July 12, 2013

Defining Natural Hair

Maybe I'm a Dreamer, But I'm Not the Only Oneby G G of Peace, Love, and Pretty Things

Lately, there's a lot of discussion among black women about what is considered to be truly natural. There's umpteen ways to flex one's "naturalness" from how you wear your hair to what you eat to what kinds of products you use. While these discussions are useful to the extent that we are sharing our diverse opinions with each other, at the end of the day how can anyone else define what is natural to me or to you? We must define that for ourselves.

I urge you all to veer away from any divisive thinking and define natural for yourself, beyond the context of how you wear your hair, eat, dress, etc. What if we all thought of natural as simply being the characteristics that bring out the best in us? As we evolve and grow, these natural characteristics evolve with us. So, what felt natural and authentic to me ten years ago may not feel that way today. Growth and change is natural, isn't it? Diversity is natural, too.

Read on and Weigh in!>>>

Think about the harmony that would exist in the world if we were all intimately in touch with what naturally brings out our best while being confident enough to share it with the world. If we all put these natural characteristics, talents, and gifts to use in this way, they would benefit us while also complementing the harmony that we all wish to see in the world. Unfortunately, we get caught up in trying to define ourselves on someone else's terms. Am I natural enough? religious enough? successful enough? What about asking ourselves this question - am I ME enough???

Spending all of our time seeking validation from each other slows us down. Instead of giving ourselves fully to our own process, we keep criticizing others and doubting ourselves. What's natural about that? If we could stop looking for one definition that suits us all (because it doesn't exist) and trust our own instincts, we'd all experience self-actualization (the achievement of our full potential through creativity, independence, spontaneity, and a grasp of the real world.)

The most valuable gift you can give to the world and to yourself is the natural, unequivocal you.

Question: I'm obviously very opinionated about this idea of embracing what naturally flows from me and this topic often comes up in my writing. Awhile back, a reader on Curly Nikki left the following comment on one of my guest posts about defining what is "good" for yourself:
changing your mind about your appearance so that you accept yourself as you are (physically) is appropriate. we're all good from a physical characteristic perspective.

but that same logic does not apply to other characteristics - i.e., you may be naturally inclined to murder/rape/pillage - does that mean that "it's good" and you should just go for it? (I know that's drastic, but I'm trying get my point across based on your final paragraph).

what usually "flows" from us internally DOES need to be corrected and held up to a moral standard. this has NOTHING to do with how we feel about our hair.
She makes a relevant point.

What do you all think? Is my idealistic ranting about being yourself at all costs too, well, idealistic?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

22 Weigh in!:

kitka82 said...

Regarding morality, I think it depends on your own belief system. My faith and morals play an integral role in how I view myself and the world. I don't believe all people are evil or anything like that. But everyone doesn't subscribe to my beliefs. I personally believe that everyone is born with an intuition to help discern between right and wrong to some degree. A lot of that discernment is learned too. SO yeah I think you have to run some things through a filter.

Regarding being natural, I don't think it has much to do with morals. I prefer to march to the beat of my own drum. Who can tell you what is and is not natural for you?

Anonymous said...

This "not natural enough" concept is something new I discovered yesterday while reading another post. I feel that your viewpoint is valid because being natural should not be another tool to divide our community. Thinking of natural as a case-specific journey of hair, healthy lifestyle, self-acceptance, etc. is a healthy (and NATURAL) thought process. Who defines who any one person is? Allowing one's self to be subjected to it is unnatural in my opinion.

socialitedreams said...

"The most valuable gift you can give to the world and to yourself is the natural, unequivocal you."

amen! humans are such social creatures and crave companionship and acceptance, but it really would be nice and we'd be better off if folks worried more about being the best them that they could be and less about conforming to things


Anonymous said...

I don't see your rant as idealistic. I think it is wise to go within and see yourself for what you are-the totality of you.

I see so much which can be done in many global communities as well as at home in our own communities and in so called minority communities.

And I know for many their appearance is their passion. And I see nothing problematic about that UNTIL it becomes such a preoccupation that people are unable to fulfill their other personal goals.

I know people who are so preoccupied with what others think about the way they look, that they totally define themselves by their appearance. Not partially define themselves; but TOTALLY define themselves and others.

Their conversation hasn't arisen above the mundane: girl did you see that? ooooh I don't like that. OOH she is ugly. I don't like her hair. I don't like that lipstick. I mean seven days a week 40 hrs a day gossiping and back biting about "looks". Imagine that.

