The Relationship Between Black Women, Hair, and Infidelity: Who is Becky with the Good Hair?

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Becky with the good hair“ Why are these 5 words so powerful?  Because Becky has  set off a conversation over the relationship between black women, infidelity, and their hair.   The thought of your man choosing another woman over you, especially a  white woman or a woman with good hair or a woman with qualities that you perceive are better than yours,  is painful and it’s a thought that has systematically haunted and divided women throughout history.

A recent Huffington Post article, We Each Have Our Own ‘Becky With the Good Hair’  attempts to shed some light on the motivation behind why not just black women, but so many women,  resort to a variety of self improvement methods to enhance their appearance in an effort to grab a man’s attention.

The invisible — yet haunting —presence of Becky in women’s psyches is what drives them (us) to resort to things like pretending to be who we’re not for the sake of getting a man (or approval), begging for attention, engaging in digital (or old school) detective work, and in extreme cases embarking on a kind of surgical self-improvement pilgrimage in hopes of reaching the holy grail of physical perfection.

So what is it about Becky with the good hair?  When Beyoncé  released her latest album Lemonade, she opened the door  for us to  think  carefully about our bad habit of  dividing women into categorical types of good hair (most preferred) and bad hair (likely to be cheated on).  After all, historically the  relationship between black women, infidelity,  and hair is deeply rooted in pain, shame, and internalized racism.   The division dates as far back as  slavery when white owners would deliberately separate and assign slaves with light skin and straighter “good hair” to household work, assigning the hard, labor intensive and punishing field work to those with darker skin and kinky looking African hair.  In their essential guide, Hair Story, authors Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps explain what happened next and for generations to come:

Black people themselves internalized the concept … [and] propagated the notion that darker-skinned Blacks with kinkier hair were less attractive, less intelligent, and worth less than their lighter-hued brothers and sisters.

In the famous 1988 Spike Lee film School Daze,  in which  fraternity and sorority members are at odds at a historically black college,  the painful topic about hair quality is tackled throughout the  musical number called “Good and Bad Hair.”

It’s evident that there is indeed an internal struggle going on with black women.  So much so that referring to  another woman as ‘Becky with the good hair’  has made the other woman synonymous with betrayal.

While attending a recent dinner party over the weekend, individuals dining at the table overheard a woman give another woman (light skinned, with  a good grade of hair)  a compliment regarding her hair style.  One woman stated, “Well, I see someone went and had their hair done…I mean had their already good hair done.” The woman on the receiving end of the compliment replied, “Girl, yes I did.” I’m Becky with the good hair.” They then both laughed while others at the table had a very hard time understanding the inside joke.  The woman who received the compliment and made the reference to “Becky with the good hair” was dining at the table with her husband beside her.  He looked puzzled by his wife’s response as did others at the table.

Perhaps the women engaged in the compliment were  confused by what the statement, “Becky with the good hair” implied. Or were they?  Did the light skinned woman with the good hair  on the receiving end of the compliment inflict pain by taking  a stab at the other woman?  To find out, we must first  investigate and breakdown where the term “Becky” originated from.

It’s been reported that “Becky” was born out of the 1992 Sir Mix- a- Lot hit, “Baby Got Back.”   Lyrics: Oh, my, God Becky, look at her butt / It is so big, she looks like…  Since then, the term Becky has gone on to become slang for a stereotypical white woman and fellatio.  So why was the light skinned woman referring to herself as “Becky?”

Who is Becky?  

  • Was she a real, live, in-the-flesh woman?
  • Doe she represent White women?
  • Or is she simply the representation of the other woman?


According to Vicki Tidwell Palmer:

Depending on who you are — or who your partner was with if she/he betrayed you — Becky can be Asian, Latina, Black, Caucasian, or East Indian. She can be anyone, really. Most women — no matter their race, color, ethnicity, culture, subculture, orientation, size, education, or social status — have their own, personal, ‘Becky.’

Becky is the one you think is better than you — however you define ‘better’.  Better may be about hair (color, length, texture), breast size, skin shade, age, or build. She’s the one you think has that mysterious something you believe would change everything if you could have it for yourself .

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Photo Courtesy of Tomika Skanes

Photo Courtesy of Tomika Skanes

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