soooooo....i've been wanting to do a post about hair for some time now, but i felt like it might superficialize my blog content. no, thats not a word, but u know what i mean. but, for black women, it is so much more than just hair. it can get pretty deep when you think about the way in which its portrayed in the media, the way we as black women think about our hair and our ideals, the way black men react to it, the way non-blacks react to it. the differences in natural and chemically straightened (relaxed) hair). yea, its not JUST hair.
so...in February i decided to go natural. and for those of you who don't know what that means i'll explain. my mom started relaxing (a chemical hair straightening process) my hair when i was around 10, and i've been doing it once every 2 or so months ever since. is a chemical process that permanently breaks the shaft of the hair, killing the natural curl pattern, making it straight. in order to get my hair to its natural state, the relaxed hair has to be cut completely off.
some women choosing to go natural do a "big chop" in which they chop all their relaxed hair off, leaving them with an inch or less of hair. others, like myself, choose to gradually transition by cutting off the relaxed hair within 3 or 4 trimmings. (note:the photo is of a woman having her hair hot combed, not relaxed)
now, reading that, one might just say "okay, she changed her hairstyle...and?". but it is much deeper than that. it isn't just a hairstyle change, its a lifestyle change; a change of mindset; a eye-opening experience in itself (this is for most naturals, not all).
for starters, i think many people know that blacks have gone through (and are still going through...) an inferiority complex. what many do not know (including and especially blacks) is that we have manifested it in many outlets, including aesthetics. there still exists this idea that lighter complected blacks are treated better and looked at as the beauty ideal while darker is still seen not as beautiful ("white is right"). this is reiterated in the media, music videos, films, as well as implemented in our communities. so, similarly, thoughts on our natural hair (nappy, kinky, coily, cottony, wooly....whatever u wish to call it....personally, i prefer the term nappy. i like that it has the most negative connotations to it that i attempt to associate positively) are also parallel to those- nappy hair is seen as bad, while straighter, more European hair is seen as good, better, prettier, healthier, cleaner, sexier, etc. many blacks even refer to straighter hair as "good hair", unbeknowst to the fact that it reinforces the inferiority complex we've endured for centuries.
now, where does this come from? well, it comes from an inferiority complex, as i stated, but moreso, the fact that at one point in time in this country, the idea of being white or even indian or Mexican was not only seen as desireable, but also stood for freedom, more rights with voting and owning land amongst other things, citizenship, being counted as a whole human instead of 3/5ths....etc.; it was the difference between being considered a human and being considered a sub-human species. and blacks have been trying to look anything but black ever since. theres a book about this entitled Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps. it goes much into detail about how we have come to hate our hair that does a much better job than i could in my post.
i chose to go natural in february of this year, and its been one of the best decisions i've ever made. i changed my hair mainly because i was tired and bored with having to relax it, and then constantly having to flat iron it. after a while, you have to realize that your hair ain't like your non-black friends who get up and go. its an entire process of flat ironing....staying out of the rain...not sweating (otherwise, the hair will return to its nappy state)...constantly combing it...dreading washing it which takes HOURS. the money and the time put into maintaining relaxed hair is ridiculous (which is why many black women turn to weaves and wigs). thats time i could have been reading an enlightening book, and money i could have bought a few with! i would say i spent $300 a year on relaxers alone, not including the products to care for it. and i was low maintenance, mind you. some black women spend around $200 for one hairstyle, while some wigs can go for $1,000. COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS!
and why? why am i paying around $300 a year to wind up with chemical scabs on my scalp, damaged hair, and hair that is no less work than it would naturally be? why do mothers feel the need to straighten their daughters' hair as soon as they reach the proper age? why is any natural black hairstyle still seen as "exotic" in a country that was built on our backs? because we've been conditioned; colonized, really.
we have been conditioned to hate ourselves and many of us still do, and theres really nothing else to that. some black women abide by these eurocentric standards of beauty because many black men have equally been conditioned to desire european beauties. other black women simply do it because they have simultaneously conditioned to view straight hair with positive connotations (as i mentioned above-sexiness, cleanliness, sophistication, etc.) and natural/nappy/kinky hair with negative ones.
and these sentiments don't just begin when one starts watching television, or around the time that peer pressure takes hold. its in the home- where the daughter is complimented on her hair after it has been blow dried and flat ironed (or in the case of my generation and prior, hot combed...), while she is given a collection of confused/scared stares, taunts, and supposed "advice" on what to do with her hair when it is in its natural state as an afro.while many people portrayed with afros are often dirty, druggies, or uneducated (like Buckwheat). even if these are directed at a young girl with a hint of humor, it still makes an impression. add on top of that that most black women in the media have straighted hair...add on top of it that she has no idea how to care for her natural hair considering she's been trying so hard to get away from it....and you wind up one day with a $500 lace-front blond wig that goes half-way down your ass that you can swing and shake just like the white women on the television.
now, let me say that none of my statements are absolutes. not ALL women with relaxed hair (or weaved and wigs) are perpetuating European standards of beauty and want to be white. many women feel as though it is easier to manage than natural hair, and do it for maintenance. however, keep in mind though, that most black women's mothers or caretakers straightened their hair when they were too young to recall their natural hair....and if they do, their memories or limited to sitting under a hot ass drier for 3 or 4 hours or occasionally being singed by a hot comb on the forehead...by someone who had the same thing done to their hair. so,how do they really know which is easier maintenance if they can't even recall being natural? yea...they don't. but if that is their choice, then it is their choice. sometimes it IS just hair. but...most of the time, for black women, it isn't.
think. discuss. take heed. whatever...
here's some websites i've found that can aid in info on natural hair as well as hair politics.
Black Girl Long Hair
The Coil Review
The Natural Haven