Jada Pinkett-Smith has defended her daughter Willow’s non-traditional hairstyles in a Facebook post made in response to critics who believe the movie star mom should exercise more control over how the twelve-year-old presents herself.
“This subject is old but I have never answered it in its entirety. And even with this post it will remain incomplete,” Smith wrote on the social media web site. “The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don’t belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination.
“I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit and her mind are HER domain,” the actress continued. “Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It’s also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother’s deepest insecurities, hopes and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.”
Reactions to Smith’s pronouncement have been positive in both the black and mainstream online communities.
On The Frisky, a general audience women’s site, Amelia McDonell-Parry states that the uneasy responses to Willow’s shaved head are based on widespread discomfort with the masculine associations with ultra-short hair.
Regarding Smith’s acceptance of Willow’s gender neutral coiffure, McDonell-Parry related, “I absolutely love Jada’s response to this… and especially admire the fact that she doesn’t just call out our culture’s expectations of what a little girl should be, but is also upfront that parents should not use their children to channel their own insecurities. Bravo!”
Black women’s web destination Clutch Magazine has weighed in in agreement with Jada’s belief that mothers should not make their daughters maintain an image of femininity due to their personal issues.
“While you may or may not agree with her choice to give Willow sartorial freedom, Jada’s point about girls being a slave to their mother’s deepest insecurities rings true,” the popular site states. “I’ve heard mothers who have struggled with weight loss say they’re going to make sure their daughters don’t gain any excess pounds. There are even mothers who always yearned for long hair who refuse to let their daughters cut theirs.”
Willow Smith has been called a fashion-forward style maven by many outlets for her unique blend of menswear and constant stream of hairdo changes, and was dubbed “a budding fashionista” for her creative styling at the 2012 BET Awards.
Yet, she also faced massive criticism that night from the public on Twitter, particularly for the simple outfit she wore in a video presented during the show for her song, “I Am Me.” The song, ironically, is a call for acceptance of her uniqueness. It was met with vociferous calls for her to look more “normal.”
Willow’s chastisers aside, there are many who support her. “No matter how grown you may think Willow Smith looks or acts, she is  years old and she should not be subjected to over-analyzing, mean-spirited critiques from grown-ups,” wrote theGrio’s Demetria Irwin in response to these attacks.
It seems that months later, these types of judgments are still being heaped on the little girl. Do you think that Jada’s commentary on this issue will encourage the public to resist the urge to make sartorial demands of her child?
Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter at @lexisb.