Tag Archives: Natural Hair Movement

The Erasure of Kinky Hair

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Purple and black fro

The erasure of kinky hair is a real issue, and I’ve been speaking on it since I started this blog and big chopped over four years ago. One glaring and utterly disturbing thing I noticed after becoming natural was black natural haired women’s obsession with having curly hair and all the bloggers, vloggers, and hair products that promote this trend. I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now. For many African American women, being natural isn’t pretty unless your hair is curly. I’m talking about those who aren’t happy with a simple twist out or braid out; they want that curly hair on a constant basis from using one or a bunch of products that will magically make their hair curl. What they fail to realize is that for many, despite the products they use, their hair still may not curl up the way they want it to – especially if they have kinky hair. I’ve even heard women say that they stopped being natural because their hair wouldn’t curl like the other naturally curly women (mixed race women or the bloggers who have 3b – 4a type hair).  I’ve also heard women say that they refuse to go natural because they know  their hair won’t curl up. All of these sentiments sadden me.

I always thought that the natural hair movement was about encouraging black women to embrace their hair as it grows out of their scalp and to learn to nourish it, take care of it and most importantly, love it. At least that’s what it means to me. But the constant barrage of images of women with curly hair due to their mixed heritage or whose hair type is simply naturally curlier than those with kinky hair, has many black women seeking something that may never happen for them unless they become product junkies and buy a bunch of products. This, in turn, does not allow them to love and appreciate their hair for what it does naturally on it’s own and accept their hair for what it cannot do. In turn, they give up on their natural hair journey because of disappointment and unrealistic expectations.

I have nothing against curly girls. I love and appreciate them. But we cannot ignore the fact that there is still a lack of representation for those who have kinky hair. I place the bulk of the blame on the companies who market false hopes and misguided ideas of beauty to women with kinky hair that they too can have instant curly hair by using a cream, gel or shampoo. Curly hair is not what makes natural hair beautiful. Being natural and no longer poisoning your hair, scalp, and essentially your body with chemical relaxers is what is beautiful.  Caring for your hair with all natural oils and products is what is beautiful.

Making the decision to rock your natural hair is not something you should take lightly. It’s an emotional journey, it’s time consuming, and it’s full of highs and lows. Sticking to that decision when experiencing the frustrating lows is even harder. But one of the worst things you can do is to go into your natural hair journey with unrealistic expectations. If you’re a kinky haired girl, learn to love your kinks and coils and don’t be ashamed to rock them. It is completely okay if your hair doesn’t curl up magically after putting a curling pudding on it. Don’t allow our kinky hair to be erased because society and hair care lines are catering to and promoting curly hair every time you go to the store, or look at a magazine or watch a TV commercial. Kinky hair is beautiful. Kinky hair needs representation. We are not the step child of the natural hair community. We will not be erased.

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The Forgotten Ones

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Curly red hair

The subject I’m about to discuss is a sensitive subject for many naturals, mainly because the natural hair movement started out being for and about black women. It was our movement celebrating our unique hair because it wasn’t being celebrated by society or mainstream media. But as time went on, we began to hear from other women who didn’t quite look like us, but had something in common with us: Curly hair that those in their own culture deemed unruly, unprofessional and ugly. They also have a hard time taming and finding the right products for their curly hair. These are women who are of Irish, Jewish, or other nationalities with naturally curly hair.

The fact that these women felt that they didn’t have a voice or platform to discuss their hair issues, which ultimately led them to the natural hair movement of African American women where we discuss every hair issue under the sun, intrigued me. Who would have thought that white women with curly hair would have hair issues? Who could possibly call their hair ugly? Okay, I can see their hair possibly being hard to manage because of the long length and curls, but still! The younger me would have loved to have their hair! It wasn’t until I started to read different articles about their hair struggles and how far back the hair shaming and hate goes that I developed a better understanding and empathy for these women, or as I call them, the forgotten ones. I was also fortunate enough to have conversations with a workmate who began to relate to me her own personal struggles with being a redheaded, curly haired Irish woman. From dealing with bullying as a child, perverted stereotypes of redheaded women as an adult, and being constantly reminded that her naturally curly hair wasn’t acceptable during her twelve year career as a television news reporter. Aside from being a television reporter, those are all things that I know I, as a black woman can relate to.

