July 25, 2011

Can I Touch Your Hair?

CNN interview with Tamara Harris discussing the fascination with African American women’s natural hair.

(Source: CNN)

July 22, 2011
Kinky or Straight? Natural vs Relaxed

How many of us make assumptions about people based on their appearances? Let’s be honest here, we all do! It’s human nature. Now how many natural women will admit to giving relaxed/weaved women a side-eye simply because of how she is wearing her hair? How many relaxed women see a natural woman and think her hair is too nappy for her to be natural? Do you judge women based on hairstyles?

I’ve found that when people participate in the natural vs. relaxed debate, they usually take an either-or approach and firmly stick to it as if there are no other options. A. When women decide to accept their natural tresses and forever ditch the creamy crack, she is subtly (or blatantly) enrolling in the growing “natural army”. B. When a woman opts for a more straight or relaxed look, she is selling-out and doesn’t remember where she came from. C. When a woman wears a weave, she’s trying to be something she is not.

What’s forgotten is that it’s *just hair* and should be treated as such. Relaxed women often don’t know their natural texture, don’t know how to care for it, and/or don’t have the time to figure it out. Consequently, relaxers are their best option and as long as the style looks good, they have no problems. Natural sistas generally take the hair debate more seriously and have cultural, historical, and even economical references to support their decision to go natural. They’ve usually done research online or in real-life to know the consequences of going natural and are openly accepting of the challenge. Women who wear weaves can be either relaxed or natural underneath, so the weaves are typically used as an interim hairstyle while the hair grows out a certain color, cut, or to a particular length.  The problem with weaves is that oftentimes, women don’t know how to care for a weave nor their hair underneath and the cycle just ends disastrously.

I used the term ‘natural army’ because I’ve found that women who are natural usually feel as if our relaxed or weaved sistas are rejecting their culture and therefore hate themselves and/or their texture. And in my honest opinion, which is based off of my personal experiences, I’ve found this to be mostly true. Our young women lack positive role models and as a result have turned to the media, specifically magazines and tv, to emulate what they see to be beautiful. The problem is that, WE aren’t represented enough and they are missing out on the opportunity to accept being beautiful naturally. Thankfully more natural sistas are beginning to be represented in commercials and even print ads, but it’s still a long time coming. Nevertheless, that doesn’t give anyone the right to “judge” or scorn someone based on her hairstyle. Of course there are women who use weave as a transitioning style and nothing more, but those aren’t the women making the hair business a $14 billion dollar per year industry. We’ve all seen women in our local neighborhoods (especially urban or inner-city) who have the most raggedy, dirty, crummy looking weaves and know she would look so much better had she just rocked her own natural hair proudly. Why doesn’t she?

The title of this blog is accepting natural because for me and for women I know, the transition to natural has been an entire lifestyle change. Going natural is about eating right, taking care of body, soul, and spirit, being proud to be black, and not being ashamed about our culture and our heritage. In the same token, it’s also just a hairstyle because I would never bash another woman based on her choice of how she wears her own hair. I would not say I’m never going to wear another weave, because I probably will. I like the versatility and the change a weave can bring, not to mention giving the precious strands relief from daily manipulation. But I do know that I will never wear another weave that doesn’t closely resemble the texture of my own hair, natural or relaxed. It’s important for me to not perpetuate the ‘angry, black woman’ image so many people have of us, so as much as I am accepting of naturals, I am also accepting of my relaxed and weaved up sistas out there doing their thing. Bless.

July 13, 2011
Natural Hair and Dating part 1

When women go natural, the first thought is usually along the lines of: “What will [insert name here] think of me?” The self-scrutiny goes even deeper when the name is of a member of the opposite sex. We stare in the mirror, playing in our hair, studying our features, trying to determine if this “natural” look is good for us. Trust me, it is. Most of us grew up believing that men like long, flowing hair and as an attempt to appeal to more men, we tried to achieve that look, whether it be through relaxers and/or weaves. Thank God for the advent of the internet and the 21st century so we can now know for sure that there are men out there who look deeper into a woman’s soul to determine attraction. And there are men who appreciate us for more than what we have to offer superficially.

According to this blog post at SBM, http://www.singleblackmale.org/2011/07/08/i-hate-weaves-part-deaux/ and most conversations I’ve had with men regarding the “real hair vs fake hair battle”, most men think the same thing and the debate ends the same: they all prefer real hair. And if it’s natural, that’s even better. Why is it that we’ve been brainwashed into believing that long straight hair is the key to getting a good man? Wouldn’t we rather have the man who loves us as is? Why trap yourself into a situation where you could potentially end up loving someone who doesn’t even love the real you? I think that as women, we need to stop giving a hoot about the men who don’t like our natural hair because quite frankly, it’s their loss!

