Cynthia McKinney: When Looks Should be Irrelevant

March 18, 2010

Straight up: this is going to be a rant. A rant about how logically the appearance of a woman should not even be considered or criticised when it is irrelevant to her profession. Cynthia McKinney is many things: an activist, a former congresswoman, a member of the green and the democratic party, a former presidential candidate… She even served as a Commissioner in The Citizen’s Commission on 9/11, got consecutively elected 6 times as a member of the US House of Representatives for the state of Georgia, earned a B.A. in international relations from the University of Southern California, an M.A. in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of California. She worked as a high school teacher and later as a university professor before embarking on her political career.

All these achievements seem to be ridiculed by one and only one irrelevant detail: she is black.

The text below is an excerpt from the March 31 broadcast of Cox Radio Syndication’s The Neal Boortz Show, with producer Belinda Skelton and talk radio host Royal Marshall:

“BOORTZ: For instance, or for goodness sakes, jump in and I’m gonna say — I’m gonna start out with something controversial. I saw Cynthia McKinney’s new hair-do. Have you seen it, Belinda?


BOORTZ: She looks like a ghetto slut.

SKELTON: Well, how is it?

BOORTZ: It’s just — it’s hideous.

SKELTON: Is it braided? Or —

BOORTZ: No, it’s not braided. It just flies away from her head in every conceivable direction. It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory. It’s just hideous. To me, that hairstyle just shows contempt for — no, it’s not an Afro. I mean, no, it just shows contempt for the position that she holds and the body that she serves in. And, I’m sorry, there’s just no other way to — it’s just a hideous and horrible looking —

MARSHALL: Her hairstyle?

BOORTZ: Yeah, the hairstyle. It just, it looks like an explosion. Have you seen it?

MARSHALL: Yeah, I like it.

BOORTZ: Oh, jeez.

MARSHALL: It looks better than the braids she was wearing.

BOORTZ: No, the braids had some dignity. They had some class.

MARSHALL: The braids had dignity?

BOORTZ: They had more class than this thing.

MARSHALL: This says, you know, kinda 2000s, you know, stepping up to the plate. Contemporary look, you know?

BOORTZ: She looks like Tina Turner peeing on an electric fence.

MARSHALL: OK, so you don’t like her hair.

BOORTZ: Yeah, OK, I don’t like her hair. I’m sorry.

MARSHALL: That being said, I think a lot of people would say it looks a lot better than those cornrows she was wearing. You can’t tell me that’s dignified.

BOORTZ: Well, I’m not a big cornrow fan but I got used to her with that. OK?

MARSHALL: So she’s staying the same for you?

BOORTZ: She looks like a shih tzu!

MARSHALL: I like Cynthia’s new hairstyle.

BOORTZ: Well, there you go. Differing opinions.”

I thought this was a good correlation for those who didn’t already hear about this story when it happened. Notice how he tries to play it off like he is insulting her “hairstyle” but her loose hair is simply her natural texture and he has assigned it a label- ghetto and slutty and trashy. He also states he doesn’t like her braids either. From what we know now about her hair type that leaves her with only one styling option if she listened to him or God forbid, he had some kind of power over her, like being the one in charge of decided whether she got a job- straight hair. Surprise, surprise.

What is so wrong with women succumbing to the beauty ideal and conforming other than the obvious, is that they don’t realize it’s never been about the actual physical features. That is what those insulting “Other” features want you to think, if only you burn your hair straight, get that nose reduced, that skin color lightened/darkened, change your hair color, lose that weight, etc you will become better and more worthwhile. So in our minds the physical is what is holding us back but trying to rid ourselves of that feature shows a basic lack of understanding that the feature has never been the problem. It’s the label someone has arbitrarily decided should be assigned to that feature and getting rid of the feature is a solution akin to hiding, it doesn’t really solve anything. McKinney could have chosen to wear a blond weave to avoid being labeled a ghetto slutty trash but she shouldn’t have to.  No woman should, whatever career they are into. McKinney should be judged on her achievements, not her hair texture.

For more info about Cynthia McKinney, click here.

To read the entire radio broadcast, click here.


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