Don’t Call Me Resilient

Detangling the roots and health risks of hair relaxers

Episode Summary

In this reflective and personal episode, Professor Cheryl Thompson of Toronto Metropolitan University and author of “Beauty in a Box” untangles the complicated history of hair relaxers for Black women - and the health risks now linked to them.

Episode Notes

For decades, North American Black women have been using hair relaxers  to help them fit into mainstream workplaces and the European standards of beauty that continue to dominate them.  More recently, research has linked these relaxers to cancer and reproductive health issues - and a spate of lawsuits across the United States, and at least one in Canada, have been brought by Black women against the makers of these relaxants. Cheryl Thompson, a professor at Toronto Metropolitan University and author of "Beauty in a Box: Detangling the Roots of Canada's Black Beauty Culture," joins Vinita to untangle the complicated history Black women like herself have with hair relaxants - and where these lawsuits might lead.


Episode Transcription

This is an unedited and uncorrected transcript of the episode:

From  The  Conversation,  this  is  Don't  Call  Me  Resilient.  I'm  Vinita  Srivastava.  Black  women,  if  you  decide  to  wear  your  hair  in  locks  in  particular,

there's  a  certain  emotional  roller  coaster  that  you're  going  to  go  through.  It's  a  texture  that  no  one's  going  to  relate  to  that  texture  unless  they  have  it.  So  then  you  have  to  address  the  fact  of  that  loneliness.

It's  very  real.  Deanna  Denham  Hughes,  Jenny  Mitchell,  and  Sierra  Claiborne.  These  are  three  black  women  in  the  United  States  who  are  facing  long  uphill  battles  with  cancer  and  reproductive  problems.

Problems  that  are  now  linked  to  their  decades -long  use  of  hair  relaxers.  Well,  these  women  are  now  fighting  back  and  seeking  justice.  There  are  among  the  roughly  1 ,200  people  in  the  United  States  suing  dozens  of  cosmetic  companies,

alleging  their  hair  care  products  made  them  sick.  And  now  two  Canadian  women,  Shamara  Hutchinson  and  Elle  Wayara,  have  added  their  names  to  that  list.

The  pressure  to  straighten  their  hair,  to  comply  with  European  standards  of  beauty  for  work  and  school,  is  an  issue  that  many  black  women  are  familiar  with.  It's  an  issue  Cheryl  Thompson  has  spent  a  lot  of  time  researching.

She  is  the  author  of  Beauty  in  a  Box,  Detangling  the  Roots  of  Canada's  Black  Beauty  Culture.  And  she  is  a  professor  of  performance  in  the  creative  school  at  Toronto  Metropolitan  University.

Thanks  so  much  for  joining  me,  Cheryl.  It's  so  good  to  speak  with  you  again.  It's  good  to  talk  to  you  as  well.  More  than  1 ,000  women  in  North  America  have  now  filed  lawsuits  against  cosmetic  companies,

alleging  that  their  hair  relaxers  caused  cancer  and  fibroids.  And  you've  been  writing  about  black  women's  beauty  and  beauty  products  for  a  long  time.  How  surprised  were  you  by  these  lawsuits?

Oh,  not  surprised.  Excited.  To  be  honest,  excited  by  them  that  people  are  finally  going  to  be  holding  these  corporate  companies  to  account  for  what  has  actually  been  known  since  around  2008 -9.