Our conversations started because she follows my natural  blog and she would tell me how much she loves that I blog about my natural hair journey and how I’m constantly reaffirming that our natural hair is beautiful. Her hair is thick, long and naturally curly. Like African American hair, any amount of heat or humidity makes her hair big, curly and hard to maintain. When she became a reporter, it was put into her contract that she had to chemically straighten her naturally curly hair. Curly hair was not allowed on television. Imagine having to do this every three months and pay $300 each time – for 12 years! During the summer months it didn’t matter if her hair was chemically straightened or not, the heat and humidity would poof up her hair and it would curl up anyway – and she’d get reprimanded for it.  It wasn’t just her who got talked to, it was all female reporters with naturally curly hair who were constantly chastised and reminded that if their hair wasn’t bone straight, it was unacceptable and a violation of rules. Talk about a blow to your self-esteem!

Then there’s the myth that red hair is tied to witch craft and the devil. So being a redhead was like a curse. In certain parts of Europe, having red hair could get you killed. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one. But nothing much has changed because today, having red curly hair still makes you a walking target for ridicule and shunning. My heart went out to her as she related different stories to me about her hair struggles, and how self conscience it’s made her over the years. Finding a beautician who knew how to care for and maintain her curly mane was a nightmare in itself.

What I find to be particularly disturbing and frankly disgusting, is the lack of knowledge, awareness or education within the news industry when it comes to female reporters of different races, backgrounds and hair types. This lack of awareness exists because the powers that be don’t care. What matters to them is ratings and viewer opinion. The viewers want to see female reporters with bone straight hair, therefore that is what the news outlets provide. For black female reporters, this means wearing weaves, wigs, or having to chemically relax their hair in order to be in front of the camera. No Afros or curly hair. To the viewing public, textured or ethnic hair of any kind is unkempt and unprofessional. I’ll let you take a wild guess as to who mostly make up this viewer demographic. Yup, you guessed it, white viewers. Unfortunately, in 2017 we are still dealing with this kind of close-minded thinking, hair shaming, and discrimination.

I make it a point to tell my workmate that her naturally curly hair is beautiful. I love that it’s red. It makes her unique. I love her freckles. They add character and enhance her beauty. In my eyes she is beautiful. Period. Women and girls who have naturally curly hair, regardless of race, need to hear that their hair is beautiful. No one should grow up hearing that their hair is ugly or be teased and called demeaning names. As women, we should uplift one another every chance we get. So while the natural hair movement started out being about us, African American women, it needs to branch out to the women who are also discriminated against, ridiculed, and looked upon as less than because of how their hair grows out of their scalp. Telling a female that her natural hair is ugly isn’t just about her hair. Those hurtful words get internalized to the point that when she looks at herself in the mirror, she starts to view her entire being as ugly. This is where low self-esteem and self worth come into play, and it can stay with you well into  adulthood. These women and girls will no longer be “the forgotten ones” to me. I welcome and celebrate all natural redheads and/or curly haired females. We all should.

And please, don’t say that these women should start their own movement or why can’t we ever have our own stuff to ourselves. It’s not about that. African American hair is unique. It’s beautiful. Our hair is not appreciated for it’s natural beauty still in mainstream media or in general, but we’re also not the only ones with textured, curly hair or who have hair struggles. I’m glad to see bloggers like Curly Nikki embrace curly haired women of all ethnic backgrounds and provide them with helpful tips and suggestions. That kind of welcoming, helpful spirit is what leads to better understanding and communication among women of all backgrounds. Isn’t that what we need anyway?

