When you ask a natural why they decided to go or stay natural you will more than likely receive a laundry list of responses. These responses range from damage from chemical processes to spiritual renewal. However, do we really understand the power in deciding to go and stay natural in a world filled with relaxers, wigs, and hair weaves? I suggest that most naturals only see the small picture that their hair projects to the world. Natural in more ways than one symbolizes the freedom to accept self and has the ability to transcend into a new form of beauty that can inspire, revive, and encourage women from all walks of life.
Consider the following:
1. Natural Hair defies who and what we are as defined by others. When you decide to wear your natural texture, it tells others that you are free from the stereotypical images of beauty and that you are accepting the most adaptable part of yourself. It is easy to add chemicals to your hair, wear a wig, or weave, and most of all it is easy to conform to the general standards of beauty. Natural hair makes a statement to the world and demonstrates each individual’s ability to rise above social expectations and obligations established through acceptable (straight) hair.
2. Natural hair often creates enlightenment. Natural women typically make attempts to discontinue the use of unhealthy hair and body products that cause physical and environmental harm. Additionally, there is a strong urge to share the effects of the products with others. For example, prior to going natural, I never read labels or cared about the first 3 ingredients on a shampoo or conditioner. However, now that I am 100% natural,, I read labels and take the time to research ingredients that I am not familiar with.
3. Natural hair reinforces the power of ethnic beauty. Culturally, each woman has a distinctive background which attributes to their hair texture. Wearing hair in its natural state is a formal display of your heritage. Additionally, it encourages others to embrace heritage and understand that bone straight hair is not the norm. The ability to wear your natural hair then encourages others to consider going natural and creates an internal motivation to better understand natural hair. Wearing your natural hair may in turn cause a stranger to begin researching natural hair styles, stop chemical processing their hair, or just wear their hair in a natural state.
Natural hair is not just about being chemical free, maintaining spiritual alignment, or healthy hair rather it is a vehicle for social empowerment and change. For many people that continue to chemically process their hair, natural hair is a new frontier that is deemed as socially and cosmetically unacceptable. Therefore it is important that all naturals understand these perceptions and consider the fact that it’s not just hair!
I totally agree with what the doctor has said. I definitely think she is speaking the truth!! (i disagree with the last paragraph however as its not a spiritual endeavour) as a young woman who is relaxed and transitioning and a young woman who questions some of the norms in terms of perception of black beauty, i totally agree with her three points. i have always thought so even when relaxed. the thing is natural hair and the process of being a natural in this straight world is one that does bring enlightenment of ones self and ones perception of beauty, it defies what the norm is and it definitely reinforces the power of ethnic beauty and demonstrates the diversity of beauty in general.
I agree with Blutopaz and a few others. I just don't get articles like this because they come off…contrived a bit (if that is a proper word to use in this case) I wish they would stop telling others what their hair philosophy or motto should be sorry but to ME it is just hair. I do believe natural hair do create a conversation, challenges ideas/people do the the historical content of our hair and how we perceive one anther and how others perceive us but to a certain degree. But as for the things listed I don't agree, personally I was reading labels/bottles when I was relaxed just like a lot of other relaxed women still do, ethnic beauty needs to be reinforced in GENERAL just because your ethnic and your hair is straight doesn't make it any easier or mean their are a lot of representation on that front, and I don't believe your hair tells you what you are about, your intellect, your behavior or decorum
And that was for Anon @ 6:17. Sorry!!!!!!!!!
