Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It's Just Natural Hair, Relax!

The bigger the 'fro the more you know???

Haha, you see what I did there? Relax. Natural hair. Typically using these terms in the same sentence could start an all out war of words (see: Monday's post). And it'd fittingly be choreographed to swinging jazz music and complemented by catchy lyrics--"Talkin 'bout good and bad hair, whether you're dark or your fair, go on and swear, see if I care, good and bad hair!"  Sadly, I feel like this may have already happened...

But back to the lecture at hand [#shoutout to Snoop D-o-double-g]... Often in this debate about "good" vs. "bad" hair, women who perm their hair or rock weaves/wigs are criticized and looked down upon because they don't rock their natural kinks and naps. It's also assumed that women who "process" their hair in any capacity do so because they want to appease to a Eurocentric view of beauty--the straighter and longer the better. Many people, especially women who quit the creamy crack to free their naps, buy into myths about natural hair being superior to hair that's not natural. That's right, myths. Fictitious concepts that have been perpetuated as truths without any proof or basis of reality... about natural hair.

Some myths about natural hair include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • People with natural hair are deep and more enlightened than those who change the curl pattern/texture of their hair and are probably group-think-obsessed sheep anyway. No questions asked.
  • People with natural hair automatically have higher self-esteem and a greater sense of self-worth than those who aren't natural.
  • People who choose not to rock natural hair, by default, hate themselves, their black roots, and in general have a poor self-image.
  • Having natural hair is the only way to appreciate and embrace your African roots.
Now, I know plenty of sistas who are nappy and UNhappy and haven't the slightest clue to what it means to be content. I've seen some of the freshest, flyest natural hairstyles on women who know as much about their African ancestry as I know about Flemish immigration to Ireland. And it seems the more a natural sista swears by Erykah, her donk, and her Window Seat vid, the less she's able to distinguish her own a$s from a hole in the ground. *shrug* But like anything else, physical traits don't dictate how one feels about themselves and/or understands the world (and their place in it).

I think it's safe to say all of these assumptions are nonsense. Trust me, I'm a trained research scientist and I have a 95% confidence interval. To think how one chooses to wear their hair necessarily implies anything about them other than "they like to wear their hair like that" is just idiotic and recklessly presumptuous. I mean, am I the only one who listens and takes heed to India.Arie when she tells us that she is not her hair?! It's just not that damn serious!!! *smh*

It's because of people--namely women--perpetuating these myths that cause friction between the natural and not-natural camps and leads me to one conclusion. Now, I'ma go head and say somethin that other light skint (yes, skint) chicks with curly/wavy hair who often straighten it for a silky smooth look are probably too afraid to say aloud for fear of b[l]acklash. And that's this: many women with natural hair are pretentious and full of sh*t. Yeah, I said it. Read it again if you need to--many women with natural hair are pretentious and full of sh*t. And what?

It's bad enough women give each other a hard time over the silliest and pettiest drama (mostly over ain't sh*t men), but to turn on each other over protein growing from the dermis of our scalp?! I have stories for days of how natural sistas have thrown me shade and made ugly remarks when I rocked my hair straight or even rocked it wet and wavy style. I mean, really. Sure, there are women who hate the natural curl and kink of their hair and do their damnedest to eliminate all signs of Ahf-ree-kuh and think their processed hair is better than women with 'fros and locs. But there's also plenty of women who love themselves, their roots (the genealogical kind as well as the hair kind lol), and their beauty who choose not to be "natural" simply because that's their choice. Doesn't a woman have the right to express herself in any fashion she prefers, even if that means altering her hair to be suitable for her tastes? Truth be told, natural hair can be time consuming and difficult to manage (especially if you're not used to working with it in its natural state)--it ain't for everybody! Nonetheless, it is makes absolutely ZERO sense to me for natural-headed women to treat not-natural-headed women the same way they've been treated--with hatred and a sense of superiority based on the choices made about their hair. And any woman with a superiority complex based on her hair is an imbecile. Period.

My mother permed my hair a couple times a year growing up because I was tender-headed and wanted NO parts of her combing through it. By college, I stopped the perming. But it wasn't until recently that I accepted the challenge of learning how to work with my monstrously thick, unruly curls (and its 5 different curl patterns) and putt less heat on my hair to straighten it (which is by far the easiest way to wear/style it). So I'll always support women who choose to be natural, especially those trying transitioning to being chemical-free. And I stay reppin for mixed chicks™ and other no-fuss natural hair products that help keep Black women's hair healthy and beautiful. But I'll be damned if I let my fellow natural sistas think just because their hair is unprocessed that they have a pass to be a$sholes to women who aren't natural. (-_O) No ma'am(s)!! I shan't tolerate ANY woman disrespecting or condemning another woman based on what hair fashions she deems acceptable. Yes, the history behind Black hair is painful but let's put energy into supporting and teaching each other, not judging each other on some BS. The Black-on-Black-women's-hair hate has got to stop.

