“I mean, what’s the big deal?”
With one simple sentence, my male friend seemingly dismissed centuries of politics behind “the big deal” of Black women wearing their natural hair. My first response was emotional.
“Clearly you’ve never stood in a mirror with a t-shirt/towel draped on your head. Or listened to some adult go on and on about your cousin’s ‘good hair’ while looking at yours and lamenting about how it needs to be tamed. Or stood by while men flocked to your friend with long straight hair. You’ve never felt the liberation of a big chop as an act of resistance against the mother(s) who put so much energy into your hair that even you began to feel that it alone defined you.”
At least, that’s what my memory tells me I said. I’m pretty sure I didn’t articulate it that way. I told you, my first response was emotional. Still, there is much to be said about the sociopolitical relevance of Black women wearing their natural hair. Perhaps there is more to be said about the fact that some people, even Black men (as in the case of my friend) are oblivious to that relevance.
The idea of Black women wearing our kinks and coils in their natural state is about redefining beauty and Eurocentric standards of such. Standards that remain physically impossible for women of color to obtain without manipulating our bodies and our body image.
Natural hair is about loving ourselves for who we are—completely. In embracing the one part of us that society refused to acknowledge as beautiful, we resist the low self-esteem responsible for many of the issues that plague our communities.
There is something to the sisterhood of natural hair. The head nod you get from other natural sistas at the bookstore/grocery store/church pew. The friendships formed across the country with women you have never met but who are all willing to respond to a social network cry of “my twist out failed, what can I do for my date/interview/formal event?” *Shout out to my Curly Nikki friends*
Natural hair isn’t about doing what’s easy, or cheap, since many naturals spend far more time and money on their hair than they did with a relaxer. Contrary to the beliefs of some people, we do “comb” our hair. Natural hair isn’t a fad. The decision to go natural is far more emotional/spiritual than sporting this season’s ankle boot.
Admittedly, I am a living contradiction when it comes to my hair. I will tell you that my hair is both political and not political all at the same time. It is political because the world made it that way. It is not political because my hair, in any state, doesn’t make me more or less culturally Black. My sistas are beautiful with straight hair, kinky hair, long hair, short hair, and no hair. Tomorrow, I might decide to big chop –for the third time, or flat iron, or even relax my hair (cue gasps). But that’s the point. Embracing our natural hair is one more aspect of our lives where we have the power to choose. And that’s a big deal.
Being natural and accepting my hair was part of increasing my self-esteem. Prior to learning about my hair and how to take care of it I believed straight hair made me beautiful. I now see the beauty in my coarse, kinky hair and it makes me proud to have grown in that way.
Great article, well stated! Loved the part regarding the head nods to other natural ladies while in public. I experience this all the timed. I saw a beautiful woman walking down the street with two friends last week and had to stop and compliment her on her gorgeous natural 'fro. She flashed the biggest smile and thanked me with such great pride. Funny, her response made me feel like I'd done a good deed or something 😉
Its about time somebody said this???? People thinking natural hair is some kinda accessory for an outfit or something
"And even though I never intended to make any kind of statement being
natural, I realize that I do….everyday because of the history of our
When I chopped I had no idea other people were tired of breakage, chemicals, going broke, self-hatred or straight hair as THE option. I wanted healthy, DIY hair period!
But when a collective of people 'fudge' with billions of dollars in perm-weave-flat-iron and wrap n' roll revenue, fire their stylists and invest that time and those billions into education and savings, create and control millions in new product-brand-ad revenue and demand equal visibility and tolerance in professional-private-public life – that kind of mass change, with alternate revenue streams, and greater body and image control is a BIG DEAL. Whether intentional or not, far-reaching financial, political and social change is a movement, a revolution. Our personal choices impact this large world in major ways every day. Thank you for the article Ms. Thurman!
My mother told me that my hair was her hair! Said she spent years taking care of it and didn't appreciate me cutting it. That was after big chop number one. 3 years, 2 big chops later and guess who is rocking her natural hair- my mother loves her TWA!
My old office practically threw a party when I pressed my natural hair, all of which fell out from the stylist using a "special deep conditioner" without my permission. SMH.
How many times has a coworker waited until you have a bun or straight hair to say "your hair looks so professional!" As if it wasn't professional yesterday when I rocked a twist out or my 'fro.
well said!!!!!! 🙂
How I remember those days. As a child, I had natural hair–loads of it that was all over the place and me and combs weren't good friends. So in efforts to tame the mane, I was sent to the beauty shop to get it pressed at least every 2 weeks if it wasn't done at home. Mind you, it was long and all that, but I remember all the adults making on over it like it was spun gold in Rumpelstiltskin. My thought, what's the big deal? Until I got tired of it getting pulled & tugged in every possible direction. I got my 1st of many relaxers in 7th grade. My hair was never as long as it had been when my mother cared for it. When my hair fell out, then later I cut it in high school, all I heard was the "you used to hair such nice, pretty hair" spiel until one day, my senior year in high school, I had enough and told my mother that my hair doesn't make you love me and if it does, than I guess you don't. It still took me another 24 years to get it in my own head that natural hair is no big deal and I big chopped in 2 parts after telling my husband the same thing I told my mother when he tried to give me the hair spiel. Now that I've been natural for almost 2 years, he doesn't want me going back. The only big deal I'm making now is how big can I get my fro to grow.
Yeah, I get that too. I truly believe it's because those with straight hair feel more comfortable when my hair is closer to that texture. And if I flat iron it, it's much longer than they're used to so I REALLY get the pressure to keep it that way – LOL. So when I go back to my preferred fro and get those disapproving comments, my standard reply is always "then it's a good thing your opinion doesn't matter".
Very well said and enlightening. And something more men from the darker nation need to hear and understand.
I believe the last paragraph sait it all, it's about being comfortable with/accepted for anyway you choose to wear your hair.
that was beautifully written!
For people who didn't grow up with the good hair vs. bad hair or light skin/dark skin debate, it isn't a big deal. For those of us who did, it is indeed a big deal. Great, thoughtful article.
Class is in session, Preach
This is so very well said…on point!
That last paragraph is so true…so true!
We didn't make our hair an issue society did….a loooooong time ago.
And the truth be told, we can't even make our own hair grow…no matter how many products you add.
And even though I never intended to make any kind of statement being naturel, I realize that I do….everyday because of the history of our hair. And that is why the natural hair community is so important because whether anyone says it or not, we know that our hair is an issue…with everyone…family, spouses, grandmothers, uncles, cousins, supervisors, church folk, business people, etc.
Natural hair has come to mean to me that
"This is me and although I have no issue with my hair whatsoever you (society) might want to ask yourself….what is your issue with my hair…because I am perfectly cool with my hair as is".
Great article. I also notice a difference when i wear my hair defined vs undefined fro. I get more compliments from coworkers such as ohh i like this style better and ohh you should keep it this way as if an undefined fro is a less worthy hairstyle smh.