I found this great article below that speaks about redhead bullying. Check it out and tell me what you think!

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ama-yawson/red-ginger-hair-rare-and-_b_6071202.html

 

You Know….Cuz Natural Hair is in Style Now…..

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Let's talk tresses

You guys remember how I said that I have no problem stopping a complete stranger to tell them how gorgeous their natural hair is right? I do it all the time, and sometimes it leads to a 10-15 minute conversation about hair, products, and regimens. A few weeks ago my husband and I were out and about and decided to grab some subs. Two cars away from us a woman was also heading inside of the restaurant and she had gorgeous curly locks. Her hair was so full and had body, and it was colored the prettiest caramel color too. I knew right then and there that once we got inside and ordered our food that I was going to A) tell her her hair is gorgeous, and B) talk hair with her.

She was very nice and very sweet and our conversation started out really nice. She had been natural for seven years but she was still flat ironing her hair almost every day until the damage it caused made her stop. When she stopped straightening her hair was when she discovered and loved her natural curl pattern. She’s a curly girl through and through and never knew it! I’m sitting there excited for her and eagerly hoping that she’d drop more eye opening gems on me. We began talking about products and she said that there’s nothing on the market that works well for her hair so she started making her own concoctions like you know who. Y’all know my eyes lit up like the high beam lights on a car right?

So here we are totally engaged in this natural hair conversation while my poor husband was relegated to putzing with his phone because I had completely ignored him to talk to this stranger about hair, and then I hear this:

“Well you know most men don’t like natural hair, so then I go back to straightening my hair with the flat iron. But now that natural hair seems to be in style again I’ll be rocking this while it’s in style. Pretty soon the wigs, weaves and braids will be making a comeback too.”

Please insert the sound effects of car tires screeching to a halt. My face and my heart just fell. My excitement evaporated immediately. I looked at my husband like “Did you just hear this? Did you hear the words that just came out of her mouth?” (In my Chris Tucker voice) But of course he wasn’t paying attention to our conversation but I needed someone to confirm that I heard right.

Actually, this is how my face looked. True story.

Oh my

There was so much wrong with her statement that I didn’t know where to begin. To be fair this was her opinion no matter how much I disagreed with it. Instead I simply said “Well, I don’t think natural hair is in style. I think more and more women are realizing that natural is the best and healthiest for their hair.” She simply looked at me wide eyed and nodded in agreement. Then I quickly added “I don’t think braids will ever go out of style. Neither will wigs or weaves. Those are protective styles that many of us use to protect our hair.” Again I got the blank stare.

Look, I know not everyone is trying to make a statement with their natural hair. However, I do feel the return to natural hair is a bit of a movement, but not a political one. I think it’s just women being more informed and educated on how harmful the chemicals are that make up relaxers are to their bodies. Then they make the informed decision to let their hair grow out of their scalps the way it was meant to because it’s healthier. This woman that I was speaking with was clearly looking at natural hair as a fad to be followed, to be hip with, but also as a hindrance to her love life because some of the men she dated didn’t like her natural hair. She’s trying to please too many people, and that made me sad.

My parting words to her was “Your hair is gorgeous the way it is, and if some man doesn’t like it then too bad. There are plenty more out there who will appreciate you and your hair for it’s natural beauty.” She thanked me and then her order was called and she left.

Royal by herself

This experience opens the door to several conversations:

1) What makes people think or assume that the natural hair movement is a fad, as if it’ll go away or die down in another year or two?

2) Are you willing to go back to the creamy crack or use a flat iron every day if your mate doesn’t like your natural hair?

This experience also confirmed my long held belief that everyone’s natural hair journey is different. Regardless of the why’s and how’s I’m just happy that women have kicked the creamy crack to the curb. This naturalista that I met may be torn between pleasing the guy she’s dating (or finding a guy who likes her natural hair to date) and staying en vogue with the latest hair styles, but what sticks out to me is that she’s been natural for seven years. That’s awesome to me, and I hope she stays natural.

