Why Are Black Women So Emotionally Tied To Our Hair?
Latest posts by Dianne Austin (see all)
There’s no doubt about it. As black women, we have a love/hate relationship with our hair.
Whether it’s natural, straightened, relaxed, braided or weaved, many of us love and embrace our hair in all forms; yet we have also politicized our hair, been frustrated by our hair, abused our hair, have a tendency to compare and contrast our hair, and for some of us, hate our hair.
Where do these feelings come from? Where does it start?
I’d love a historian’s perspective, but sans that, in my humble opinion, it starts before birth. Our parents learned certain perceptions about their hair which was consciously or unconsciously passed on from one generation to the next. And so it begins.
Most mothers start their attempts at taming their daughter’s hair at an early age.
Here are the sobering facts:
- Women are asking when is it safe to relax their child’s hair.
- Some mothers are relaxing the hair of their little baby girls before they are even one year old.
- We braid our hair so tightly to keep it “neat” that we’ve created scalp and follicle damage that leads to permanent hair loss.
We send an early and subtle message to our kids that:
“Our hair needs to be controlled”
“It’s unruly and unmanageable”
“It’s not acceptable”
My own daughter is now in her teens, but before I learned about how to care for natural hair, I too struggled with managing her hair.
I kept her hair braided which started at about 13 months old. The careful handling and braiding resulted in her hair growing really long.
At age 10, I put a “mild” relaxer in her waist length hair. (I was still relaxing my own hair at the time). I just didn’t know how to handle the length, texture and thickness and was tired of spending two hours detangling, washing, combing and braiding.
I wish I knew then what I know now. I understand how to care for natural hair in a way I never understood before. How could I know? My hair had been straightened for most of my life. Thanks to the thousands of blogs, and videos that are now available, I was able to educate myself about our beautiful natural textured hair. I know how to keep natural hair healthy, moist and tangle free.
Putting a relaxer in my daughter’s hair is something I truly regret; especially since she prefers relaxed hair. I did get her to meet me halfway; convincing her to give her hair a rest by wearing braids for the last year)!
So yes, I’ve been there, done that.
I love the movement towards natural hair. But even within the natural hair community, emotions rage.
Many of you have read the comments on YouTube, natural hair blogs and forums. When the comments from the natural hair community question whether Naturalista’s with long hair are of mixed race, or when women are accusing each other of wanting type 3 hair, and not embracing “real” black hair, you know that there is a real issue.
I shared in the article “Yes I Stretch My Hair – No Biggie…” that
“There is a lot of emotion tied to black women and their hair. It goes back to the days of slavery when we were brainwashed into thinking that everything about us, from our kinky hair to our skin color was less than, ugly, unacceptable. “
Women of all cultures have been bombarded with the European standard of beauty for years. When you are constantly bombarded with magazines, television shows, product labels, movies and more that beautiful equals long, straight hair, the underlying message is that anything that doesn’t fit this archetype is less desirable.
Let’s make a conscious effort to stop the madness when it comes to being so impassioned about what grows out of our heads and how we choose to wear it.
|“Changing attitudes about natural hair” is what we do at Natural Haircare News. Through informative articles, podcasts and videos, we go beyond just sharing the latest advice and tips on kinky, curly, wavy haircare – We shake things up and focus on the realities of wearing our hair natural.|
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