You don't own nothing, you have no power as a group, you are the biggest consumers in the beauty industry and own little than 1% own these businesses.

Priorities. Is it all about looks? go within and look deeper.

Candace4life said...

This is to help answer "Nking05" that left a question in the forum yesterday that wasn't answered. I saw this on BGLH and this should help answer your ? since alot of the women served in the military as well. I'll put the link up for you to see.


Candace4life said...

I think a person is still natural whether they have put color in there hair, to flat ironing their hair. It doesn't mean that the person is less natural, and some women would argue that excessive flat ironing or blowdrying to get it straight makes you not natural. Just like women who don't have much of a curl pattern but will lavish their hair with so much gel to make it seem like they have it. Accept that your hair will do what it was meant to do whether its curly or not. Love the natural hair in all of its glory no matter what you do to it, vice versa headbands,barrettes,flowers. Even a texturizer to a degree I would think can be natural looking point examples Wanda Skyes and Karen Parsons, and I would never have thought they had this in their hair.

Carolynn said...

I think this is a beautiful and beautifully written post. The concept is great and as long as we are not harming others, I think that the idea of being our authentic selves is priceless!! Check out this post from my personal blog :http://honeycee.blogspot.com/2010/12/weekly-motivation-play-review-boxes.html

Anonymous said...

I think you can be fully you at all times, however you may not be able to give 100% in a particular situation at all times. For example, you may not be able to pull out your full fro at work (even though that is REALLY you), but you can give a little bit of you (say, a puff, for instance) and still keep it real. Obviously, this is a metaphor. LOL
What I'm saying is that you can be reserved (if the situation calls for it) without being inauthentic.

To me, "natural" means that you do not permanently alter the STRUCTURE (curl pattern) of the hair with chemicals. Simple.
Therefore, coloring, flatironing, henna-ing are still "natural". I am not a big fan of using "natural" to describe wearing your hair in its normal state. No other group of women is forced to make such a distinction in reference to a styling option. For example, some Jewish women straighten their hair with chemicals but no one refers to them as "natural" when they chose not to.

ashley said...

Going natural is ditching the perms and accepting the natural curl pattern in your hair! We need to stop judging other naturals who color or straighten their hair because ultimately it is their hair and obviously they have a certain look that they're going for. The slave masters wanted us to turn against each and if we continue this cycle even after ditching the perms, then we are still fulfilling their hate for us. Love you as you are!

Anonymous said...

Do you. We all should.

Anonymous said...

Hair is not a moral issue. It is hair. It is personal. It may even be political, at times, but it is not moral. Comparing decisions about your physical appearance to impeding on the humanity of others is overexaggeration to the point of uselessness.

I'm with you, G G: What is natural is up to us as individuals; If only because I'm so tired of this discussion after almost 10 years. I never cared what anyone else thought about my hair, anyway. But I guess not everyone has that luxury.

BrownEmber said...

It simply doesn't make sense to live our lives in our own personal little bubbles. We're social individuals and don't work like that. Neither does language. Words serve as little bridges between one individual consciousness and another. Yes, even the word natural. If we all walk around spouting different meanings for the word..it won't mean anything anymore. It would be socially defunct and we'd have to come up with a new word for what "natural" signifies.

When the dictionary defines natural as: having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives OR existing in or formed by nature OR based on the state of things in nature; constituted by nature--it can do so because we've collectively agreed that those meanings should go by the word natural. If we all "claim" that commonly shared word as our own...society will, eventually, come up with another word that means what natural once meant.

I understand your sentiment and yes YOU individually can SAY whatever you want. But if you want to be understood by the people around you, you have to use common language. And common language/accepted definitions don't see the word "natural" as representative of chemically altered or not existing in nature.

Instead of trying to appropriate words and calling a dog by the word cat...why don't we just remove our personal feelings from a word that really is neutral. You don't HAVE to have "natural" hair. Be okay with calling your hair whatever it is: relaxed, artificial whatever. Because those words are neutral too. Words are not the problem...instead of changing them...adjust your mind.

Anonymous said...

Well said BrownEmber!!!

Anonymous said...

I also have a problem with everyone making up their own definitions. I have a male friend who truly believes it is not cheating if he does not ejaculate...people love to minipulate things to benefit them.

There is a difference between minipulating and being smug:

We have lost the art of critical thinking...if a straight-hair blond, says she is natural, then chances are, she is talking about her hair color. If a kinky-hair person says she is natural, she is saying she is not relaxed. We must learn to evaluate things in context. Labels are just a guide not a strict set of rules. It points us to a certain direction...just like there are many different types of vegetarians: some eat eggs, some dont; some will wear leather, others won't...

