"They don't think I'm viable, because I'm a Black woman with natural hair and no husband." This comment was made by Stacey Abrams shortly before the 2018 Democratic primary after she became the first Black woman to win a majory party's nomination for governor. Abrams' sentiment reflects the wider environment for Black women in politics, in which racist and sexist cultural ideas have long led Black women to be demeaned and fetishized for their physical appearance.
In Sister Style, Nadia E. Brown and Danielle Casarez Lemi argue that Black women's political experience and the way that voters evaluate them is shaped overtly by their skin tone and hair texture, with hair being a particular point of scrutiny. They ask what the politics of appearance for Black women mean for Black women politicians and Black voters, and how expectations about self-presentation differ for Black women versus Black men, White men, and White women. Black women running for
office face pressure, often from campaign consultants and even close colleagues, to change their style in order to look more like White women. However, as this book shows, Black women candidates and elected officials react differently to these pressures depending on factors like age and incumbency. Moreover,
Brown and Lemi delve into the ways in which Black voters react to Black female candidates based on appearance. They base their argument, in part, on focus groups with Black women candidates and elected officials, and show that there are generational differences that determine what sorts of styles Black women choose to adopt and to what extent they change their physical appearance based on external expectations.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 224
Dimensions: 235 x 156 mm
"Brown and Lemi weave together the complexity of the lived experiences of Black women with the political context in which voters make political decisions. Through political and historical analysis, they offer a necessary intervention that moves us beyond the flat tropes that fail to explain the intricacy and fullness of Black women's political engagement." -- Pearl K. Dowe, Emory University
"In this original, engaging, and incisive book, Brown and Lemi document the ways that the politics of appearance DL particularly of hair DL shape Black women's political ambition and access to political office. The authors document that the personal is political, the everyday politicization of Black women's bodies, and the centrality of imagery in understanding who gets to belong in politics. In doing so, they illustrate that what we see when we look at
candidates matters, why it matters, how it is gendered and racialized, and the importance of these intersectional considerations." -- Mirya R. Holman, Tulane University
"Brown and Lemi bring a long-overdue spotlight to the ways in which personal appearance (i.e., skin color, hair texture) can influence political judgments for Black women seeking political office. The authors provide a fascinating and methodologically broad investigation of how Eurocentric standards of beauty can disadvantage Black women in the political arena. I learned a lot reading this important book." -- Vincent L. Hutchings, The University of Michigan
"Sister Style is that rare type of academic work that will be as important to Black women within and outside of the academy. It offers important insights and analysis for all who seek to understand how and why women in general and Black women in particular have to navigate a world that at once says body size, hair texture and style, and skin shade don't matter, and at the same time makes clear that all of it matters a great deal. Sister Style
is a tour de force presentation of how 'pretty' is politics by other means. Buy it, read it, savor it, and learn." -- Noliwe Rooks, Cornell University