How can we create a sense of a natural hair community when we continue to “police” one another? By “police” I mean how we (try to) keep each other in line so we don’t break those so-called rules that “naturals” are supposed to live by. I bring this up because I recently had a conversation with a friend basically trying to answer the question, who really has natural hair? We talked heat styling versus no heat styling, straightening, etc. Basically, it helped give me a bit of insight of how I honestly feel about people who identify as “naturals” but who never wear fros or have their hair straight 90% of the time.
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t consider some people to be more “natural” than others when it comes to hair care. The less manipulation the better, the less you straighten the better, the more natural/organic products the better, etc. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I’m really trying to process and own up to my own biases and prejudices.
But this isn’t really about my personal hang ups so much as it is about a trend I’ve seen of people in the natural hair community trying to enforce all these so-called “rules” of what it means to be natural onto someone else. It’s one thing to have these automatic thoughts or perceptions about how someone feels about their hair based on how they wear it BUT it’s a different beast to call people names or try to denigrate their identity as a natural by invalidating their experience. Here are some examples of things I’ve read or heard about natural hair: Stop complaining, at least you don’t have kinky hair…your hair is curly! Straight hair isn’t natural. If you don’t have a fro, you aren’t natural. When are you going to braid that? Why don’t you get locs? But it’s their hair, not yours. So why care? Why do we do this to one another? Why do we do this to ourselves?
It troubles me that for some reason people seem to be hard-wired this way. We categorize ourselves as different from another so that maybe can make ourselves feel better about our own decisions. I do it too and I hate that about myself. I’m recognizing I’m also part of the problem. It’s sort of a wake up call to myself that what one person does to their hair has no reflection on me whatsoever so why should I care? Why should you care?
I don't mind the different thoughts about what is natural and what is not-for one's self. DO NOT put that on others. Most people only do that out of frustration of not having a certain type of hair or being ridiculed on the journey to acceptance. AND THAT HAPPENS TO ALL OF US no matter the texture. Someone always wants to tell you what they would do if they had your hair. When you make the choice to become natural, it can be and usually is, a life changing experience. It comes with the full range of emotions and often times the journey to accept and love what you've got, who you are, what you look like, etc. It doesn't always stop at the hair. I think when anyone who is going through that moment of transition and someone with what they think is easy to manage/acceptable hair or straightened hair walks in claiming to be natural, it stings. Fighting the battle of self acceptance can be a beast for anyone and "this person" is claiming the exact experience but it appears she is not even committed or is using options that have tossed out of the window in efforts to maintain the "natural card". It can feel like a slap in the face…fraudulent experience even. I believe this to be the main source of this conversation. I do agree that the rest of the conversation is merely based on the basic definition of natural. I get it and it's ok with me. Define it for yourself. If you are happy why does it need to be discussed? IF you like it, I love it. The end 🙂
I agree with the post. What one person does to their hair does not have an affect on me or is not a reflection on me. I think instead of looking for the positive in sonething alot of us choose to focus on the negative . We ridicule and try to tear others down to make ourselves feel better. If you are truly "more natural" and you are making better decisions why should it bother you what another person is doing? A wise saying that I got when I was young if you don't have anything nice to say dont say anything at all. People really should get a life , because as a working mother of two , someone elses hair is the least of my concerns.
We all have the judge in us to support our ego. If we acknowledge this we will realize its not about being natural but how can I feel valid by making someone invalid. We are all better than this. Its not about our hair but how we treat people that's what truly matters.
Honestly that's one of the reasons I don't post because of the cattiness (not saying on this site,just in general)…Females are catty to me, they argue about anything, like seriously people tell my best friend who has locs she isn't natural because she dyes her hair smh….I'm less then natural becaus I use sulfates and cones….10 years ago when I first went natural it was nothing like this, it was actually supportive…These natural hair Nazis need to get a grip, focus on your own hair…What I chose to do with mine is my choice.
I truly believe, based on my observations of some of the exchanges I've read on this and other blogs and on my understanding of people and how boundaries should work, that far fewer of us truly are as much at peace with, "at home" to, the choices we make as we want others to believe. I like the way Anonymous 9:43 a.m. put it: ". . . some people look at others as a representation of themselves and that creates a false sense of ownership over the other person's body." If I'm less at home to my choice to be natural as I define it for myself, then I project onto you my insecurity over your failure to reflect my definition back to me in your appearance, and I jump down your throat about it, because down your throat is, for me, a safer place to stand than in the heart of my own insecurity.
A different but not unrelated issue about which I would also raise the "Why do we care" question is that of who validates whom/from whom do we seek validation and why we get irked to the point of screaming-frenzy angry or ramrod militant in our response to that. I have seen people relate an experience, and I have seen other people read it and interpret it as the seeking of validation from "outside" rather than simply accepting it as a relating of an anecdote. I raise this issue as relevant in light of the original question because I believe the answer to the question as expressed by anonymous 9:43 a.m., by others, and by myself just now is equally valid here. Whereas in the case of Natural v Not Natural By Whose Definition, it's about false ownership of someone else's body, in the case of Who Validates You v I Validate Me, it's about false ownership of someone else's relational boundaries. In both cases, the counter-question to why we care—because obviously we do—is "What does your choice say about my choice, and how comfortable am I REALLY with what I choose?"
