by Shelli of Hairscapades

Last month, a natural friend of mine posted the following status update:

“I definitely prefer wearing my hair straight and blonde over wearing a huge, dark brown afro … It’s simply more flattering. Not a political or cultural statement. Simply a preference.”

Of course this prompted a flurry of responses, including the following question and my friend’s reply:

Q: Playing devil’s advocate here- if this statement is not meant to be political or cultural- why vocalize it on Facebook in the first place? Just curious.

A: I recently unfriended an acquaintance on Facebook who had the nerve to tell me how he thought I should wear my hair and his preference for a more “natural” looking woman. Never mind the fact that I am romantically committed to someone. Never mind that my hair is personal and none of his business. This man felt so deeply offended by what he saw as a deeply political act that he was compelled to send me a message voicing his disappointment. Thus, the status update explaining that fashion, at least in this instance, is a matter of stylistic preference, and not a defense or critique of the how’s and why’s of what other women of African descent choose to do their hair.

Now, generally speaking, I am not one who likes to stir the pot of controversy. It’s just not my thing and that’s probably why I am not a fan of reality shows . I also belong to the “camp” that qualify anyone who doesn’t relax their hair as natural, regardless of whether they weave up, wig out, press or permanently color their hair. It’s just that simple to me. Anywho, my friend asked me to chime in on the topic and my reply was as follows:

“As you know —-, I’m a fan of the huge, dark brown afro … but, you already know, I love huge, curly hair. That being said, I agree with you that how you chose to wear your hair is your decision and a casual acquaintance has a lot of nerve to tell you what HE prefers. I don’t care what YOU prefer. I myself wear my hair curly, but on occasion wear it pressed. If someone who I knew peripherally, after seeing my hair pressed, had the nerve to tell me he preferred my hair straight, I’d be pissed. And, it would have nothing to do with how I view myself, but with that person’s belief that they have a right to tell me what they think of how I wear MY hair [as if] their opinion should matter to me when I know them not.”

At the end day, I found my friend’s statement to be about the presumption of male privilege rather than issues with self-image and acceptance. And, let me clarify, my friend loves her hair in every form and has rocked it in a variety of styles in its natural state. However, she has indicated that she currently prefers it blonde and straight.

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So, what do you think? Is this about preference, male privilege or racial politics? Can a Black woman’s preference for “straight and blonde” hair simply be an aesthetic choice and not fueled by a deeper, hidden meaning or self-hatred? Did the explanation that prompted the statement change your initial, visceral reaction to it?