Twitter user @BonKamona has sparked an international conversation this week, after she drew attention to the Google Image search results for “unprofessional hairstyles for work” and “professional hairstyles for work”.
Her post was re-tweeted more than 10,000 times in under two days and brought a whole host of responses, the majority of which were critical of Google as many highlighted the racist nature of the results.
One aggrieved user responded by posting “So #BlackWomen’s hair is “unprofessional” & if you just bleach your skin & hair sufficiently, it’s “professional”? @BonKamona”.
Others noted that many of the images that appeared in the results for “unprofessional hairstyles for work” linked to articles and blog posts entailing pensive discussions on the issue of black women’s hair being deemed “unacceptable” for the workplace.
Journalist Andrew Leung has stated “The argument that the images are being used in a positive light is beside the point: the very existence of these types of articles and social media posts illuminates how black women are discriminated against in the professional sector because of their hair”.
In November of 2015 Bournemouth University graduate Lara Odoffin revealed that an employer had withdrawn a job offer because she wore her hair in braids.
In the note, which she shared on Facebook, the anonymous company remarked, “Unfortunately we cannot accept braids – it is simply part of the uniform and grooming requirements we get from our clients. If you are unable to take them out I unfortunately wont be able to offer you any work”.
In response Lara took to Facebook to write “This type of discrimination should not still be happening in this day and age and any establishment still condoning such practices deserve to be shamed and criticised”.
Google have reacted to the uproar prompted by @BomKamona’s tweet, by saying “This is fundamentally a societal problem – there are persistent and problematic biases, and they’re quite pervasive in the media, the web etc – meta-tagging their images with their own descriptions”.
TNT Fashion/Hair & Beauty