When a stranger approaches me, they assume I am of African American descent because of my dark skin and natural hair.  When they find out I am a Latina, a shock reaction is usually followed.  My hair is in its natural state, natural means in the hair community as no chemical altercations primarily relaxers or perms; hair color is still debated within the hair community.

The controversy about natural hair has been growing particularly in the media with movies such as “Good Hair” by Chris Rock and celebrities such as Taraji P. Henson, Oprah, Tracie Thoms, Tracee Ellis Ross and Erica Badu.  Regardless of what position you take on the argument, the negative cognition associated to natural hair still persists.  Afro’s became symbolic during the civil rights movement as a symbol of resistance and strength.

So I am happy to see articles highlighting the video bloggers (which I follow two of them) that are showing the versatility, and beauty of women of African descent with natural hair. Click Here.  The second article is from USA today, which has more details about natural hair and growth of women of color embracing their natural tresses. Click here.

Advertisements

4 responses

  1. I find it very interesting that so many articles are starting to come out about natural hairstyles. I’m a strong believer in keeping your hair as natural as possible, avoiding hair dye, chemicals, and a lot of nonsense women put in there hair. As a society it seems straight hair is “the way to go” and more and more women are always seeking the sleek look. Don’t get me wrong i straighten my hair once in a while for a new look, but I highly prefer my bouncy and lively curls. Its funny, I actually had a conversation about this in another course during the summer and saw a small “experiment” done on hair. I can’t find the video now, but a set of pictures were shown to a panel of men. Two of them were of the same woman but in one her hair was curly and in the other her hair was straight (the pictures weren’t shown right after one another). Men rated the woman when she had straight hair higher then when she had curly hair, EVEN THOUGH SHE WAS WEARING THE EXACT SAME THING AND LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME! Its crazy how our society has determined that straight sleek hair is the norm for beauty, a trait clearly almost always found in white women. I give a big thumbs up to women taking their natural hair and (for the lack of better words) strutting their stuff. Afros, dread-locks, braids, whatever it may be, “ol natural” is always best for me.

  2. While I agree that negative views persist surrounding “natural” hair which is more coarse, we have to remember to never make women who do chemically alter their hair feel inferior to those that don’t. By this I mean, that in an attempt to make coarse hair more acceptable, we shouldn’t degrade those that do chose to continue to straighten their hair. I, for example straighten my hair every week, which allows me to play with different styles. Hair is simply another accessory–having straight hair is a good basis for other hairstyles.

    However I do acknowledge that many women want straight hair following the socially accepted version of beauty: a thin light skin women with straight long hair.

    Lastly, the second link, the article from USA Today, contains a quote from Starla Officer, stating: “[Hair i]s also a statement of your identity.” Placing such an emphasis on hair as part of someone’s identity is as damaging as aspiring to one beauty standard. Hair shouldn’t be important, so instead of saying: “Women do not chemically treat your hair”, we should instead focus on how much time and resources go into personal appearance, and wondering if that time could be better spent.

    *Note: natural hair is not maintenance free by the way. I have very (VERY) coarse hair and had a big puffy Afro during high school, but that did not mean that i didn’t spend a hour every day fixing it.

  3. nahirortiz says:

    Hair defines humanity profoundly; it is a cultural phenomenon, an artistic form and a universal language. Hair is a channel of self expression that allows us to enjoy a unique type of freedom which is inalienable. It is an integral aspect of our humanness because we are attached to it both biologically and emotionally.
    Since the beginning of time hair has played a significant role in the way people live, think and act. The way in which one wore, colored and adorned their hair was as important as the clothing they wore. It was a determinate of social class and status and practiced as means of symbolism in culture and religion.
    Even today, hair is valued as sacred and is an essential part of our identity. It continues to convey all sorts of messages through its remarkable versatility and has a special knack for “making things happen”. For example, it can make a man fall in love instantly, get an actor “the part”, land someone a job, or serve as a disguise. Hair can tell others where you are going (gym, a party, or the army), how you feel (sweaty, fresh or wild) and, who you are (a bride, a rock star or a radical teenager) etc.
    Of course I am all for the end of bias and stereotyping and I especially don’t like the idea of being judged by my hair alone, but we should not shun the powerfulness of hair altogether. In fact, we ought to embrace it, use it to our advantage and think of it as a natural gift that has far more benefits than not regardless of it structure or design (curly, straight black, blonde).

    Kudos on this clever topic!

    Some interesting websites on the wonders of hair:

    http://www.spiritualabuse.org/hair/history.html
    http://www.ukhairdressers.com/history%20of%20hair.asp
    http://www.experiencefestival.com/hair_symbols

  4. hheydi says:

    I also am Hispanic, and most of my female family members, including my mother and older sister, chemically relax their hair. When I was in 5th grade, I also chose to relax my hair. I felt that it would help me “fit in” better with my other classmates. Since at that time I was struggling with feelings of insecurity and inferioty, I thought that straight hair might make me look more attractive and culturally acceptable.

    I continued chemically straightening my hair through junior high school and halfway through high school. I remember that it was an unpleasant feeling on my head to have new hair growth.

    At the end of sophomore year, however, a hair stylist at a salon told me that I had beautiful curly hair, and that many women would love to have my hair type. She continued by recommending that I go for what the article you referenced refers to as the Big Chop, or the B.C. So I allowed her to drastically cut off all the hair that was chemically treated. I was left with a little afro, and once again I felt insecure about my identity. It took a few weeks to accept the change. When I started junior year, my friends were pleasantly surprised by the change. This was a new beginning.

    Now, I love the fact that with my natural hair, I can straighten it or leave it curly. I have learned that I don’t have to feel pressured to look a certain way to imitate what the media beholds as beautiful. I have not gone back to relaxing my hair since then. I have learned to embrace my naturally curly hair and accept it.