@ Anon: 7:09 PM Honey if it IS a big deal to you don't get so offended and out of sorts just because it isn't for everyone. No one is discounting anything, but why does it require you judging people that choose to relax just to make a statement about YOUR choice to become natural and to me it is not that serious. Good grief, if you feel the need to tear others down ie, permies, weave head, Jherri curls, or whatever, maybe you should questions your own motives to become natural. Was it to have something to talk about or to make you feel superior because not everyone has the guts to do it or the desire????? It is what is it, hair. It's an issue because we make it one. And for the record since my dob I was light skinned with long hair and my grandmother with her thick coarse natural hair and white self explained to me early on that my light skinned nor my long hair was going to get me anywhere unless I had some decency and good sense about myself to go along with it. I feel the same way today. NO matter how light my skin is or long my hair is or in my case now, nappy, if I don't have good sense, treat people decent and know how to conduct myself I am going to get NO WHERE. I got the job that I now have had for the last 4 years with a TWA and if it comes down to it I have no doubt that me and my nappy fro will be able to get another one.
Yeah, it's just hair alright….just MY hair. I'm gonna keep on doing what makes ME comfortable regardless of what others think (typing this as I play in my 2-day-old twistout. :o)
For some people, going natural IS spiritual. I refuse to discount the powerful effect of pesronal history that some of us have dealt with when it comes to our hair. It may not be a big deal for SOME of us, but it IS a big deal for others of us. So, go relax if you want to change your style. Go natural if you want. Just dont judge what others do, what they have experienced and the conclusions they have drawn from those experiences as it relates to their hair (or anything else, for that matter). It IS just THAT serious.
Living in NYC, natural hair can be just as much a symbol of conforming to a sort of stereotypical image of afrocentric beauty. It's funny to see how many women in certain areas in Brooklyn have dreads or wear their hair natural, sometimes I wonder if it's a prereq to live there.
We think and spend way too much money and time on our hair. Your character and values should define you, not your hair. Some people have elevated this conversation to a spiritual level when really it's not that serious.
I speak as one who is transitioning, not because I'm newly enlightened about the hazards of relaxing but for the very same reason I got a relaxer: to make my life easier. Add if it turns out that being natural requires more effort than being relaxed, then I will welcome Affirm back with open arms.
I meant to say she did not feel a sense of hate when she decided to relax at 13. It's just too much. Really it is. Why is it such a big deal??? That's what we need to ask ourselves!!!!!
I think the talk of natural hair has gotten completely out of hand. People are being rude and downright evil about it. Keep in mind that most women who are relaxed only have one because it was a choice made for them when they were younger and back then I think it had more to do with the ease than self hate. Because really as a mother do you think she would want to pass self hate or non acceptance on to her child?!?! Heck I know I didnt. My reason for going natural is personal and was not to feel free and I didnt feel a sudden sense of enlightment, none of that. And I am sure neither did my 10 year old when she decided to go natural and I doubt very seriously her very confident little self did not feel a sense of hate when she decided at 13 to get another relaxer. I just feel it is WAY too much and VERY overrated at this point. I feel black women want something to own and we need to realize we own our hair no matter what state it is. For someone to continue to say that relaxers are anything other than a "choice" is ridiculous and wrong. How are we any different than the white folks that used to call us nally headed or jezzel bells ( did I spell that right?) LOL. I think women are beautiful just because they are decent smile and care for themselves. It goes beyond hair. So far beyond that. We really need to get over it already!!!!!!
I was thinking about this last night and I came to the conclusion, its just hair. I am familiar with the historical context of our hair and slavery and etc…I deal with the social norms around good hair, curly hair, etc…
For me, if i mess up my hair – its just hair. If I got a bad perm – its just hair it will grow back; if I dont like the color and color it – its just hair. If I want to wear it straight instead of kinky – its just hair. If I get sick and lose my hair – its just hair. Now I know some of these styles and changes make a social statement – but for me I dont care – its just hair. Hair is an accessory – your face does not change because you wear a different hairstyle; some styles may enhance and some may detract; but the essence of you remains the same. Its just hair. I dont define myself by what people think or what society says I should be. To me its just hair – even as I transition.
Blutopaz said… "I truly don't think most people care, and that this is a sentiment many naturals would like to believe about how they are perceived. "
My thoughts exactly. I agree.
