Comedian Mo’Nique Hicks sent out a PSA through her Instagram on May 29: She wanted “young Queens” (read: Black women and femmes) to think twice before deciding to wear sleep and loungewear in public.
Mo’Nique is a revered comedian known for her role in the early 2000s sitcom The Parkers as well as tons of comedy specials and films. In the Instagram video she posted, Mo’Nique recalls a recent trip to the Atlanta airport where she saw a group of Black women wearing bonnets and head scarves as they waited to board their plane. The sight of the women, “too many to tap,” as she says, was so offensive to her, she decided to comment on it.
The conversation around bonnets is one that has been playing out online for over a month now, but in the latter days of May, Mo’Nique decided to add her two cents. The video wasn’t necessarily about the existence and practicality of bonnets — it was more the act of wearing them in public that was irking the ironically robe-clad Mo’Nique. “I’m not saying it in judgement, I wanna make sure I’m saying it from a place of love,” she says in the video. “When did we lose pride in representing ourselves,” she laments. “When did we step away from ‘let me make sure I’m presentable?'”
While there were some people in the comments who agreed with her, many people were troubled by it. To them, it read as another instance in which Black women were being policed about their appearance more harshly and frequently than others. After all, we don’t get these conversations about non-Black women wearing their hair in messy buns pretty much… everywhere. Black women are forced to consistently push back against the way we look is ridiculed, coveted, and then copied in a confusing cycle powered by racism (internalized or otherwise), white supremacy, and misogynoir.
The grand irony of this whole discussion is that Black women are verified tastemakers in the worlds of fashion and beauty. If you look at the dominant beauty and fashion aesthetics of today, many of them are directly influenced by Black women and the way we present ourselves. The long, embellished nails, the slicked baby hairs, the “baddie” makeup style — these were all created and/or popularized by Black women and femmes.
What is most interesting is that the main use of the bonnet is to keep Black hair from tangling during a night of sleep, or just preserving a hairstyle until you’re ready to take it off. Black women are often criticized if our hair isn’t “done.” Why then, when we “do” our hair, are we being criticized for its practical maintenance?
It’s a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation if you let it be that. But regardless of naysayers, online and in the real world, Black women are still going to make their own choices when and where they decide to wear a bonnet.
Black women shouldn’t have to be “allowed” to do anything. At this juncture, we should be beyond reproach for the choices that we make in our lives. Hearing people pontificate on bonnets and policing Black women is actual insanity.