Why Hair Matters

This is partly a response to AJR's post where she says how she's sick about the politics of Black hair, and that hair shouldn't matter. I disagree.

Now first of let me say that I don't think it's a sin to press hair or to wear a weave. I don't think that there is anything wrong with changing it up hear and there. However, I do not think that it is "healthy" for Blacks to chemically alter our hair or to always hide it with a weave.

The first thing many women will say to defend their non-natural state is that white women perm, press, curl, and weave up to. However, they fail to recognize that that we are not white. Black women and white women are not in the same situations, are not viewed the same way, and are not held to the same standard, so white women can not possibly be used to justify black hair choices. White women have been romanticized as Cleopatras and Aphrodities for ages. Black women have been forced to be Aunt Jemima's through the years. As a result, white women's hair choices don't impact them the way that black women's do. Most white women don't pretend to have an afro through childhood, and when I see pictures of whites trying to look silly, I see them wearing afro wigs, not long flowing blond hair. Black hair has a stigma. What percentage of black women do you think would walk down the street with an afro?

Anytime that someone puts significant time, effort, and money to change something, it matters. Anytime a portion of a population alters itself to look like the majority, it matters.
If you would never wear your hair in its natural state, hair matters to you.

Hair is not irrelevant because it is a reflection of culture and therefore a reflection of self. What do you think when you see a woman walking down the street in a sari ? You know she has Indian heritage, and any other perceptions you have about her are subject to your possible prejudices about Indians. Likewise, when many people see women in scarfs or burqas, they assume that they are oppressed or think little of themselves. What do people think when they see a woman in an afro. People frequently say that she looks uneducated, unprofessional, or something similar. This is because they recognize an afro as being a Black feature and since one has Black features she must also carry the negative attributes of Blacks.

We're all aware that Black characteristics carry strong negative connotations around the world. Therefore, the more "Black" one looks, the more these negative undertones will be attributed to that person. This is why people bleach their skin. This is why people straighten their hair. We do not choose our hair styles at random because they matter. We not only pick the styles we like based on our own preferences, but the preferences of others. People naturally want to be accepted by other's, and if that means changing themselves to look more white, they will do so. It's important to know why we make our decisions. Every choice we make is relevant because it is based on something learned. This includes hair styles.

6 comments:

lena said...

"Black hair has a stigma. What percentage of black women do you think would walk down the street with an afro?"

About 100% in the 1970's. Make it stylish, groomed, and popular and we'll wear anything. It's not about shame. A lot of us really are OK with our hair. But like anaybody, we want to be in the style of the day, so most won't wear an afro now for fear of looking like they just got out of a time warp. But many rock all kinds of natural styles.

"What do people think when they see a woman in an afro. People frequently say that she looks uneducated, unprofessional, or something similar. This is because they recognize an afro as being a Black feature and since one has Black features she must also carry the negative attributes of Blacks."

But you're too concerned with what others think, and how some (and I emphasize some) white people wear "afro wigs" instead of "long blond wigs" to make fun of us - but racists people always use black people as the butt of jokes, when is that new? I think it has no validity to this argument. Who cares what they think? I actually think the majority of people that I know wear natural hair now, in a plethora of cute styles.

"Most white women don't pretend to have an afro through childhood"

But they do pretend to have long blond hair, thus the overuse and misuse of extensions, hair bleach and dyes. And let's not even talk about how most white ladies (and guys) try to pretend from childhood to be about 6 shades darker than they really are and risks cancer by getting suntans, tanning creams, etc..But nobody ever wants to mention that self-hate.

"We're all aware that Black characteristics carry strong negative connotations around the world. Therefore, the more "Black" one looks, the more these negative undertones will be attributed to that person."

I think this is definitely true depending upon the country, especially in places like India. But that anti-black "stigma" would be true whether our hair was straight, curly, kinky, or nappy. I know, I've lived it internationally. It's not the texture of hair as much as just being black and associated with Africa.

Oh ye of little faith in Black women and our hair. I know many black people have ghair issues, i'm not pretending to not understand the reason, but i also think the media has created a lot of this myth of this utter self-hated of our hair. I'm with AJR - we wear our hair in a myriad of 'dos and still manage to feed our kids, vote in a black president, go to work everyday, own our own businesses, walk and chew gum at the same time, etc, etc...

The Black Bot said...

In the 70's we wore our natural hair because we were making a statement and because of pride. The afro was an example, but I don't see how the natural hair you are born with could be out of style. Straight hair is always in style. If people would just accept natural black hair, this wouldn't be true.

I'm not "personally" concerned about what people think. I'm showing that the majority of people in this country don't take natural hair seriously, which is why people don't wear natural hair. I rarely ever see a black women wear natural hair. Most have really long extensions, or perms

People don't attribute that to self-hate because wanting to be blond is wanting to be even more white. I don't see black people wanting to be more black.

I think the vast majority of black women have hair issues. I didn't realize that I had until I addressed it directly. The solution isn't to ignore it or shrug it off. I know a lot of women are over their hair, but the vast majority are not. From my experiences growing up black, in a black family, and in the US, I can say that it is no myth. The problem is a large one. Most black women here would never be scene with natural hair, and there is no point in trying to pretend that is not true for pride's sake.

lena said...

no, not about pride's sake. maybe you should visit washington, dc or new york where tons of women wear their hair natural, myself included, and love it. i also rocked a relaxer many years ago and loved it. black women can wear our hair in a plethora of styles - that's the beauty of black hair to me.

and noone's hair naturally comes out of their heads in a perfectly formed afro hairstyle. you can look at homeless people on the street who have no access to haircare and see that that's not the case.

also, i don't think trying to be blond is a valid reason for wanting to be more white, since 99% of whites and europeans are not naturaaly blond at all. there are a relatively small percentage of africa-descended blacks with naturally bone straight hair - maybe we're trying to be more black like them? and, if on the point of natural blonds,MANY australian aborigines are charcoal black with yellow blond hair. maybe the hair bleachers want to look like them?

not being facetious, just saying...many of us are ok with our hair, natural, relaxed, hot combed, etc.

but i get your point that many have hair issues still, but many also do not.

The Black Bot said...

I live in the South, so our experiences are most likely different. Here, I can definitely say that black hair has a stigma.

I never said anyone's hair looked perfect all the time.

It doesn't matter if whites aren't naturally blond. Blond is still considered the pinnacle of whiteness, so to speak, and that's why they dye their hair.

I know some people don't have issues with their hair, but most do and change it for the wrong reasons. Just because a few people do not doesn't mean that the issue should be ignored completely. Also, many people may not realize why they change their hair texture. This post was made to encourage others to think about why they make their choices. In other words, your hair style is not an accident, so it can serve as a reflection of your personal beliefs.

Anna Renee said...

Very interesting sisters! I think that we black women must have these conversations because the "hair issue" is very deeply ingrained and many women may not understand why they see black hair as "bad". I don't believe that being black is so bad and so stigmatized everywhere in the world. There are people who probably get their info about black people from stereotypical American media and need to learn about who we are. I dont feel that we ought to hang our heads in shame for who we are and because of our own struggles. After the psychological and spiritual crushing our forebears received during slavery, it's a wonder that we arent stark raving mad! Remember, we are resilient! Now thanks to the blogosphere, we sisters are having the conversations en masse that we need!! I hope brothers are doing the same!

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