Monday, April 7, 2008

So my hair is natural: Part 2 It's Just Hair

[Check out Part 1 first]

Natural Hair Elitism.

Let's talk about it.

I'm so glad to be discussing this topic on MY blog. I get a little fired up when I post about it on message boards because I always feel like I'm talking to a brick wall.


I feel how I wear my hair is a beauty decision, but many people who wear their hair natural (like mine) feel it's a lifestyle, not a hairstyle and some even feel it's a spiritual decision. Hey, I'm an educated adult. I realize that their views will never match mine and I say to each his or her own. We can agree to disagree... Right?


For some reason these "My hair=my life" people feel the need to share their views on hair with everyone around them, including me. Now you'd think that I'd dodge the bullet since my hair is natural, but NOOOOOOOOOOO. These people want me to commit to never straightening my hair again...


You may be thinking, "T, you need to just stay off of the elitist hair message boards," you're right, but that's not even the problem. People talk to me about this topic in person. I have friends and associates that are disappointed that I haven't decided to never straighten my hair again i.e have a heat-free scalp. :P Nevermind the people who found out that (gasp) I'd consider getting another perm in a minute, if I felt like it. I'm not married to natural hair.

As you may have read in Part 1, I changed my hair because I enjoy texture, but I also LOVE versatility. I can wear it in tight coils (afro) one day and flat-ironed bone staight the next. I refuse to commit to someone else's lifestyle changes to be labeled "natural."

One of my biggest problems with natural hair elitism is that it's not black pride in one's hair just because, it's black pride in one's hair because they feel like anything else is succombing to white standards of beauty (white standards of beauty=silky, straight hair).

Newsflash: Very few black women who straighten their hair look ANYTHING like white women. (No for real, show me a white woman with weeping willows, pin curls and/or finger waves). AND Madam C.J. Walker created the relaxer so she could better manage her hair, NOT so she could look like white people.

When the "my hair=my life" peeps become an advocate for lifestyle A (all naps all the time) because it's so different from lifestyle B (straight hair), they're essentially saying they're better than EVERYONE who chooses to be a part of lifestyle B. Needing to constantly affirm how much better they are than EVERYONE else is just a HUGE sign of insecurity.

I hate to be the one to break it down, but some white people have pretty hair, some black people have pretty hair, some Latinas have pretty hair and some Asian-American women have pretty hair.

(I have to say some, because, be for real, there's a lot of wackness in the world).

I digress. Point is: If someone else has pretty straight hair, it does not make my nappy hair ugly. (And to be fair some straight hair is hideous and some nappy hair is just as ugly).

Now, you educated folks are reading my blog going, "T, you're completely leaving out the part on how society JUST decided to accept black natural styles as ok in the workplace and it's usually considered unprofessional to wear many natural hair styles" You may also say "T, despite Madam C.J. Walker, many of our grandmothers did want hair like white women and have passed that backwards thinking down through the generations, which is why so many black women relax their hair and these elitist are just trying to counter those negative actions"

Wonderful, awesome points, you educated people bring up. I'd encourage you to read more about that topic here. However, using the tools of oppression (acting superior, we'll call it natural hair supremacy) is the wrong way to fight oppression. You must fight oppression with love.

In order to find beauty in (i.e. love) myself, I don't have to put others down. I don't have to think of other races as the enemy because they think straight hair is pretty. AND I definitely don't have to tear down my own race by hating on sisters who, for whatever reason, choose to perm their hair.

Pardon the vernacular below...

Listen real good... I'm gonna tell y'all like I told my grandma "IT'S JUST HAIR"


Brown Girl Gumbo said...

This is by far the BEST post I've read about "our" hair and the issues surrounding it. T, you are SOOOOOO right on so many levels. I happen to relax my hair about twice a year. I know that some of my natural sistas look down at me because of it, but it's a choice. I like natural hair as well as chemically straightened hair. Too many African-American women put too much emphasis on our hair. I know that there are a lot of reasons behind it, but all in all it's JUST HAIR!!!

Product Junkie Diva said...

I agree with BGG- it is just hair.
I wonder if some of the hair fanatics lost their hair-how would they cope??'s sad when you really think about how much they have emotionally wrapped up in their hair.
Product Junkie Diva

antithesis said...

so im confused. in the eyes of these "elitists" am i not natural eventhough i have "virgin hair" simply because i choose to flat iron it every couple of weeks?

...anyway, i have to agree it's just hair. even more simply, it's just dead cells...

T said...

Antithesis, to answer your question: In the eyes of the elitists (my hair=my life peeps), because you straighten your hair, you are not "natural."

They (mistakenly) argue that "natural" can be defined in different ways by different people. In their definition "natural" means hair that is NEVER straightended (or texturized).

Where they usually trip up is hair color. Hair color is a chemical no way around that so, if I use their definition, I could argue that blond locs are not "natural."

I can't remember how they describe away using hair color. They say something like we use henna, which is a natural substance, yadda, yadda, yadda AND


ThummyB said...

Here's the thing...on an individual level - "It's just hair, for some." However, on a societal level - "It's much more than just hair/fashion/preference." That isn't to say that folks should force their beliefs and opinions onto anyone else. It is just to say that the items that you noted at the end of your post show that Black hair is often tied to Black love and Black pride. Some people really feel passionate about the history of Black hair and embrace this change as a lifestyle. That isn't wrong. Again, they shouldn't force their opinions on you, but you also can't trivialize their fight/struggle/whatever.

Now on a personal note: I love having my hair natural. Sometimes its just for the versatility of it, and other times its a pride issue. However, I would prob rock a weave from time to time if it wasn't so expensive and most-times poorly executed.

I guess I just think of the feelings that hair elitist have as similar to those that I have when I see a brotha w/a yte girl. I understand it...I know its an individual preference and they prob love one another very much...he's actually probably a very 'conscious' individual, but I still cringe just a little bit.

ThummyB said...

ETA: Just wanted to speak to the hair dye issue. The reason why most 'natural hair supporters' are 'ok' w/hair dye and not hair straightening is b/c of the different historical contexts. There really hasn't been much negativity associated w/being black and having black/brown hair. The ridicule and stigmas associated w/black hair are in regards to the texture, not the color. Therefore, if you are no longer straightening your hair to 'reject' those old stigmas, then your beef really isn't w/hair dyes at all.

Now I agree that if you are trying to avoid chemicals/damage/whatever, then the hair dye argument falls a part. It really depends on your goal.

Cris said...

Ok first things first. LMAO @

1. (No for real, show me a white woman with weeping willows, pin curls and/or finger waves).

2.(I have to say some, because, be for real, there's a lot of wackness in the world).

3. Wonderful, awesome points, you educated people bring up. (that was cool)

Ok so I am feeling this natural hair blog and you should really go back to it. I ran across the posts when I saw the pic about your comb (man I am really feeling you on that one) so now I am looking forward to some more of these posts. I know you have been doing it for a long time and its just everyday for you so it might not seem like much. But me, I am still getting used to it.

You would think that after 21 months of being natural that I would have the hang of it. But 1. I like to change too much. I can never stay the same. 2. It is too short to do anything with but too long to just wear my natural curls (I don't want to be looking like Michael Jackson from the 70's lol) 3. I still like weaves (yes I am addicted to them. Not because they make me look "white" but because if a sista gets a sew in, it is so easy for me to manage, LOL.

Any tips for me???