So what do you think? Can Black women only be empowered in their beauty by having 100% natural hair? Is being natural overrated? For the sistas with chemically processed hair, do you feel like you're "selling out' because of your hair preferences? For the natural sistas, do you assign a woman's worth based on how she chooses to wear her hair?

Currrrled and never scurrrred,
~Gem Naturally


  1. Can I just say that I ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN LOVE YOU! I was just thinking about this today and how I feel like I'm being looked down upon because I have really long hair and I prefer to wear it straight. I get so tired of having to explain how I'd much rather spend time washing and flat ironing my hair than trying to style some clumped kinky mess and it STILL ends up looking ridiculous. It doesn't suit my facial structure-straight does. I'm not trying to look like a white woman nor am I any less sophisticated cause I don't rock a fro, it's just my personal preference!!!
    Sorry for the rant lol
    Great Post Gem. Like, seriously

  2. so. i'm natural. as you know. and i did a post similar to this one here and i agree with you for the most part. i wasn't aware of how serious a game being natural was until i joined different natural hair forums and would get chewed the HAYLE out if i said i was going to change my style for the day or week or whatever. matter of fact, it wasn't even allowed to be typed. lol. i don't agree with that and thus i don't really participate in those conversations anymore. hair is an individual, intimate thing. and i'll be damned if some person thinks they have a right to tell me how i'm going to wear it and what i'm going to put on it.

    but, wearing my natural hair in any other style but my wash n go (curly 'good hair' look) has elicited looks from many a straight-haired woman. snickers, 'ugh faces', all of that. so i think the problem goes both ways. natural haired women who think as you have stated in this post are far more militant and outspoken about their disgust of all things chemical in regards to hair though, i will say.

    i got into a debate on twitter before about being natural and wearing makeup. someone saw a woman with a big fro wearing makeup and expressed that she "didn't get it." get what? is what i thought. sometimes i wear makeup...sometimes i don't. having natural hair is like you said, mostly just because you like your hair like that. most of the natural women i know have gone natural several times in between perms, bald, cuts, extensions, weaves, etc.

    the sooner we ALL realize that it is just HAIR...the better.

    good post.

  3. Terrific post, Gemmie!! *standing muh-f*ckin' ovation*

    I'm on the creamy crack right now, but have switched back and forth? Why? Because I feel like it. It is just hair and it's a fashion statement, so to speak. Just as fashion trends change over time, so does women's hair. Granted, I do take care of it and makes sure it looks nice, but still...I can compare that to my clothes. I try to keep my clothes nice too because of all of those things help ME look good. There is no ONE way for my hair to look good. Oh, and this:

    "It's also assumed that women who "process" their hair in any capacity do so because they want to appease to a Eurocentric view of beauty--the straighter and longer the better."

    Reminds me of my big sis...she always has a hilarious retort to this. She's all, "I never understand why women say we're trying to look like white girls. Um, NO. I ain't tryna look like Farrah Fawcett." lmao Straight or not, our hair looks different from theirs so trying to look like a white chick is a fail by default anyway.

    But, yeah, I love all my sistas. Natural, weaved-up, permed, etc. Well, except those bishes that rock blonde weaves...the hell wrong with you? LOL, I'm kiddin', I even love them. This "I'm better than you" mentality from both sides only serves the "divide and conquer" agenda that I HATE. We should focus less on the dead protein that grows out of our heads and more on loving each other as we are.

  4. Good post Gem! I went from kinky, curly fro to locs, and some of the loc folks are horrible. When I started my locs, I was a member of this message board, and people didn't like people calling them "locs", and they were not fans of Sisterlocks at all. It was ridiculous, and probably the same site Muze mentioned. smh.

    Anyway, back to the topic. I think much of the "I'm better because I'm natural" nonsense comes from the sense that for years, straight was better, and that's what was thrown in our face for years. It was all we saw, and anything that deviated was not "good." Basically, the natural nazis are attempting to bring weaved up and relaxed hair down and make it "bad" the way natural hair was(and still is by some)deemed "bad" by our community. A lot of women my be holding onto rejection by our own, and now they are lashing out. Hurt people, hurt people, or at least attempt to.

  5. Like Cheekie I switch my hair up from relaxed to natural. Why? Because I'm bored easily and I like it both ways. Hair is not that serious and I refuse to let it define me.

    Great post and for all the ladies who commented I think you all have beautiful hair!

