The Unaddressed Problem in the Natural Hair Community | May 2018

Regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender, hair is a part of our identity. People have experimented and had fun with different hairstyles forever.
 
But it seems that within the textured hair community, we seem to be under a bit more scrutiny from each other about the hairstyles with which we choose to experiment.
 
In April, Un-ruly.com released a series of videos on their website and YouTube page seeking to answer the question “What is Black Hair? (#BlackHairIs)” They gathered women from the textured hair community – six who wear their hair natural (curly) and six who wear their hair relaxed- and asked them questions regarding their hairstyle choices and how those choices affected their lives.
 
As you can imagine, their responses to many questions were divided. How could they not be? Styles that were encouraged in the past are now viewed as problematic, and historically problematic hairstyles are now considered proud and beautiful.
 

Missing from the conversation was a discussion about the beauty in the versatility of our hair.

 
There was agreement, however, by the participants to some questions, including: “Have you ever felt judged for your hair,” and “Have you been pressured to relax your hair or go natural?” Both sides of this question felt judged for their hairstyle choices and pressured to adopt the other style. The relaxed girls felt judgement and pressure from natural girls, and sometimes even experienced verbal judgement. While the natural girls felt judgement and pressure from friends and family who subscribe to the belief that natural hair will affect their employment opportunities.
 
While the responses from the participants about their styling preferences and perceptions were generally divided, missing from the conversation, was a discussion about the beauty in the versatility of our hair.
 
The most interesting answers, however, came from the following questions:
o What are the stereotypes of Natural and Relaxed hair?
o What is Natural and What is Not?
o Why Do You Wear Your Hair the Way You Do?
 

“Why aren’t I trying to be Indian or something? Why is it [that I’m trying to be] white.”

 
The relaxed women recognized that their choice in hairstyle elicited stereotypes of “trying to be white” or” “hating themselves and/or rejecting their racial identity”. One participant even asked “why aren’t I trying to be Indian or something?”
 
On the other hand, the natural women recognized that their choice in hairstyle also elicited stereotypes, with people more often viewing them as “militant”, “afrocentric”, “woke”, and as “a person who may not shave her armpits”. One participant asked “why does it have to be political?”
 
Why do we have such strong opinions about the way others choose to style their textured hair? We allow other groups of people the space to experiment with different styles, but we don’t allow that same space for ourselves.
 
Instead of carrying biases towards others’ hairstyle choices, we should celebrate the fact that today, we can literally do anything with our hair and slay.
 
Un-Ruly.com touched upon this as well, stating:
“As Black hair continues to evolve, the larger challenge moving forward will be to recognize just how diverse it is both in natural and altered states (because those altered states are a part of our history and they’re not going anywhere).”
 
Live your life, girl. Do with your hair whatever makes you happy! You don’t need to wear your hair however it grows out of your head. You don’t need to relax it either. You have options: wigs, weaves, braids, twists, blowouts, or curly. There are so many ways you can style your hair to express yourself.
 
Our hair is not a definition of what we are, it’s an expression of who we are.
 
If you want to read Un-Ruly.com’s blog post and view their videos, please follow the link here. Their #BlackHairIs project has a second part that hasn’t been released yet, so we can wait for part two together.
 
— Charley

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