Oh,  that  long,  2008 -9?  Yeah.  Yeah.  Like  the  first  dermatological  studies  really  started  to  be  published  around  2008  and  2009.  And  at  that  time,

they  were  only  saying  that  there  was  a  causal  effect.  They  were  not  saying  it  was  a  direct  cause  and  effect.  It  was  like,  maybe  there  is  some  association  between  using  chemical  relaxers  and  uterine  fibroids  and  other  certain  types  of  baldness,

alopecia,  right?  They  were  making  little  correlations.  But  by  the  mid,  I  would  say  mid  2010s,  they  stopped  making  those  correlations  and  they  started  saying,  no,

we  pretty  much  can  say  cause  and  effect  using  these  products  will  cause  uterine  fibroids  and  alopecia.  I  saw  one  lawsuit  that  you  mentioned  in  your  book  about  the  Brazilian  company,

I  think  Rio,  you  talked  about  that.  It  was  like,  that  was  crazy.  Yeah.  That  was  what  in  the  early  90s.  And  it  was  this  product  that  was  essentially  branding  itself  as  all  natural  from  the  rainforest  of  Brazil,

basically,  and  come  to  find  out  it  was  like  10  times  more  toxic  than  even  a  standard  chemical  relaxer.  And  the  scariest  thing  about  Rio  is  that  they  had  a  lot  of  celebrity  endorsers,

right?  And  it  was  on  back  then,  young  kids  won't  remember  this,  but  infomercials.  So  it  was  an  infomercial  lit  on  at  night.  Yeah.  Right.  So  back  then  it  was  like,  it  would  be  like  20  minutes  of  all  of  this  content  of  their,

and  then  they  would  have  all  these  like  testimonials  of  how  great  the  product  was.  And  it  was  literally,  I  think  there  was  one  case  where  it  burned  a  portion  of  someone's  scalp  off.  It  was  extremely  toxic.

You  can  imagine  and  you're  sitting  to  yourself  and  you're  thinking,  how  could  they  allow  a  product  like  that  to  be  sold?  That's  a  really  good  question.  How  could  they  allow  a  product  like  that  to  be  sold?  You  got  Health  Canada  in  Canada,

and  you've  got  the  FDA,  the  Food  and  Drug  Administration  in  the  US,  but  they  actually  don't  regulate  these  products.  - No,  and  often  when  it  comes  to,  especially  the  demographic  who  is  mostly  using  the  products,

which  are  black  women  and  some  men  as  well,  it's  just  an  uncared  for  population.  - How  long  have  these  products  been  around?  We're  talking  about  hair  relaxers,

and  what  made  them  so  popular  among  black  women?  - Well,  I  feel  like  popular  needs  to  put  in  air  quotes.  Like  most  things  as  it  relates  to,

especially  the  black  population  in  what  is  essentially  the  Atlantic  world,  we  do  have  to  go  back  to  transatlantic  slavery.  So  we  do  have  to  go  back  to  a  moment  of  black  people  actually  being  in  really  acts  of  deprivation,

I  would  say,  as  it  relates  to  self -care,  because  you're  just  not  able  to  self -care,  right?  And  you're  having  to  use  what's  in  your  environment.  And  so  in  the,

you  could  go  back  to,  there's  early  examples  of  lye,  for  example,  like  the  product,  that  idea  of  lye  has  been  around  for  hundreds  of  years.  So  you  will  have  cases  in,

especially  during  in  the  US  Southern  plantation,  where  they  would  mix  lye  with  potatoes  and  other  kinds  of  things,  because  it  was  a  known  kind  of  caustic  chemical  that  could  straighten  the  hair.

So  they  realized  that.  And  during  slavery  to  speed  up  this  story,  you  had  a  division  of  labor.  So  if  you  worked  in  the  house,  you  were  a  house  slave  as  opposed  to  a  field  slave,  the  house  slaves,

after  a  while,  the  plantation  master  was  like,  we  want  you  to  look  more  like  us.  So  there  was  more  of  an  imperative  to  straighten  or  wear  a  wig  so  that  they  felt  more  comfortable  with  you  in  their  home,

essentially.  Now  we  can  flash  forward  and  think  now,  20th  century,  you're  a  black  person.  If  you  want  a  good  job,  it's  now  generations  that  pathology  of  hair  has  to  look  mirror  the  employer  who  is  white.