Because let's face it: If I'm really living as comfortably with my choices as I say I am, then not only do I not feel the need to criticize how you do you (You flat-iron/weave your hair all the time, while I "embrace" my texture; but your hair retained a foot of length in 15 months while I only retained seven inches in two years), but neither do I fear the implications of your choices for myself (Does it really add up if I say I'm not prejudiced/racist/don't have antipathy against "them" when your friend list reads like the social version of the Rainbow Coalition and mine doesn't?).
Our own choices are what they are, for good or ill. We need to deal honestly with them on our own terms to the point of a resolution with which we can live peacefully, instead of trying to make others walk out our choices to prove to us their validity.
I totally agree.. I was just talking about this with my mom earlier.. So many naturals kept walking up to me when i had my hair dyed blue and blonde saying that i wasnt really natural with "all that color in yo head".. It annoyed me.. then they would ask "dont you get breakage from all that color?" No i dont.. I have not gotten any breakage from color… Color isnt an automatic death wish to hair, you have to take care of it..
natural snobbery…lol…love it!!!
Oh wow. I was just ranting about this, this morning lol. I call it natural snobbery. There are naturals who literally look down on others (natural or not) for not following the same set of ideals they have. Whether one chooses to heat style, color, or God-forbid relax, that's their choice. Yes, its lovely to be natural and accept your curls and kinks, but that does not automatically make you some kind of deity. Last time I checked, natural hair does not feed starving kids or heal the sick. I'll take the
"jacked-up perm" lady working to save her community over the natural who spends all her time worrying about what others look like hands down any day.
Ditto what everyone else said. But I will add the only time I feel like a natural hair nazi is when I see celebs with kinky wigs and weaves touted as natural hair icons. To me that's like saying our hair is only beautiful if it's in a 2 foot high afro.
Natural hair TO ME means that there is not a chemical placed in the hair to permanately straighten it. Flat ironing, twisting, braiding etc. TO ME does not change the fact that your hair is in its natural state. So perhaps the word should be not chemically altered. I could really care less what a person does to their head natural or not. All of these different definitions and catagories is a pain in my butt. Looks like folks are always ready to have a disagreement over something that is really none of their dang business.
I think you hinted at the answer to your own question at the end. It is someone elses hair so why should we care? I think the problem is some people look at others as a representation of themselves and that creates a false sense of ownership over the other person's body. For example, someone may think "oh, well if we are both natural, and she wears her hair like 'that' then people are going to think we all look like 'that' and that is a bad respresentation of who we are as naturals." For generations black people were kept in a box with limited options of how we could define ourselves and what we could become. Now that we have more freedom to define ourselves, we are trying to make sense of each other. I think it is just the first step in figuring out our identity. We came out of the stage where we HAD to have a relaxer or a press, and now we are trying to figure out what CAN we look like and what does it mean, if anything? We have to let each other breathe and let everyone have their own journey. For me, natural means relaxer free. Black women are far from stagnant. Even with relaxers we would dye it, style it, weave it, free it lol, whatever! We HAVE OPTIONS and we should be free to play with those options. Natural hair doesn't have to be boring. It CAN be colorful, it can be straight, wavy, curly, or kinky. If you wanna poof it, do it! If you wanna flatten it, do it! It is your body and your self image.
I want to know exactly what is natural? With all the henna uses, "low manipulation styles", this oil that oil this conditioning treatment the list goes on. No one spends that much time, money, energy, and effort on maintaining and controlling their hair as black women do. No woman, natural or relaxed, would wear their hair as it naturally came out of their scalp. It takes twist outs, braid outs, perms and weaves to achieve our style. Technically no one's natural.
Amen sister girl with this article. When I first became natural I was dang near afraid to put any color in my hair because of the natural nazis at my job. But I decided that my hair grows from my head and the choices I make are mine and mine alone. If I want to dye my hair bleach blond, flat iron it within an inch of it's life, let me deal with the consequences.
I agree with this article and with Launie and Alyssa. @ anonymous 9:58m, simply styling your natural hair does not make it not natural. Even non-Black women style their hair. They often put in hair gel, blow dry, flatiron, use the curling iron, etc. and there isn't anyone giving them a guilt trip about it either. For me, the beauty of my natural hair is the flexibility of it. I can wear my hair in a wash and go, twists, twistout, flat twists, braidout, cornrows, wet set, rod set, flatiron, afro puff, afro, coils, etc. That's what makes my natural hair so beautiful. God gave me hair that can do all that.
I agree with launie, but as far as I'm concerned if you relax/perm your hair then you're not natural. Other than that, no matter what you do to it, dye it, press it, it doesn't matter, you're still natural.
I so agree with this article.. Sometimes it gets a little irritating when you hear all these "rules" of natural hair care..