Society does not care about our hair, they just don't. Society is not sitting back going "Awww black women have stopped trying to be like white women!!! Dang it!!"
As much as we would like to think they are, they aren't. I have never (and I live in SOUTH) had one white person give a comment about my hair. Not one. Most black people don't either.
It's just hair to others, even if it's more than just hair to you (general you).
sabreez12–I respectfully disagree re: "portraying to the world that they are comfortable—" I do not think that most people glance at me and think differently of me than when I was relaxed. I truly don't think most people care, and that this is a sentiment many naturals would like to believe about how they are perceived.
Also, another quote from the author thinks "Natural in more ways than one symbolizes the freedom to accept self…" That sounds lovely, but my hair does not symbolize anything. Sponge-ay (my hair's nickname) was so thinned out and damaged from chemicals, and I decided to stop using them and now it's relatively thicker. I like my hair now, but if my hair was thick and glossy when straightened I probably would not have stopped relaxing over 10 years ago. That does not mean I would have have been uncomfortable in my skin as Black woman. A guy approached me once and shared with me how he thinks 'a sista with her own God given hair is the most beautiful thing'. I thanked him and laughed to myself: Dude, anything is better than that Fabulaxer mess i used to roll with.
Also there's the issue of length and what's considered mainstream attractive–there are natural women who prefer their hair long which is often considered more feminine, and relaxed women who like super short pixie cuts. Are any of these women insecure, or do they just have preferences about what is flattering on them?
Anon 3:11, I was agreeing with your comment about it not just being hair.
Reread my comment. I did not say it is just hair as you misquoted. I CLEARLY stated (in summary) that as much as I want to believe it is just hair, the fact that I cant be sure that other women dont appear to go through such a selfreflective and analytical process on making a simple hairstying change suggests that it is not just hair.
@sabreezy12-I have also heard a similar comment from a co-worker " I am not that grown up yet to go natural" and when she said that I thought to myself you sound ignorant but to each is own. To reach enlightenment about something I feel comes with time and research and self inflection. I don't think it is just hair as Anon 1:32pm said because if it was it wouldn't bring about so many debates. Every person has their own idea of what beauty is and women in general are beautiful in their own way either natural or relaxed. People should just get over themselves and do what makes them happy!
@Blutopaz that quote was not saying what the individual thought but what most people looking at her think.
Just last week I was home for christmas and I was talking to my sister who was asking about my hair. I was telling her that her would be sooo pretty if she wanted to go for it and then she flat out told me, "It takes a person who is comfortable with themselves and confident in the way they look to go against the social norm." And believe it or not I've heard things very similar from many different women.
So wrapping it all up. Women go natural for many different reasons. It does portray to the world that they are comfortable and confident in themselves, whether they want it to or not.
Interesting topic. As much as I want to think of my natural hair as being "just hair", I realize that society at large does not view it that way. When I B'C'd over ten yrs ago, I went through a period of deep self analysis about my concept of beauty. I examined, in a way that I have never thought of before, how men and other women viewed me and my hair. I constantly compared how others reacted to me with natural vs. relaxed hair. I thought about all the stages of styling I had gone through with my hair over the yrs. It was a very enlightening process. I dont know if other women go through such a process when they make a hair styling change, but until I can be assured that they do, I cant accept that going natural is "just hair".
I totally agree with you @Blutopaz. I have encountered some naturals that are not enlightened or socially aware. Being natural is just a way of doing their hair, not a statement of their way of life. Your hair does not define who you are as an individual.
I do feel wearing natural hair, especially if you work in a "traditional" corporate field, does show that you are not a conformist. You are not afraid to take risks.