And  in  the  1910s,  the  1920s,  you  have  a  lot  of  people  experimenting  with  chemical  relaxers.  - So  you  say  popular  in  quotes,  can  we  go  back  to  that  for  a  minute?

What  is,  you  talked  about  the  pressure,  we  talked  about  the  slavery  era,  and  you  said  that  it  goes  back  all  the  way  to  that  time  period  where  I'm  sure  it's  upward  mobility.

Yeah,  of  course.  If  you  live  in  a  world  where  every  message  you're  getting,  that  the  symbol  of  beauty  is  straight  hair,  a  certain  even  skin  tone,

because  the  same  time  with  the  chemical  relaxers,  there's  obviously  the  skin  bleaching  is  going  in  tandem.  And  in  fact,  in  the  early  days  of  skin  bleaching  ads  and  hair  straightening  and  skin  bleaching  ads  were  seen  as  the  two  necessities  for  black  mobility,

especially  in  the  post  World  War  II  era.  If  you  didn't  straighten  your  hair  and  bleach  your  skin,  it's  almost  like  you  were  left  out  of  a  conversation  on  the  new  black  in  America,  right?  And  I  think  when  you  don't  understand  that,

you  take  it  out  of  context  and  you  think,  oh,  those  people  hated  themselves.  Actually,  no,  they  were  doing  that  for  self  love  at  that  time,  because  that's  what  it  looked  like  at  that  time.  Can  I  ask  you  a  personal  question  as  a  black  woman  yourself  and  as  someone  who's  written  this  entire  book?

Sure.  Have  you  felt  that  pressure  yourself?  Oh,  yeah,  when  I  was  younger.  Yeah,  when  I  was  younger,  especially  most  black  women  of  a  certain  age  can  remember  gym  class  and  swimming  in  gym  class  and  the  awkwardness  of  that  moment  of,

if  I  go  in  this  pool,  what  my  hair  going  to  look  like,  and  then  I  got  to  go  back  to  class  after  this,  like  that  just  the  anxiety  of  that  and  then  having  white  teachers  who  really  didn't  understand  and  would  almost  make  a  joke  of  it.

Like,  why  are  the  black  girls  don't  know  how  to  swim?  Aren't  you  from  Africa?  Like,  I  remember  a  teacher  actually  said  that  and  I  was  like,  okay,  I  don't  know  what  to  deal  with  that.  So  I  felt  that  pressure  of  if  you  use  a  straightener  and  you  chemically  straighten  your  hair  you  actually  don't  have  that  worry  anymore  going  into  the  pool  is  not  a  problem  anymore  like  your  hair  won't  change  or  revert  back  is  what  they

used  to  call  it  right  or  turning  back  it  won't  do  that  so  in  my  mind  I  thought  at  the  time  I'm  just  doing  this  for  function  but  I  was  also  doing  it  to  avoid  like  being  teased  or  bullied  and  other  things  that  I  felt  like  might  have  happened  if  I'd  followed  that  pattern  to  fit  in  basically  to  fit  into  a  Canadian  mainstream  classroom  white  classroom  yeah  it's  the  same  thing  when  I  started  working  full  time  I  haven't

always  been  an  academic  I  worked  in  the  business  world  and  in  industry  and  I  definitely  straightened  my  hair  because  I  felt  like  that  was  just  more  appropriate  for  appropriate  again  air  quotes  yeah  for  the  setting  and  I  use  the  chemical  relaxer  from  the  age  of  13  to  30  oh  so  17  years  I  use  one  yeah  it's  a  long  time  that  is  a  long  time  so  there's  a  lot  of  money  that  you've  also  spent  on  this  every  every  six  to

eight  weeks  yeah  gotta  get  the  kit  you  gotta  get  the  neutralizing  shampoo  you  gotta  get  the  aftercare  conditioner  the  spritz  I  was  probably  spending  at  least  $100  a  month  at  least  so  you  have  written  about  the  companies  like  the  how  the  companies  have  profited  from  black  women  and  black  women's  hair  in  North  America  can  you  tell  us  a  little  bit  about  that  yeah  I  mean  just  to  keep  it  digestible  it  really  is  in  the

