It's never OK to touch anyone's hair without permission, but women of color experience that sort of unwanted attention all the time. Jamila Rowser relates that sentiment in her new comic, Wash Day, an homage to the Sunday ritual women with textured hair know all too well. Rowser, a South Florida resident who is black and Latina, wanted to share the story of many women in a slice-of-life format. Her comic includes glimpses of gentrification and street harassment — everyday themes for women in America and beyond.
"I was inspired partly by my own wash-day ritual and also understanding that a lot of women of color that have curly and kinky hair spend almost a whole day, which is why we call it wash day, caring for their hair," Rowser explains. "I wanted to write about this shared experience because our hair is one of the most contested parts of our bodies. I also wanted the story to be one that women can relate to even if they have not read comics before, but they're intrigued by the story line of Wash Day and the visuals — and it may get them into reading comics."
The story follows Kimana, AKA Kim, as she cares for her long, thick hair. While Kim goes through her Sunday-morning rituals with her best friend and roommate, Cookie, readers experience the highs and lows of the 26-year-olds living in the Bronx. Rowser says she also wants the comic to double as a tutorial for women on how to care for their hair.
Recently, Rowser completed a Kickstarter campaign with an original goal of $5,000. She surpassed it, reaching $16,785 and allowing her to send printed, digital, and translated copies, along with other merch, to backers of the campaign.
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Robyn Smith illustrated the images, J.A. Micheline edited, and Joamette Gil will translate Wash Day into Spanish. They expect to have the copies of the comic in the hands of the public by late summer or early fall.
Rowser says her focus on natural hair was a deliberate choice, but she doesn't aim to exclude people who don't wear their hair natural. She wants to pay tribute to women and their natural hair, she says, because the style receives so much negativity and goes against so many beauty standards that women of color see growing up.
"It's revolutionary to decide I'm going to wear my hair in the way that it grows," she explains. "It was also important for Cookie, Kim's roommate, to be Afro-Latina with kinky, curly hair and why I wanted Wash Day to be translated into Spanish. I know in the Latin community, there are also negative stereotypes. The more African features you have, [there is a] bad connotation that surrounds that. I wanted to show all women that I hear them, I see them, and they're not alone."
Copies of Wash Day are being distributed to Kickstarter backers now. To be notified when the comic goes on sale to the public, visit JamilaRowser.com/Shop.