I think it is very rude for someone to constantly try and disprove who someone says they are...if I say I don't eat pork and you start to point out how the gummy bears I am eating contains pork and those Italian turkey sausage casings are made from pork products...it is a game for the ego...and something to make the other person feel bad...that is why I stay away from labels...I am not getting into a battle with your ego...


Anonymous said...

Fortunately, nothing and no word definition is ground in stone. Humans have been debating the meaning and usage of words since the beginning of time. Some words aren't even being used anymore.
So, I appreciate your willingness to look at what "natural" means in relationship to our hair and ourselves. Interesting article!!

Anonymous said...

i.e., you may be naturally inclined to murder/rape/pillage
I dont' think people are naturally inclined to murder/rape/pillage. That's NOT natural and that person has issues/problems that need to be addressed because SOMETHING is not right.

Anonymous said...

??? rambling much?

Anonymous said...

Love post. I don't think it is idealistic to want to be yourself, but I think it can be challenging when people don't respect you as the person you want to be in life. Additionally, accepting your own evolution and making changes in your life that are in line with what you are developing into can seem like a direct attack on another individual even if it was not your intention. Personally, I have been developing my own concept of what healthy natural hair is to me for my head, but I don't expect it to apply to everyone. I have also learned to let go of other people's perceptions for I no longer want to allow their idea of who I should be to influence me.
In regards to words, meanings, context, communication and socialization - The English Language and communication, in general, can be challenging on various levels. Body Language and tone account for more during a conversation than the actual words coming out of people's mouths. When people (we) look at words on a page: writing style, content, and the main message are the primary focus, but our perception of the world also plays a huge part.
Personally, I think our perception is what drives our acceptance or disapproval and we are constantly doing it at every moment of everyday that it becomes second nature. Re-learning the idea of truly accepting people for who they are is a fine art (i.e. not what you want / expect them to be, or if I change my response / actions then they will change their response / actions), and it is an art form that seems to be on the verge of extinction.
P.S. Anonymous 5:27 - I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the social norms of right and wrong are taught. There are studies going on as we speak about people being naturally inclined toward what society considers inappropriate behavior. I agree that it does not seem right, but a lot of things that don't seem right occur in life. A newspaper or history book is an excellent resource to prove that fact.

Anonymous said...

great article!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate your article. For me the question is why has being natural become such a debate? If a person wants to define being natural for themselves then what is the big deal? Is there a rule book I forgot to pick up at the home page of Curlynikki.com? (sigh) GG, this seems to be an ongoing topic which will have a clear line of division forever. There are die hard naturals(no deodorant, natural only products) middle line naturals(no chemicals, but they'll use the shampoo and conditioner off the shelf) and temporary naturals (those who take a break from perms, texturizers and heat for the sake of the health of their hair) Does one make the other any less natural? Do we really have the right to roll up on the sister who is temporary and tell her she isn't a true natural because a year from now she will perm again? No. People do need to do their natural journey the way it works for them and their hair. Plain and simple. The way I decide to go natural and love my hair will be defined by me. And right now I love my natural me the way I chose to do it. And it's working. Because the products that was stated to use for my "type" didn't work I had to find my own mix. Go figure! Talk about doing natural the way my hair loves it.

London2011 said...

*Going natural is a choice.Just like you choose whether you prefer tea or coffee or both or none !

*Life is made of small choices daily so we shou;d stop anal;yzing why we do with our hair and just enjoy it all! There hasn't always got to be a deep meaning to everything hair-related!

*Decisions determine your future so by choosing to be natural i am choosing to no longer put chemicals(relaxer or texturizer) on my hair.

*I will do what i prefer (straightening or not,twist or not etc.....)
It really is to do whith what is roght for you as a individual.

European people choose to straighten their hair because they PREFER it straight as MOST has naturall wavy/curly hair. I asked a friend of mine who is white and she said she prefers her hair straight when i love when she has it curly(the odd times its worn curly).

Hair is to be celebrated as it is diverse and beautiful!

All new me! said...

I believe that we are all consumed with what others think of us... so a clear def. of who we really are at tmes is sketchy! I think being who u are is defined by our inner perception of the real us. No bells or whistles. But it's society that dictates who we decide to present to the world. I believe you should be you! And enjoy what God has placed differently in you than working hard to be me!

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