2000s  the  first  decade  of  the  2000s  was  a  really  a  shift  a  major  shift  in  the  beauty  culture  industry  before  then  you  had  established  African -American  owned  companies  Johnson  products  you  had  Carson  products  you  had  soft  sheen  products  they  were  like  all  these  mate  like  really  big  companies  and  they  were  all  offering  different  like  hitting  different  segments  then  in  the  2000s  it  was  just  a  mergers  and  acquisitions  frenzy,

as  I  explained  in  my  book,  where  suddenly  the  sort  of  the  transnational  consumer  goods  company,  they  started  to  realize,  and  it  was  really  Revlon  who  started  this  trend,

the  lipstick  company,  they  started  the  trend  in  the  70s,  but  it  really  didn't  pick  up  until  the  2000s,  where  they're  like,  we  need  to  diversify.  And  look  at  all  these  African  American  beauty  companies,

their  profits  are  only  ever  going  up.  They  have  a  growing  and  loyal  consumer  base.  So  the  proctor  and  gambles.  L 'Oreal,  you  talk  about.  L 'Oreal  is  an  interesting  one,

because  L 'Oreal  bought  two  companies,  softsheen  and  Carson,  and  then  they  merged  them  into  their  softsheen,  Carson  division  that  still  exists.

So  there  are  people  who  are  loyal  to  that  brand,  and  they  didn't  change  the  brand  name,  they  just  merged  them  together  softsheen,  Carson.  So  if  you  were  a  black  consumer,  you  would  have  recognized  either  one  of  those  brand  names  that  you  would  have  been  using.

So  you're  thinking,  oh  great,  softsheen  and  Carson  merged.  But  what  you  don't  realize  is  that  behind  that  is  the  parent  company,  L 'Oreal,  because  L 'Oreal  doesn't  put  its  name  on  these  products.

That's  the  other  thing  that  I've  always  felt  was  so  stealth  about  the  chemical  relaxer  product  industry.  If  you  go  and  look  at  those  products,  you  have  to  look  at  the  fine  print  to  see  who  the  parent  company  is.

Whereas  when  you  look  at  the  other  products  that  are  quote  unquote  for  everyone,  you  know  exactly  who  the  parent  company  is.  So  one  of  the  things  my  book  has  always  said  is  why  are  they  hiding?  Yeah,

yeah.  What  is  it  that  they  don't  want  to  admit  to  when  they're  making  so  much  money  off  of  us?  Yeah.  You're  talking  about  it  like  so  many  black  women,  including  yourself  are  now  are  wearing  their  hair  in  natural  ways  and  using  natural  products.

I  read  a  story  probably  every  month,  especially  in  the  New  York  Times  and  coming  out  of  the  US  about  black  folks  getting  pushed  back  for  wearing  their  hair  naturally.  There's  a  story  in  Texas  about  a  young  man  or  in  braids  or  locks  at  work  or  at  school.

Him  and  his  mom  is  suing  the  school  because  he's  been  asked  to  cut  his  hair.  So  how  much  are  we  hearing  about  this?  Do  you  think  in  Canada?  Are  we  talking  about  this  here  in  Canada?  No,

this  doesn't  get  talked  about  at  all  in  Canada.  But  I  think  what  it  is,  again,  what  is  the  origin,  the  association  with  black  people  and  our  natural  hair  is  a  political  association.

So  the  way  you're  talking  about  the  black  is  beautiful.  That  was  a  rallying  call  at  the  protests  during  the  civil  rights  era,  right?  Yeah.  That's  what  we  said  as  part  of  demanding  rights,

like  civil  rights,  social  rights,  and  economic  rights,  right?  And  that's  what  we  look  like.  So  in  the  psyche  remains  this  association  of,  oh,  if  you  wear  your  hair  like  that,

you're  going  to  bring  a  certain  politics.  And  then  let's  bifurcate  that.  And  there's  also  the  idea  of,  especially  in  the  US  context,  a  lot  of  black  men  who  go  to  prison  come  out  of  prison  with  locks.

