Whose Hair Is It Anyway

Over the past six months I’ve become increasingly agitated with the badgering and critique that black women who wear straight hair and/or weaves receive, mostly from “conscious black men”. This focus on dictating black women’s beauty choices truly perplexes me. A direct question to my brothers who are engaging in this behavior: why are our decisions regarding our hair such a priority for you?

I understand that some of you simply have a preference. And as a sista with dreads I appreciate that preference. What I do NOT appreciate, however, is the shade consistently thrown at my sistren who rock other styles. They are ridiculed(though not as much as naturalistas IMO) and questioned. I’m unsure as to what the point of this is. If the goal is encouraging more black women to go natural I think such an approach is actually counterproductive. Putting sisters on blast for relaxing their hair and wearing weaves tends to put them on the defensive. It puts me on the defensive! As black women we live in a society where we continue to be ‘othered’. It’s bad enough that we face this from external sources, and it gets tiring. When I witness sisters getting this treatment from black men I feel like saying :”et tu, Brutus? When dealing with the subject of our hair I think black men should take the following factors into account;

1) You are MEN. Though we are part of the same ‘race’ gender plays a MAJOR role in how we are perceived and what expectations we deal with regarding beauty. Or in other words your blues ain’t like mine.

2) Black women do not exist in a vacuum. I absolutely believe that society can shape our views on what is attractive and what is not. Unfortunately this aspect is often left out when the subject of black women and hair comes up. Questions such as “why are black women so obsessed with weaves and straight hair” and “why are black women so insecure about their own hair” end up placing all the blame on black women. But as I’ve said before: no black baby girl comes into the world preferring any look over the other. We don’t come up with these notions on our own, and that needs to be addressed. I’d love to see more condemnation of white supremacy-and our community’s complicity in maintaining it- and less judgment of black women.

As a woman with natural hair I could look down on and judge black women who aren’t a part of ‘team natural’. However my own ‘hairstory’ has led me to cultivate a deep sense of empathy for my sisters. I know what it’s like because I’ve been there myself. I’ve sucked my teeth while listening to sanctimonious lectures from others about straightening my hair. In the end though it wasn’t the lectures and accusations of selling out that made me go natural; the graceful example of one black woman did it. So I offer no critique to other black women on hair. I rock my natural hair, as does my daughter. In doing so I do hope to set the example that was set for me. But even if my sisters don ‘t convert to Team Natural I can live with that. For as much as I support natural hair there’s something I support even more: the autonomy of black women.

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A native Seattleite and East Coast transplant, I have been interested in politics, religion, and race from the day I saw “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” on the bookshelf belonging to my BFF’s mom back in 1991. While my zealotry has thankfully diminished with maturity, I remain the deep thinking, passionate, and humble woman I have always been.

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