Yes. im so glad the writer had brought this up.. this is a reason why i dont talk to other naturals. cause some like to deem themselves more natural than others when it isnt even that serious. to me natural is the use of no relaxing agents. since when did using a flat iron and or coloring deem u not being natural. i swear we as people jus like to find ways to separate ourselves.
@ anonymouse 9:59
There is a difference between natural hair and natural hair texture.
If I band my hair so that it wont't shirnk up and tangle like a spider web, does that mean it's not my natural texture? If I don't do a wash and go, does that mean it's not my natural texture?
If you have a certain hair type, wash and go can mean wash and tangle and losing hair.
Maybe people deem some naturals "more natural" than others because there are naturals that show off their natural texture and curl pattern and then there are those that wear braid or twist outs, blow dry it, flan iron it and basically stretch it out into different hair patterns and styles.
Usually when you ask people of other races if their hair is natural and they have flat ironed it or have done a braid out they will tell you that no this is not what their natural hair looks like. However, usually if you ask a black woman if a braid out or twist out is their natural hair they will say yes because they equate their natural texture with the braid out, twist out, roller set, flexirod set and what not.
So it is all just a bit confusing and misleading to people of other races, and to ourselves, because when we are doing a style that changes our natural curl pattern it is not our natural hair.
As a newbie a year ago I was very confused seeing twist-n-curls, braid outs, coil outs, and curlformer sets and other beautiful styles because I thought it was the way their hair actually looked. They all said it was their “natural hair” lol. It wasn't until later that I realized that those were all styles that changed the curl pattern and their natural hair probably looked nothing like that.
I also found out later that most black women are terrified to wear their natural curl pattern even as "naturals" on a daily basis because of shrinkage and single strand knots. So in reality it should not be just about a relaxer versus no relaxer but about what is really our natural hair texture. I am not saying that the styles are not beautiful, or that people can’t choose to wear their hair the way that they want but I am saying that we should not call it our “natural hair” if our natural texture that we are born with isn’t showing.
I soooo agree with this post. I get so tired of 'naturals' either judging someone because they are 'not natural enough' or down someone else's opinion about how they do their hair. We are suppose to embrace our hair and be proud of it not bash each other about it.
Community enforces conformity (Whether you think it should or not isn't really the issue.) and with that comes a host of other human behaviors some really great (We are all "brothers") and some not so great (More natural then you are) and a few truly loathsome (Usually some form of pecking order gone lethal.).
That said, the "truly natural" hassle is , hopefully, temporary.
Everyone's got to grow up sometime but it looks like we all have to go through some version of the playground wars first.
The first thing which popped into my mind when I read "not natural enough" was the phrase "not black enough". Not to say the author is attempting to equate and/or relate these two phrases, but it makes me think we as individuals will never live up to the expectations of others so why bother; continue to be, and do, you. It's ok to have your opinions, that's what makes the world go 'round. But as Jay Z says in one of his songs, "What you eat don't make me sh*t". I guess I would ask, instead of "Why should/do we care" "Why does it matter?" Does how someone chooses to wear their hair have any direct impact on you and your situation? Direct impact means will their choices cause you harm, affect your finances and/or your health/safety/well-being? If the answer is no, keep it moving on focus on what matters – You!
As a Caucasian mother of twin AA/NA girls with natural hair, I get critiqued all the time on my daughters' hair. Most of the time, the critiques are positive but there have been a few times it has been negative. But all have been unsolicited. When they were around 2 and they rocked fro's most of the time, going out would make me nervous. Now I am use to it and will blow any negative comments off. I'm their mother and will make any and all decisions regarding their hair until they are old enough to make their own. They are gorgeous no matter how their hair is done.
The thing I really don't get is why natural *hair* is the biggest thing. A full face of makeup is "unnatural" but it's a style. Wearing contacts to see is unnatural, wearing heels to be tall is unnatural, putting lotion on so we're not ashy is unnatural. Similarly, straightened hair is not natural, but it's a style. I only look negatively on those choices when they're done at the expense of more important things like health and living life. I don't think I've ever looked at someone and thought "not natural enough!"
I agree also that it is not up to us to judge anyone's degree of naturalness. Natural to one person may just to not use chemicals such as perms but to heat straighten while another deems natural as WnG. its all good and as long as you aren't physically hurting anybody it shouldn't matter as long as you love it
I will never understand "not natural enough". You're either natural i.e. no chemically altered hair. Fros, twist, locks are all hairstyles. But what annoys me is why is this anyone else's business what someone else do to their hair. It's not yours.
I believe that the "hair" debate is a lengthy and useless one. I have been natural before and have returned to chemically processing my hair for no other reason than because I can and I want to. Now, the same friends that were against my natural, have all gone natural and judge my choice to use chemicals. It's a non-stop cycle that cannot be won. And now I hear them judge other naturals for not being natural enough, or not styling this way or that. It's ridiculous. I've never seen a greater case for the simple phrase "do you." I believe we as a society cannot help but judge and/or offer unsolicited opinions about one another. It's a part of our culture, but as your article states, Why should [we] care?