Posted on July 5, 2016

Beauty Vlogger Learns What Bantu Knots Are the Hard Way

Jihan Forbes, Yahoo! News, June 30, 2016

Norwegian beauty vlogger Gilan Sharafani just caught a ton of flack on social media for a tutorial she posted on how to get heatless curls. In the video, the beauty guru demonstrates what is commonly known as a Bantu knot-out, in which you twist your hair into a series of small buns before taking them out to reveal oodles of curls. It is a method often used by black women to add curl definition, and Bantu knots are a hairstyle that dates centuries back to the Zulu tribes, who rocked them long before Sharafani filmed the controversial video.

Commenters quickly took Sharafani to task for not doing her research, as well as failing to call the hairdo by its actual name. Many also discussed the trend in mainstream culture where hairstyles commonly and historically worn by black women are considered unattractive (or, in this case, nonexistent) until non-black women decide to try them out.

As one commenter @maneobjective pointed out, the problem isn’t that Sharafani did a Bantu knot-out–she’s free to experiment with her hair as she pleases. The issue is that this hairstyle already has a name that most people know, and it should be called what it is. “This is about black women being absolutely fed up and tired of having their cultures, styles, and body parts mimicked and appropriated,” a commenter explained. “We all learned in school that when you use someone else’s words or ideas, you cite your sources. Why is that concept so hard to apply here? Why is everyone so against us asking her or anyone else to cite their sources? Why is there so much resistance? Whether she did the style right or not, whether it looks terrible or not, is of no consequence to me. Just cite your sources, don’t play coy/passive aggressive, take your video, and move on.”

A similar issue arose when the “boxer braids” trend took over the Internet a few months ago. The style, which has been worn by women for centuries, is commonly referred to as cornrows or Dutch braids, depending on who you ask and how you style it. And Refinery 29’s Short Cuts recently got some pushback over its “rope braid” video tutorial, which shows a simple two-strand twist–another hairstyle worn mostly by black women.