    Are we to assume that the girl that wears frilly dresses and proper ponytails, will not get pregnant at 15, have failing grades, all because she wore the accepted style.

    Interesting, my cousin is the green hair girl (been wearing her own style since she was 7) that just got accepted to Juillard, as herself. Her parents morals and values still intact. she doesn’t drink or smoke, just never been her thing. Crazy, how she seemed to navigate through the world without falling apart because her shorts and shirt didn’t always match. lol. Shout-out to Anyesa.