I recently started this leg of my natural journey so I haven’t actually dated with natural hair yet but so far my experience has been a good one. I noticed that the men who are now stopping to get my attention are a little bit older and are of a difference caliber than the men who usually try to gain my attention. Those other guys have already been forgotten because if they aren’t feeling this look, their criticisms don’t even remotely matter. Even though I knew I didn’t lose any beauty or appeal after cutting my relaxed ends off, I must admit that I felt so relieved that men are still attracted to me with my TWA.

Confidence is key. The key to looking good with natural hair is the confidence a natural woman exudes when she rocks her own hair proudly. Both men and women are attracted to a confident person and that alone is sexy. Being natural requires you to be more conscious of your entire look and once you realize how good you truly look, you can’t help but let some of that radiance shine. Smile on ladies, you are beautiful.

July 12, 2011

I Am Not My Hair

July 12, 2011
I am not my hair

India Arie coined the phrase so well with her famous song: “I am not my hair”. Ever since the beginning of time, women have been conditioned to succumb to men and to conform to set standards of beauty and acceptable feminine behaviors. We are expected to always display the typical feminine behaviors and have a poised demeanor: smile, remain calm, and take care of the household. Thanks to the women’s rights era, we’ve been expected to do all of the above in addition to holding steady 9-5 jobs. And regardless of how tough life may get, women are always expected to without a doubt keep up with their appearances.

What happens when one is expected to strive endlessly towards a fleeting goal that will never by any means be remotely attained? Do you keep trying or do you say ‘enough is enough’ and try something new? The famous genius Albert Einstein said it himself: Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. The natural movement is being propelled by the idea that regardless of how much we try to alter our appearances, until we collectively accept ourselves as is, society will never do so either. It is time for us as educated black women to look to our leaders, heroes, and mentors as role models for what a strong black woman is. She is not limited to the hair on her head, she takes care of it and beholds it like a crown. Hair is a woman’s crown and glory, the ultimate physical depiction of youth and beauty. Media shows us daily that the most beautiful women have long, silky, flowing locks of hair and are usually of lighter skin; the two main characteristics which are significantly opposite to those of average Black women. Are they not so subtly implying that we are ‘less’ beautiful? And if such a thing can be quantified, what does this do to the psyche of said women?

Well, the proof is in the pudding: Billions of dollars are spent worldwide yearly to finance the hair industry which preys upon Black women’s insecurities. For years women of African descent have purchased hair weaves opposite of their own, but similar in texture to that of the typical “beautiful” women, not realizing our own beauty lies within. The craze doesn’t stop at simply having a hair weave anymore, apparently, the longer and more exotic the hair, the better it is.  Therefore, the industry is now booming with claims of hairs from the heads of Brazilian, Indian, Malaysian, and Chinese women! None of which are even remotely close to that of Africans themselves. Insanity?

Why is it so difficult for women to just simply accept the texture given to us and rock it shamelessly? Have we really been groomed to believe that our outward appearance is all we have to offer?  Perhaps we should take a closer listen to the lyrics of India Arie’s song and realize our life’s journey represents so much more than our hair and it is about time we take pride in our natural selves. Wouldn’t you agree?

July 11, 2011
embracing “natural”

embrace: to take up especially readily or gladly.

natural: organic, unrefined

In recent years, there’s been an underground awakening bubbling beneath the surface of black beauty and fashion. This widespread developing consciousness is a modern day Renaissance of sorts, and includes “going natural”. One could argue that this is a branch off the “going green” movement which wildfired through American society, food, environmental, and beauty industries in the early 21st century, sparking an entirely new industry of natural and organic products. This cause spurred deeper thinking in the average overspending American consumer and at the core of the campaign lies the old adage: “less is more”. There’s more to life than the thoughtless consumption of junk and natural resources without regard for our futures.

Nevertheless, when a Black woman uses the term “going natural” it suggests a return to her original African roots and culture and most importantly regards hair. For decades upon decades, Black Americans and all of us in the Diaspora have struggled with honest acceptance of one’s self and image; this is mainly in due to the lack of beautiful role models of color and modern-day society’s rejection of our ancestral history, culture, and beauty. The culture in which live has a history of belittling and ridiculing predominantly black features which has consequently led to rejection of one’s true identity and pulchritude.

For us as colored women, to openly reject society’s “standard of beauty” by proudly rocking our own natural textures boldly and fiercely, we are setting a new paradigm for the upcoming generations. This movement is more than just another beauty fad or trend regarding Afrocentricity, it’s much deeper than that. This is lasting. This is about firmly declaring our place in society as original individuals and not as mindless clones of what some LA stylist determined is hot in fashion, or what the newest celebrity is wearing for us to emulate. This is about accepting our own distinct varied looks and characteristic bodies as beautiful, despite what is or isn’t seen in the media. This is about finally looking back at our mirrored reflections in awe and never again in embarrassment.

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