The Politics of Natural Hair

As a Black woman, I’ve now learned that all hair is good hair. Recently, committing to the “big chop” and going natural has become such a huge trend that new-found naturalistas resort to shaming their relaxed or weaved sistas. I’ve had relaxed hair since around 5th grade, the decision to do so happened to coincide with my pre-teen emo and mall goth years. I wanted to have side swept bangs that looked just like those of the white boy pop punk lead singers I listened to so much. I wanted to be able to easily cosplay from my favorite animes without needing to buy wigs. I frequented my local Hot Topic to buy neon hair bows that I only believed looked acceptable with my flat-ironed bob instead of afro puffs.

back in 7th grade when i thought i was too cool and my bangs caused lots of forehead acne

But I quickly grew tired of having to wrap my hair every night in order to retain its shape, I grew tired of having to burn my scalp every so often and having the kitchen smell like eggs, just so I could be able to put my hair into a ponytail that kindasortabutnotreally bounced. I decided to let my mother cut any remaining relaxed hair off the summer of 10th grade. Immediately following the “big chop,” I did suffer from a TWA (teeny weenie afro) before any growth showed.

my heartfelt teenie weenie afro

Though I was less than enthusiastic about my new ‘do, I started gaining lots of attention from other natural Black women. It was as if I now had membership to a club I didn’t even know existed, one that I wouldn’t have wanted to join on my own but can only revoke my status by giving into the “creamy crack,” again.

“How long have you been natural?”

“What products do you use?”
“Do you put heat on your hair?”
“I’ve been natural for x amount of time and this is what I do every night and this is what you should do and I’m so excited to see all of these Black women embracing their hair instead of turning to relaxers and weaves and I am a natural hair crusader—every Black woman needs to go natural!”

The natural hair crusaders are everywhere I go; there is no escape especially when your afro acts like the Bat signal for them. When I become engaged in a conversation with one, I am usually pressured to talk down about women who buy their hair or who put chemicals in it, as if we were our own elite group. I am not down with this new found internalized class system. I didn’t cut off my relaxed hair for liberation—I was simply bored with my hair style and needed a change. . I don’t know about anyone else with natural hair, but my afro is not something I want to talk about all the time. Usually, I don’t care to do so at all.

the blue/green afro of today

My mother, hair care extraordinaire, wears a flawless weave most times of the year and keeps her hair growing naturally underneath, and yet now I’m being told to hate on it due to my natural hair ‘superiority.’ It’s great to reclaim a part of ourselves that has been constantly degraded upon from Eurocentric beauty ideals but to go back and oppress other Black women just for DOING THEIR OWN THING eliminates any chance of progress.

It’s cool to cater to the hair you were born with, it’s fantastic to buy your hair in bags or off mannequin heads, and it’s great to straighten and curl and style your hair no matter what shape it’s in.

Don’t hate.

Appreciate.

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7 thoughts on “The Politics of Natural Hair

  1. I was trying to think of how I could say “I LOVE YOUR TEENIE WEENIE AFRO” without sounding kinky, realized I couldn’t, so I just said it.

    ALL hair is pretty. Long, short, kinky, afro, slinky, curly, limp, natural, greased, pouffy, dreaded, twisted, straight, wavy, rough… I could go on and on but I think I digress.

  2. I definitely understand where you’re coming from. I cannot go anywhere without being stopped and asked a gazillion questions. I definitely enjoying having a support system/community that understands my struggles and triumphs with natural hair. However, it can get rather annoying having to stand in the “ethnic” product aisle of a Wal-Mart and give a complete stranger the run down. Also I definitely think that if black women who choose not to embrace their natural texture of the hair, it shouldn’t be because they hold the same negative stereotypes that were placed off on afro-textured hair to begin with. All in all I think the biggest thing I’ve gained by going natural is an appreciation for knowledge of self. Therefore, I think more black women should just learn to love themselves unapologetically and if that means returning to natural for some then so be it. However, just because a woman is natural doesn’t mean she has any less “self-hate” than a woman with a relaxer.. Ultimately, the black community is very diverse and complex and I think we should spend more time loving each other and not vilifying one another whether our hair is relaxed or relaxed or a weave.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  3. Maybe you don’t want to talk about it all the time, but I have to tell you–your blue/green afro is AMAZING. So’s the skeleton earring. Obviously, doing your own thing has led to some awesome style!

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