And  so  now  there's  association  with  locks  and  criminality  or  law.  And  meanwhile,  maybe  when  they  went  to  prison,  they  actually  grew  a  consciousness.  And  that's  the  reason,

right?  We're  not  associating  it  with  a  positive  thing.  They're  associating  it  with  a  negative.  You're  going  to  be  involved  in  criminal  behavior,  especially  when  you  see  black  boys  being  punished  for  wearing  their  hair  in  locks  or  natural.

A  lot  of  it  has  to  do  with  that.  I  think  of  that  case  several  years  ago,  where  that  young  black  boy  was  wrestling.  And  in  front  of  all  those  people,  you  cut  his  hair.  In  what  world?

It  was  just  so  shocking.  It  was  traumatic  to  watch.  I  cannot  even  just  hearing  you  say  the  story  again.  I  feel  very  emotional.  It's  so  awful  that  you  would  think  that  you  could  actually  have  any  right  to  do  that  to  someone.

And  also,  it's  really  important  to  understand  psychologically.  I  mean,  every  person,  especially  with  black  women,  if  you  decide  to  wear  your  hair  in  lux  in  particular,  there's  a  certain  emotional  rollercoaster  that  you're  going  to  go  through.

You  will  because,  one,  it's  even  more  so  than  wearing  it  like  in  an  Afro  or  crop  style.  One,  you  are  completely  disconnected  from  how  most  people  wear  their  hair,

like  the  texture,  right?  It's  a  texture  that  no  one's  going  to  relate  to  that  texture  unless  they  have  it.  So  then  you  have  to  address  the  fact  of  that  loneliness.  It's  very  real.

Like  I  know  in  my  lock  journey,  I've  worn  my  hair  this  way  now  since  2007.  So  I've  gone  through  all  the  rollercoaster  of  emotions  of,  oh,  was  this  the  right  decision?  I  feel  like  I'm  being  treated  differently  now,

like  then  I  was  before.  To  be  honest  with  you,  especially  it's  going  to  sound  really  bad,  but  it's  true.  I  feel  as  though  a  lot  of  black  men  look  at  me  very  negatively.

Almost  like,  why  are  you  here?  Because  I  don't  have  this  aesthetic  that  is  deemed  beautiful.  That  is  a  psychological  wear  that  it  could  take  on  a  person.  You  can  really  start  to  feel  like,

oh,  I'm  just  like,  you  really  feel  othered  is  what  I'm  saying  to  you.  And  so  it  is  a  process  in  your  life  to  get  to  love  yourself  and  to  really  appreciate  the  fact  that  you're  wearing  your  hair  like  this  for  a  reason  and  you  actually  don't  have  to  explain  it  to  anyone.

So  when  I  saw  what  happened  to  that  boy  who  was  wrestling,  I  thought  to  myself,  that  person  who  did  that  literally  cut  their  vocal  cords,  they  didn't  just  cut  their  hair.

Yeah.  I'm  just  wondering,  have  you  seen  that  show  that's  streaming  right  now?  It's  from  a  book.  It's  called  The  Other  Black  Girl.  Yeah,  no,  I've  heard  about  it  though.  I  have  heard  about  it.

So  it's  a  horror  satire.  And  the  whole  idea  is  that  it  features  this  magical  hair  grease  that  makes  black  women  more  complacent  in  the  white  corporate  workplace.

I  mean,  when  I  heard  the  premise,  I'm  like,  isn't  that  blue  magic?  If  anyone's  old  enough,  you  know  what  blue  magic  is  all  about.  What's  blue  magic?  I  don't  know  blue  magic.  I  tell  people  this  story.