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Straight versus Curly

When I decided to go natural, I didn’t like the term “Natural Hair Movement.” To me “movement” was just another way of calling it a fad (another word that I detest) when describing black women saying no to creamy crack (relaxers and perms).  Now that I’m over a year into my journey and have met countless women on the same journey as myself, I see that it is indeed a movement. Black women are embracing their heritage and are proud of the hair they were born with. Black women are tired of wasting countless hours and paying ridiculous amounts of money to have their hair relaxed, cut and curled at the beauty salons across America. Black women are finally realizing the damage they’ve been doing to their hair and scalp for years by using harsh chemicals or heat to straighten their hair. They have decided to reclaim and redefine what beauty is, and in essence, showing the world that there is beauty in our natural kinky hair. That to me is the Natural Hair Movement. How this translates into your place of employment is a completely different story. Some places are more accepting than others of African American women wearing their hair in it’s natural, kinky, coily state. I often find myself pondering how I would have been received if I was still working for a law firm or any of the other very corporate places that I’ve worked in the past had I made the decision back then to go natural?

I’ve heard personal stories from friends and family who faced harsh scrutiny, ridicule, and flat out discrimination because of wearing their hair it’s natural state. Actresses, local TV personalities, upper management to entry level women have all faced problems wearing their natural hair in the work place.  Unfortunately the fear of facing such horrible treatment, or worse, termination,  is what keeps many from ditching the chemicals in favor of their natural tresses.

It angers and saddens me that hair neatly styled and groomed is considered ugly or unkempt because of long held ignorant and close minded views. Hair in it’s natural, kinky, coily state is somehow unprofessional and a bad representation for a company? Really? How can any place of employment call themselves diverse or “equal opportunity employers” when they put limitations and restrictions on whether or not a person can wear their hair as it naturally grows out of their scalp?  Oh wait, I remember now. They want to do business with certain companies and corporations, so allowing their employees to look too “ethnic” is out of the question. (Insert twisted up face here) I wholeheartedly agree that every business has the right to have dress and grooming rules, but where does it end? What if companies enforced rules against people who dye their hair blonde? Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? Well, telling someone that they cannot wear their hair neatly in it’s natural state is ridiculous too.

I can’t even imagine being asked by my employer to straighten my hair because they liked it better that way, but unfortunately it’s happening to a lot of black women. More recently in the news, the US military is coming under fire because of it’s strict rules against natural or braided hair. Female members of the armed forces, African American in particular, are being told that they have to wear their hair “straight” or wear a wig. Braids and natural hair of any kind are unacceptable. I would love to meet the people (more than likely white men) who made these rules because they clearly need to be educated on African American hair.

If you’ve noticed, I’ve mentioned neatly groomed hair several times in this post. That is because I believe that all hair, natural or chemically treated, should be neatly groomed. Natural hair still requires grooming, and you can’t just wake up and not do anything to your hair. Those of us that are part of the natural hair community have the responsibility of being diligent with the grooming of our hair. Even if you don’t believe in combing or manipulating your hair every day, grooming of some sort is still necessary. We cannot walk into work looking like rats have been sucking on our hair and expect our employer to be ok with that. Being natural does not mean you have the right to look unkempt at work or any place else for that matter.

I have a Pinterest account, and a board called Braids & Natural Hair. That is where I pin various styles that I would like to try or styles that I find to be unique and beautiful. The styling options for African American hair are endless, and we should be able to wear our hair in well groomed and dignified styles no matter where we work. Maybe, just maybe, corporate America will see that embracing diversity includes accepting various types of ethnic hair too. Our natural hair is nothing to be afraid of and it is indeed beautiful.

Feel free to check out and follow my Braids and Natural Hair board and my other boards on Pinterest: