This is one topic that I have sat on for the longest, but now more than ever, I feel very compelled to speak on it. For as long as I can remember, Hair has always been a main topic of discussion in the black community, especially for women. From the tender age of 11, I had my first experience of hair envy and although I was completely aware of different hair textures, I had no idea that one was “better” than the next.
As a Caribbean woman of both African and French Diasporas, my hair is a very fine curly, cotton-like texture. One day a girl approached me and said, “Why is your hair so nice?” I said, “Ummm, thanks but I’m not sure.” She replied, “I hate that your hair is so nice. Why couldn’t I have hair like yours?” While some may find this flattering, I felt very bad, blaming myself for making her feel insecure about her own texture.
When I became a young adult, I realized that I was not at fault and hair envy was very prevalent in the African-American community, stemming from ideals that have been deeply rooted within our culture for years.
Another incident that had me thinking about the topic of hair was a meeting I attended in college, hosted by the Black Students Union. While I did think it was a healthy discussion, I found it alarming that only myself and two other girls had never had perms. Although I do not think that getting a perm is a bad thing, most of the girls that attended the meeting had their first perm at the young age of 4 or 5. I found this very disheartening, as these girls never had the chance of experiencing their hair in its natural state.
Receiving a perm at such a young age is not only unsafe but is indirectly telling young ethnic girls that their natural hair is not “good” enough. The idea that straight hair is prettier or better has to be one of the most negative self-inflicting ideals that has caused us to not only hate others with naturally curly or straight textures, but has left us ultimately hating ourselves.
Within the past 5 years or so I have followed the natural hair movement, which I find very empowering. Women are either growing out their natural hair or simply embracing their natural tresses, in hopes of encouraging other women to “go natural.” I love the natural hair movement because it is helping us as a culture to overlook these European standards of beauty by creating our own.
I have been natural my whole life and I enjoy following natural hair blogs and gurus online. I am most grateful for these resources because natural hair tutorials were non-existent when I was a girl. I applaud the people behind these blogs as they are giving young girls the confidence to embrace their luscious locks. These resources have helped myself and hundreds of others to discover new hairstyles and hair regimens in hopes of having both healthy and glamorous hair.
With any thing else, there are negatives that come with the positives. While this movement has made great strives in the black community, it has created a wedge between naturals and girls that get perms or wear weaves. Hair envy rears its ugly head as both naturals and girls that wear extensions feel that they are superior to the next.
Below is an article by Shannon T Boodram, giving a different perspective of the natural hair movement and her thoughts on hair shaming.
As tension, due to hair shaming, increases among women, so does the relationship between couples when she decides to ditch the weave. Recently, comedian Steve Harvey interviewed newly weds, McClea and Love, who struggled because McClea was not supportive of Love’s decision to grow out her natural hair. Although many may think that these European standards of beauty have only negatively affected the way we view ourselves, it has also manipulated the black man’s idea of beauty. Natural hair guru and Psychotherapists, Nikki Walton, counsels the couple.
Check out the video below.
To combat hair envy, hair shaming and other issues facing the black community regarding hair, here are some simple rules:
- Embrace your beauty. Do not feel compelled to go natural because everyone else is doing it. Embrace your own beauty whether you decide to change hair color or add extensions. Your hair belongs to you. Wear it however you feel comfortable wearing it. Stop comparing hair textures and embrace your own. No two heads are alike so embrace the fact that there is no one else like you and Rock Out!
- Respect others hair choices. What is right for you may not be right for someone else. Just because someone decides to wear a style that differs from yours, does not mean that they are any less than you are. Respect one another’s hair decisions.
- Support one another. If your friend or partner decides to change their style of hair, support them. It is not easy going natural or trying something new. Self-esteem is constructed through the people that surround them.
- Be wise. Healthy hair is happy hair. Make the right decision when styling hair. Less tension, more treatment. You will thank me later.
- Natural hair is for everyone. Never let anyone tell you that natural hair is not for every one. It can’t be any more for you than something that grows out of your own scalp.
The natural hair movement was not intended to tell women how they should wear their hair but to ultimately change the standards of beauty by telling ethnic girls everywhere both young and old that they are beautiful just the way they are. The beauty of our hair as black women and ethnic girls is its versatility. And whether you decide to wear your own hair, get a perm or rock extensions, I want you to know, It’s just hair!