Professional and unprofessional hairstyles are as different as black and white

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I’ll be delighted when somebody can explain what one’s hair has to do with professing anything!



It seems like there’s some single factor that separates the images in one group from the other, but I’m damned if I can put my finger on it. What could it be?


Now that’s just uncalled for, Google.


The problem with racism is not that individuals are racist, and that therefore the solution is for them to stop being racist. I’ve hated that argument for a long time, because it casts us all into the void of “personal responsibility.” In this void, no one is racist, and in this void, everyone else needs to be doing something. Put simply: If that philosophy ain’t going to end poverty, it ain’t going to end racism. Collusion is always better than independent efforts. The problem with racism is that it is systemic and mechanistic. Yes, individuals should strive to avoid, fight, and dismantle racism at every opportunity. But, if we’re not careful, we’ll end up rowing the boat in so many different directions that it goes nowhere.

However, algorithms like Google’s are largely designed to “find what you are looking for” based on patterns of behavior online. Is the algorithm racist? Yes and no. I’d wager the algorithm is at least in part self-assembling, with no human intervention. But I make the argument that racism is a system, not a belief, and that we rationalize the outcomes of that system in a just-world framework, so in this regard, the algorithm doesn’t require intentionality to be racist. But whether the algorithm is racist is overall less important than the issue of whether the society it serves is racist. So should Google do anything about this? I’m not sure. I’m a big believer that when you hide the ugliness, it doesn’t go anywhere. Google can paper over this part of the algorithm, but to what end? So that people can continue to delude themselves into believing that there is nothing wrong with our society at large? I’m not sure that would be a good thing.


I think that you expect way too much from the English language if you expect any sort of consistency between what a word means and what the parent word of the parent word means.

I mean, I’d like a language that works that way, but English certainly doesn’t.


Take a look at the article on the first image:

Clicking through most of those turns up mostly op-ed pieces about the notion of “natural hair” being “unprofessional”.

Clicking through the “professional hair” gets a bunch of Pinterst and similar type inane lists of hairstyles.

So yeah…people writing about the phenomenon of pooh-poohing black hair as being “unprofessional”, has made Google unintentionally racist. Funny, but easy to track down.

And it’s a closely guarded secret for a good reason imho; it used to be way too easy to game the system. See: Santorum. Back then, it would have been way too easy to jam up GIS results for “creepy ginger” with this:


I can’t be the only one who reads “professional hairstyle” as “a hairstyle crafted by a professional stylist” as opposed to “a hairstyle suitable for a professional workplace”.


How does a computer algorithm decide what is or is not professional? I mean, it is subjective.

In generally, unkempt, dirty hair is unprofessional. I would say non-standard hair colors (e.g. blue, purple, bright red) are unprofessional, though acceptable at more casual jobs. Past that, any style could be professional as long as the overall package looks good.

Furthermore, there is professional and there is professional. Professional as in a hair style you wear with a suit or dress and do some job involving numbers. And professional as in you sat in a chair for an hour a professional preened over you to get it looking perfect for a party or the run way or acting job (which seems to reflect all the sample images - none of those look like DIY at your home styles).

No Frauenfelder bedhead results in that search?


Holy fuck! Seriously! Just did it and was astounded.

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I suspect the algorithm is just racist against gingers.


For women, a lot of times it’s the curly part that’s “unprofessional”. Black women are going to get this disproportionately because they have more curls in more profusion than other ethnicities (and also racism, and the weird obsession some white people have with black people’s hair). But I have heard white women with naturally curly hair say that they’ve also been dinged for an “unprofessional” appearance. It’s never happened to me personally, even though I am a giant frizzball and could certainly be seen as “unkempt” on a bad day (those are bun days).

Ironically, if we straighten our hair and then curl the ends, that’s seen as desirable. It can be curly, but not TOO curly and certainly not the way it curls naturally.


what’s assumed to be appropriate for business settings.

Maybe it’s we who are making the wrong assumption here.

Why would “professional” and “unprofessional hair” searches necessarily return images of styles appropriate for business settings? My first thought when seeing those phrases was salon vs. self-styled 'dos.

At least, I’d certainly characterize several of the “professional hair” pics as inappropriate for business professionals - but looking very much like something from a salon’s picture book.




Yeah that woman in the bottom middle doesn’t say “professional” to me. At least not “business professional”. It’s also an image that’s come up in my searches when I’m looking for a picture to give my stylist.

BUT. Many of the top women’s hairdos also require a professional to do them. Those braids take hours. I don’t think most women do weaves at home.


Uh oh. You better be a ginger too…


Sneaky little hobbitses. Wicked, tricksy, false!


As somebody (I truly don’t remember who) said a couple of years ago:

“Google Maps told me to turn left on Malcolm Ten Boulevard, and that’s when I knew no black people worked there”