  6. Great post, Gemmie. I agree that there are indeed two camps: the holier-than-thou au naturals and the creamy crack divas. I saw it on the regular among my sistas on the AUC campuses. And there was indeed a hierarchy of sorts. Still, my inner battle has never been dictated by women. It's always (sadly) been dictated how men perceive and respond to me based on my hair. I attract different men when my hair is natural vs. when my hair is "happy to be nappy". The last guy I dated seriously met me when my hair was natural and heavily dolloped with product (to bring out the curls) and after seeing my relaxed hair pics on fb, he was like "I like your hair straight." Anywho, every time I switch back and forth (and believe me I've had to it all- from shoulder length to 1 inch natural to locs to creamy crack) I wonder what type of negro I'm going to attract. Someone who believes that "it's just hair" OR someone who finds me less attractive because my hair doesn't blow in the wind. Unfortunately, I meet less brothas who are gaga about my natural hair. And on top of that, I think that many brothas are only tolerable of a specific type of natural hair. My hair is super thick, has three different textures and does NOT look like Freddie'S. ya dig? my brother says if I lived in Brooklyn this wouldn't be a problem. There he says, brothas love all textures. Me no know.

  7. @lyness
    lol thanks for the support!! and truthfully, you shouldnt HAVE TO explain why you do anything, least of all how you choose to wear your hair. what works for you works for you. and to judge the inside you based on the outside you is just ri-damn-diculous. tell dem bishes "long hair, dont CARE!"

    it absolutely goes both ways. but for natural women to counter permed women's hatred of naps with more hate is just counter-productive. and silly. like really? we grown. my choices are my business. until my hair style directly impacts your ability to live, step off... ive heard numerous stories about women who have natural styles that get played by natural women the minute they decide to switch up their hair style. hell even JILL SCOTT ( gettin flack for her hair, as if she's not entitled to do something OTHER than have natural hair (word to cheeks for the article). FOH.... and as for ppl questions natural women being made up-->> (-_O) another FOH for them too! like, what kinda logic says some one who likes natural hair would only want to have an unadorned face? *smh*

    lol you are silly but seriously thanks for the props! aint nothin wrong with you perming yo head. its funny because of all my friends who still perm their hair (there are a lot of us who have gone natural in terms of no chemicals), NONE of them look down at women with natural/nappy hair styles. they actually applaud women who have found styles and products that work for them--they just arent willing to put the effort in making the conversion themselves. and boy does it take EFFORT!

    its funny you bring up the term about locs and what not. i know a lot of ppl with locs who hate the term DRED locks. they will go off. and i find it funny when some one like my roommate (jamaican-born) says dreds and gets all kinds of side eyes. its crazy. i dont get the big deal, really, but i try to respect ppl's preferences when it comes to terms to use and not use.... but you're right about hurt people hurting other people. and i get the psych behind it. but these ppl need to learn it is NOT cute. it just makes them look like pretentious a$sholes with nothing better to do then be filled with hate. it just makes NO sense and serves no greater purpose.

    i too refuse to let my hair define me. my hair is a fashion/style statement (and sometimes a bad one *smh*) that is subject to change at will, not cliff's notes about who i am as a person.

    girrrrrl you done went to a place i wasnt even tryna go--men's preference for how a woman wear's her hair. *smh* hell, both men AND women have told me countless times, after seeing me with my hair chopped off in a short curly bob--"why did you cut your hair?! it was so long, straight and beautiful?! are you ok?!" (O_O)..(-_-)..(O_O) why something gotta be WRONG with me because i want to do something different with my HAIR?!?! its not like i went and got tattooed or mutilated my body in some way. its just hair, it grows, it bends, it straightens, its multi-faceted.... BUT BACK TO YOU--i feel like you and i need to have a therapy session about this whole hair identity being tied to the men. and i hope this comes out in the way its intended but--you shouldnt want any man who is going to place a value on you based on HOW you wear your hair, without getting to know you. any grown, intelligent person who likes using their brain to make logical decisions should know that a persons outer appearance (if well kept *caveat*) doesnt dictate the kind of person they are on the inside. if a ninja judges your book by its cover, hes a fool and not worth your time any damn way. ok, i could go on but ill just stop there.

  8. Love it! I always say, hair is a fashion statement, not a political one.

  9. I am sitting in the hair salon now about to get my hair permed for the first time in 5 months...yeah, I was trying the natural thing, but for right now with what I want to do with my hair, its not working for me...and guess what? That's ok! Like you said, everyone's hair is their own personal i know some people might have something to say when I tell them I'm not on a journey to natural anymore, but the beauty is that i dont care...I'm trying to find what works for me....great post maam!