When did non-natural hair shaming become a thing?
Over the past couple of years, we have put out at least several videos in which I demonstrate different ways I style my girls curly hair and keep it healthy and moisturized. They are known for their bouncy curls and I am glad that they are growing up in a time where our hair is celebrated, rather than put down. I love that we, as black women, have embraced our natural hair and are helping to change society’s mindset. This is also paving the way for young girls to be more confident in their natural beauty. I just wonder have we crossed the line?
With two extremely difficult pregnancies, my body did everything it could to carry three children until 32 weeks. Unfortunately, my hair did not survive, yet of all the things to not make it, I am so grateful that this did not include myself or my three beautiful children, Ava and Alexis (five years old) and my son, Jersey (thirteen months old). Because of these difficulties, I am reminded that that my natural, beautiful hair cannot define me and if I choose to wear wigs, I am in no way less proud of who I am as a black woman. My girls know this part of my story and when I shaved my head in order to give my hair a “headstart” (no pun intended), I was able to show them that I was still the same confident woman I was beforehand. I teach my girls to take care of their hair so that, along with their bodies, it is healthy. But I also want them to know that their hair does not define them and is a facet of who they are, not all of them. Being proud of something is one thing, attaching too much value to any physical feature is another altogether. I do not understand the thought process that a particular hairstyle justifies a lecture, attacks on one’s character or assumptions as to who they are as a person. It is just HAIR!
When browsing the negative Facebook responses to two recent videos in which, for the first time in five years, the girls received a one-time blowout and then straightening, I was surprised to see that this “feedback” came from black women accusing me of trying to make them something else. While it is wonderful that, for the most part, culture has progressed far enough that women are able to proudly sport their curls, whether they be from 4A-3C, I feel it has gone too far if that pride is used to limit women from expressing themselves in a variety of ways. Some people have gone to the point of bullying others for their hair choices.
As I prepared to write this blog, I googled various phrases soliciting opinions on how we style our textured hair, only to find articles, all written by black women, confirming the exact written feedback I received. Approximately 85% of these articles were titled things like: “Why Black Women Need to Embrace Their Natural Hair”, “11 Reasons Why All Black Women Should Wear Natural Hairstyles”, etc. This is far different than empowering us to love and celebrate who we are and reminding us that we are beautiful in all of our varying features. Shaming other women for particular choices in how they style their hair, whether it be naturally or through weaves, wigs or relaxers is painting a false narrative that only ONE hairstyle is beautiful and limiting freedom of choice. This is not so different than considering only straight hair to be beautiful and derogatorily labeling ours as “nappy” or ugly. The pendulum has simply swung to the other extreme.
Luwi Shamambo says:
“I’m all for empowering women to embrace their natural selves, but we need to stop assuming that every black woman who perms her hair or gets extensions is in need of a “love yourself” lecture. Yes, black women shouldn’t have to wear weaves or get perms, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with them choosing to do so. At the same time, black women with weaves or straight hair shouldn’t be viewed as people shying away from their natural selves or trying to conform to ‘white standards’ of beauty. Yes, silky hair is glorified in Western culture, but it is not copyrighted. Nobody owns straight hair.”
It is also entirely confusing and counter-productive when we judge each other for our hair preferences.
I am nothing if I am not known for promoting confidence in Ava and Alexis. They are naturally self-assured, but regardless of their personalities, I tell them that they have beautiful features yet are gorgeous far beyond how they look, style their hair or dress. Our looks are up to chance and nothing to overthink as they are outside our control. We do nothing to earn them. Aside from how much Justin and I emphasize that beauty comes from within, they see a mama who sports a variety of different looks as a means of self-expression rather than a means of hiding myself, overthinking beauty or being ashamed of who I am.
I love fashion and beauty not because I am using it to fool anyone from knowing the real me or because I am not beautiful without it, but because of the way it allows me to artfully display and express myself, my mood and/or whatever I am going through. It is not a matter of smoke and mirrors but a way to accent who I already am. While I am proud that various movements have helped society begin to unpack what we’ve been programmed to find beautiful, they have gone too far if it implies that straighter hair is any better than textured or shames women over their hair choices, regardless of preference.
If you look through the candid photos taken of my girls enjoying the process and end result of this once-in-five-years hairstyle, you can see clearly that we are having a bonding moment and that the unplanned, genuine smiles spread across their faces clearly do not demonstrate any correlation between straighter hair and black shame. They are simply having a wonderful time with me, feeling special and pretty from the extra pampering and giggling in a language only two very loved little girls can. And besides, we are forgetting this simple fact: this probably isn’t going to happen again for a very, very long time, at least by me.