This is a great post. The points made are exactly why the topic of natural hair generates such discussion, debate, and sometimes controversy. People get really passionate when it comes to the topic of natural hair, hence communities like CN.com and naturallycurly.com. I very much agree with this point in particular, "natural hair is a new frontier that is deemed as socially and cosmetically unacceptable. Therefore it is important that all naturals understand these perceptions and consider the fact that it’s not just hair." I'm more comfortable with my natural hair. Always have been since I first did it in 1995 but over the years felt the need to conform for whatever reason, whether it was wearing weaves or texturizing, but I always longed to be natural again, hence I'm on my 3rd (and final) go at it.
@Blutopaz – you make an interesting point but aren't the people who do relax their hair in fact conforming to mainstream beauty standards/ideals? They may like how their hair looks relaxed but could it be because they (consciously or unconsciously) do not accept themselves as who they truly hair with their kinky/curly tresses. They don't want to appear militant/going against the norm. None of this is in a bad way, because people can choose how they want to wear their hair – it's an individual decision, but because the straight hair has always been viewed as better/more acceptable. This is what we’ve been told for centuries. That is exactly what the author was pointing out with "1. Natural Hair defies who and what we are as defined by others" and "3. Natural hair reinforces the power of ethnic beauty." The article didn't say anything about behavior (as you very well pointed out with Robin who works for Howard Stern) as part of the self acceptance process. It's clear that although Robin accepts how she looks with natural hair or has self acceptance her behavior as an individual does not reflect someone who is a proud AA woman or person (IN MY OPINION). Hair isn’t a predictor of character or integrity as a person.
"When you decide to wear your natural texture, it tells others that you are free from the stereotypical images of beauty and that you are accepting the most adaptable part of yourself."
What if someone relaxes their hair simply because they like how it looks? I know quite a few women with relaxed hair, and they are not conforming to mainstream beauty ideals, selling out, consumed with self hatred, etc.
Look at Howard Stern's sidekick who has been natural for a while now-you know, the one who busts a gut everytime her boss makes a racist joke. Is she more spiritually and culturally enlightened than say, Michelle Obama? Yes there are many misguided women who think straight hair is the way to paradise, but this holier than thou mindset that many natural hair women have is getting old. I had a coworker with thick, dark brown gorgeous BSL relaxed hair that had a few grays sprinkled in. Does she hate herself because she "does not accept her hair"? You don't know what's in every woman's mind just because you agree/don't agree with what's on her head. Period.
I agree 100%! It's not jut hair, otherwise black women would not be chemically altering it to assimilate! It was a means to look less different than the white race since they are on one end of the spectrum with us on the other end. Races in between are accepted easier according to how closely they are to the white end of the spectrum and since we pretty much have every opposite physical feature of them we get treated the worst. Chemically altering our hair was the easiest way to TRY look less 'threatening'.
I'm sure some will totally disagree with my statements but one must look at our history to undertand why this process began in the first place. Black women were repeatedly told by the media as well as other arenas. They couldn't find work, a husband, or was flat out told they were not beautiful unless they had straight hair. Our natural hair was despised by some white during the 60's as well as seen as being militant.
Hair is not just hair and anyone not understanding that needs to take a history lesson.
I have to say when I decided to go natural I researched it for several months because I was lazy with my relaxed hair. I enjoyed all aspects of my journey from transitioning to big chopping in my bathroom a few weeks ago. I work in corporate america and I have a very opinionated family; so to get all of them ready I spoke with them about my natural journey and most were okay with it but the few naysayers I told them to be nice even if it was not for them. Being natural was "in my blood" but I was scared not what I would look like but what I would feel like. You have to be aware of yourself to be natural because it is not the norm but it is an individual choice that has to be made for the right reasons. Those right reasons are the reasons that you choose.
I often think about the impact that I am having on the perception of others and I understand why it is perceived as a huge deal. Then, I catch myself thinking, "Okay…I accept my hair. Now, it's time to move on." I often think that when I truly accept my hair, then I won't think about it so much. I won't be so aware of how "different" it all is. I won't be as passionate about it…It will be "just hair" for me. I think it's great that people look at my hair with admiration, but it would be nice it it were considered more "the norm" for black women to accept their hair.