I  was  like  addicted  to  blue  magic.  Like  I  would  just  slick  my  hair  with  blue  magic.  And  you'd  almost,  my  ponytail  would  be  shining.  And  I  remember  back  then  I  played  soccer  and  sometimes  we'd  have  night  games.

And  you  know  what  night  in  the  summer,  there's  something  to  do  with  the  humidity.  Point  is  I'm  not  even  kidding  you.  My  hair  would  be  steaming.  Like  my  teammates  would  be  like,  you  have  steam  coming  out  of  your  head.

I'm  like,  I  do.  And  then  it  took  years  before  I  realized  I  think  that's  that  blue  magic.  When  that  chemical  hits  the  sweat,  it  just,  yeah.

When  I  heard  that  premise,  I  was  like,  oh  my  God,  that's  so  funny.  But  I  actually  think  it's  based  on  true  real  life.  Maybe  the  writer  is  around  the  same  generation  as  you.  It's  possible  that  she  wrote  the  book  and  now  it's  made  into  a  series.

But  it's  of  course,  it's  horror  satire.  It's  this  whole  genre  that  I'm  just  wondering  what  role  do  you  think  a  book  like  this  or  a  show  like  this  can  play  in  this  conversation?

I  think  for  me,  it's  like  thinking  how  maybe  they're  also  playing  at  the  fact  that  depending  on  the  hairstyle  and  the  product,  it  does  engender  a  kind  of  docility,

right?  A  certain  behavior  modification.  It's  just  real.  I  used  to  have  a  friend.  She  had  what  she  called  a  Whitney  wig.  And  sometimes  when  we  would  go  out  to  the  club,

she  would  put  on  that  wig.  And  if  she  would  not  be  a  different  person,  if  she  would  not  have  a  certain  energy  and  just  feel  more,  in  a  way,  I'm  sure  that  book  is  written  with  that  kind  of  understanding  of  seeing  how  when  people  put  on  certain  aesthetics,

they  really  do  change.  I  had  another  friend  who  worked  at  a  certain  retail  establishment  that  was  higher  end.  And  for  whatever  reason,  same  idea,  she  had  to  wear  a  wig.

Even  though  in  her  private  life,  this  is  not  a  person  who  wore  a  wig.  In  that  context,  she  chose,  they  didn't  even  ask.  Oh,  she  chose,  yeah.  She  chose  to  wear  a  wig  and  I  remember  going  and  seeing  her  at  the  place  and  it's  like  she  was  a  different  person.

She  was  a  little  more  docile.  So  again,  I  feel  like  whoever's  writing  that  book  probably  has  similar  experiences  that  they're  tapping  into.  But  this  is  the  idea,

right?  You're  one  person  at  work  and  you're  another  person  at  home  too.  That's  partly  what  you're  saying  too.  It's  like  you  step  into  this  mainstream  white  work  environment  and  you  the  mask  goes  on.

To  be  very  honest  with  you,  anybody  who  is  the  offspring  of  especially  that  generation  of  Caribbean  immigrant  who  came  in  the  60s,  50s  and  60s  and  70s,  my  parents  had  to  do  that.

Yeah,  they  wore  a  different  face  at  work  and  they  did  that  for  survival.  Yeah,  right.  And  they  changed  their  mother  tongue.  They  changed  the  way  they  spoke.  Yeah.  And  I  remember  as  kids,

me  and  my  sister,  we  would  hate  it  so  much  when  my  mother  would  run  into  someone  that  she  knew  and  then  she  would  put  on  that  work  voice  that  was  like,  you  do  not  talk  with  that  at  home.

Right.  And  we  didn't  understand  it.  And  we  were  like,  why  is  she  being  fake?  And  why?  Obviously,  as  you  grow,  you  realize  that's  called  work  tone  because  she  wants  to  keep  that  job.

