What is the issue with black women and their hair? Why is it the subject of so much scrutiny, disdain, vitriol?
So I started growing out my hair (for those unfamiliar with the term – changing from a chemical process back to what God gave me naturally) and I was surprised at the amount of unsolicited advice I got, even from perfect strangers.
It ranged from utterly clueless remarks “Why you want to go and do that? Isn’t your hair ‘tough’?” to those that literally made me want to punch somebody “I can give you the money to do your hair; I KNOW its because you can’t afford it”. Then there were the ones “Are you mixed? You have ‘good’ hair!”. I guess I should have felt great because I was told its a ethnic mix that gave me my ‘nice’ hair – it could not be all African. Everyone and their momma thought that they knew what was best for me and my hair – and they were unwavering in their belief and faith in their opinion.
I was flabbergasted. Here I was, embracing another aspect of my authentic self, and being told ” No, that aspect of you is not what we want to see”. Essentially, I was being told that this part ‘was not good enough’. I expected people, especially women in my Caribbean sphere, would appreciate me embracing my self, considering the Euro-centric ideal of beauty and attractiveness that has been passed down from generation to generation. This ideal, which affects both sexes, has manifested in body dysmorphia of all shapes and sizes: skin bleaching, ingesting pills meant for animals to add fat to particular body parts, extreme body modification using non-medical methods. The list goes on.
Its not that I don’t sympathise with the ignorance because it has had centuries to perfect its art. It came from creolization where slaves were seasoned and taught that their culture and the essence of who they are was uncivilized and must be abandoned for a better ‘self’. I hear it in the dialogue concerning Lupita Nyong’o apparent beauty or lack thereof.
“You’re too natural and too African”
This is the latest one I’ve heard. But how can I be too natural or too African? Am I not a product of people of African descent? I’m at a loss at how being who I am, hair and all, could be a negative. My hair, in this state, allows me to be healthier, allows it to be healthier, versatile and free. It allows me to express all of my self without the limitations of anyone’s pre-conceived packaging.
I am who I am. And so is my hair.