Okay.  And  that's  called  assimilation.  That's  forced  assimilation.  Yeah.  And  that's  why  it's  really  hard  for  me  now  in  my  professional  life  to  be  in  instances  where  it's  almost  like  I  have  to  do  that.

I'm  registering.  Oh  my  gosh,  it's  like  I'm  living  my  mother's  life,  but  I  was  born  here.  Yeah.  Why  am  I  having  to  assimilate  again  into  a  system  when  this  is  actually  the  country  of  my  birth?

and  And  I  know  there  are  thousands  of  black  women  Canadian  born  who  experience  the  exact  same  thing.  I  Think  what  you're  also  saying  is  no  judgment  here  like  no  judgment  for  those  who  are  on  one  side  of  this  They  are  going  to  continue  to  straighten  or  use  relaxers  and  or  use  particular  There's  no  judgment  here  because  there's  an  understanding  of  all  of  the  necessity  or  all  of  them  Maybe  not  necessity.

Maybe  they  don't  even  see  it  as  necessity.  I  Don't  judge  anyone.  I  Don't  judge  anyone,  but  when  you  know  better,  you  really  need  to  do  better.

Yeah.  Yeah,  that's  not  me,  right?  That's  my  Angela,  right?  There's  a  lot  of  information  now  Even  this  semester.  I'm  teaching  a  classroom  of  135  students  It  has  not  been  lost  on  me  that  there  I'm  probably  the  first  person  to  ever  send  at  the  front  of  that  classroom  with  hair  like  this  forget  being  black  Just  with  hair  like  this,

right?  They  probably  have  never  I'm  their  influence,  right  of  these  first  year.  Yeah  That  is  huge,  right  and  that  makes  you  feel  like  on  some  level  That's  the  reason  why  people  should  start  to  be  more  of  who  they  really  are  Because  that's  going  to  leave  such  an  impression  on  the  young  generation  The  older  eras  they  had  to  hide.

It  was  a  different  time,  right?  They  were  facing  a  lot  of  different  challenges  I  really  believe  this  every  generation  should  benefit  from  the  struggle  of  the  last  generation  Yeah,

yeah,  but  they  went  through  that  so  we  don't  have  to  yes.  Yes  So  for  you  to  continue  to  do  what  your  parents  had  to  do  it  just  but  you're  not  learning  the  lesson  That's  how  I  feel.

Yeah,  even  as  I  don't  judge  the  choice  because  I  really  do  understand  it  I  also  think  we  live  in  an  era  where  you  can  make  a  different  choice  Coming  back  to  the  lawsuits  for  a  minute  and  just  before  we  wrap  up  It's  like  we  have  this  incredible  research  team  and  this  made  led  by  this  amazing  researcher  researcher  and  the  study  came  out  last  year  that  really  does  link  a  lot  of  these  products  to  really  significant

health  issues.  So,  I'm  wondering  how  do  you  think  these  lawsuits  are  going  to  impact  life  in  the  hair  and  beauty  aisles?  Do  you  think  that  we're  going  to  see  different  types  of  beauty  aisles  at  the  pharmacies  or  the  drugstores?

I  don't  know.  I  think  that's  a  much  more  complicated  conversation  because  to  me  that  conversation  is  about  do  you  think  we  can  let  go  of  the  straight  hair  aesthetic  as  the  standard  of  beauty?

We  live  in  an  era  where  there's  a  lot  of  different  hairstyles.  If  you  just  go  in  a  city  and  you  see  every  day,  you're  going  to  see  people  with  their  hair  in  plaits  or  braids  or  dreads  or  an  afro  or  maybe  someone's  wearing  a  weave,

someone's  using  a  chemical  straightener.  So,  there's  so  much  variety  out  there  that  I  think  what  we  need  to  lean  into  is  that  we  live  in  a  time  where  there  shouldn't  be  a  beauty  standard  because  there's  so  much  variation  now  and  yet  there  still  is  a  standard  and  it  still  is  imposed  on  to  people.

And  I  think  if  we  go  back  to  how  we  started  this  conversation  with  all  the  lawsuits  and  the  reasons  for  the  lawsuits,  I  think  unfortunately  I  don't  want  to  be  Debbie  Downer  but  I  think  they  will  lose  because  these  corporations  have  great  lawyers  and  they're  really  great  at  pointing  out  the  one  single  fact  about  the  consumer  culture  industry  is  that  you  have  a  choice.

You  have  a  choice  and  you  chose  to  repeatedly  use  that  product.  We  didn't  force  you.  I  have  to  say  that  I  was  shocked  when  I  read  in  your  book  that  Health  Canada  and  the  FDA  Food  and  Drug  Administration  in  the  US  do  not  regulate  beauty  products.

I,  as  a  citizen  of  this,  as  a  person  who  lives  in  Canada,  who  goes  to  the  store,  I  think  if  it's  something  I'm  putting  on  my  lips  or  my  face,  now  I  have  a  teenage  daughter,  he  uses  beauty  products.

I  just  have  an  assumption  that  these  things  are  going  to  be  safe  because  they're  being  sold  in  the  store  that  we  can  all  go  to.  - Yeah.  - I  hope  that  coming  out  of  these  lawsuits,

at  least  there's  a  greater  awareness.  - Remember  that  these  are  global  companies.  These  products  are  being  shipped  around  the  globe.  So  we  have  no  idea  what  health  effects  we  might  be  seeing  in  the  Caribbean,

in  Africa,  in  even  parts  of  South  Asia.  We  have  no  idea,  in  Europe,  these  are  global  conversations  that  we  see  manifest  in  this  case  in  the  US  and  now  in  Canada,

but  I'm  sure  there  are  thousands  of  people  around  the  world  who  are  like  having  serious  health  problems,  and  they  have  no  access  to  information  to  know  where  the  problems  are  coming  from.

Other  than,  and  I  think  the  mentality  would  be,  oh,  this  can't  be  the  chemical  relaxer  I'm  using  because  this  is  a  brand  name  product.  - Yeah.

- I  can  see  the  logic.  How  can  a  company  be  held  responsible  for  these  few  people  who  are  bringing  this  suit  when  we're  not  hearing  from  the  millions  of  other  people  who  have  bought  the  product?

That  is  the  logic  of  the  corporation.  And  I  think  when  we're  dealing  with  that  kind  of  logic,  it's  like  I  said  at  the  end  of  my  book,  that's  why  a  consciousness  movement  is  actually  what's  needed.

Everyone  has  to  really  wake  up.  I  think  we  need  to  get  back  to  forget  the  look,  let's  get  back  to  health.  And  hopefully,  even  if  the  claimants  in  that  lawsuit  lose,

I  hope  what  comes  out  of  it  though  is  just  a  more  enlightened  conversation  about  the  fact  that  these  products  products  do  have  a  physical  impact  on  your  body.  There's  just  no  question  about  it  at  this  point.

Thank  you  so  much,  Cheryl,  for  all  of  your  time.  That's  it  for  this  episode  of  Don't  Call  Me  Resilient.

It's  always  a  pleasure  to  speak  with  Professor  Cheryl  Thompson.  It's  like  speaking  to  an  old  friend  who  was  also  really  knowledgeable.  To  find  Cheryl's  book  and  other  resources  on  this  issue,

you  can  go  to  theconversation .com  and  look  for  the  podcast  section.  And  let  us  know  what  you  were  thinking  after  that  conversation.  I'm  @rightvenita  on  X,

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Don't  Call  Me  Resilient  is  hosted  by  me,  Vinita  Srivastava.  The  lead  producer  on  this  episode  is  Danielle  Piper.  Athika  Kaki  is  associate  producer,

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and  hope  you  join  us  again  next  week.