Just Because I Have Natural Hair Doesn’t Mean That I Am…

Beautiful young women- Curlfriends
Source: Natural Nigerian

Hey guys,

Today I’d like us to talk about natural hair stereotypes. How do you feel about them?

Weeks ago, I asked my twitter fam what comes to mind when they see a girl with natural hair. The responses were quite interesting. Here’s what I got.

Interesting, Bohemian, Potential Freak. Beautiful. Afrocentric & Artistic. A free spirit. Would love great music. Would love art and probably has some unconventional job. An outside the box person. High maintenance; spends a lot of money on hair styling and products. Interesting, Artsy, Woke. Feminist and Opinionated. Funky and artistic. Daring. Really strong, a little aggressive, won’t take your shit. Cool, Different. Expected to be her own person.

Do you know what’s more interesting than these responses?

It is the fact that 5 years ago, I would have needed to explain this question.

Explain what I meant by natural hair, as in, natchi. And the answers would have been different. Most people were only familiar with people who were natural for religious reasons, and trust me, even I did not know this was a thing before I went to university! What was once simply dowdy has now expanded to include chic. So funny that now in 2016, natural hair is associated with being high maintenance, whereas in 2010, the opposite was the case.

Now, all these things I listed above are nice things to be. However, I really think that holding tight to these “positive” stereotypes as what naturals are, or should be, can be problematic in its own way. 

Just Because I'm Natural Doesn't Mean That I Am... Click To Tweet

4C Kinky Natural Hair Afro
Source: Curlfriends Tumblr

More African Than The Next Girl

Yes, the look and feel of my kinks let you know that I’m an African. But my friend over there in the straight Yaki, are you under the impression that she is any less African? My mother is relaxed. My sister is relaxed. Am I more African than they, simply because their hair is straight?

Styled by YoKo- Naturals in Headwraps
Source: Styled by YoKo Instagram

More “Woke” Than Most

If you truly are woke, you’d know that more important than the way you wear your hair, is what is actually in your head, and that it’s not the same for everybody.

Some people really don’t give a damn about hair. For others, hair is one of the ways they express themselves. It can be deep, it can be shallow, any way it goes, it’s just one part of you.

Natural Hair- Pompadour- High puff
Source: Le Coil

Erykah Badu/ Earth Loving African Queen

I turned 12 the year Tu Face Idibia’s ‘African Queen’ was released, and even then, I didn’t get it. I know all the lyrics (are you a true Nigerian if you don’t?) but this Kings & Queens narrative is not something I can put myself behind, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Vintage Erykah Badu in a headwrap
Vintage Badu. The GLOW.

I love Fat Belly Bella’s vibes & her beauty is an inspiration. Have I really listened to her music, though? A few songs, but I cannot honestly claim to be a fan as at today. I am not an earth loving, homely, nature healing mother figure, not a Nubian queen. (Does Erykah herself, even personally identify as such?)

#CarefreeBlackGirl

Do you ever notice how natural hair in advertising is mostly used to promote things like Fanta, vacations, fun stuff (often multiracial curls but the conversation about natural hair in the media is for another day) Natural hair is fun! Creative! Etc etc. True that, true that.

Natural hair- Curlfriends- St. Heron- Brooklyn- Vogue
Source: Vogue

I like to think that I’m fun (MeeMee back me up here!) but my life is really not that exciting. I don’t get to work remotely, or go on tour. I work 8 to 6, and I’m a Type A personality who takes life so damn serious. I own two flower crowns but hashtag Carefree Black Girl? LOL oh, I use the hashtag alright, but in FULL reality? Haha, I wish I could!

Jokes aside, I feel this stereotype goes both ways, and is harmful at some level.

Natural hairstyles for work- Twist out
Source: Le Coil

If you think I must be a poet, or entertainer, or someone working an unconventional job because of my natural hair, why should a more conservative environment not reject my hair because those are the same vibes they get?

To quote my beloved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:

“…the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.” Click To Tweet

I am beautiful. I love art. I’m creative. I’m woke. I’m weird. I do love great music. I’m a VERY opinionated feminist. I’m stronger than most people think, and you really don’t want to see the aggressive side of me.

I am all these things for a combination of reasons. I have been these things for as long as I can remember. Many women are; with and without kinks.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

There’s no denying the history of black hair. There is also no denying that wearing your hair natural in 2016 is still going against the social norm. In no way am I trying to knock any of the attributes mentioned in this post.

The move from negative adjectives to positive ones, is definitely evidence of progress, but we aren’t “there” yet.

These stereotypes as they are, are incomplete stories of us. For this reason, I strongly feel that they can be burdensome and limiting. I look forward to a time when the way we wear our hair is seen for what it really is – preference. Wearing my hair kinky is one of the ways I express myself. It is a lifestyle choice I have made, but also one I have had to defend, A LOT, to the world since day 1, but first, to myself.

I just really look forward to a time when our hair doesn’t have to MEAN something, PROVE something. I really don’t mind standing out with my hair (At this point in my journey, I’m quite used to it) but I know this movement will have ARRIVED, when natural hair is SO mainstream, it’s part of the norm; at the very least, in our own black cultures.

I want to hear from you now. What are you, or what aren’t you because you’re natural? How do you wear your hair? Is there any particular reason why? What do you want your hair to say about you? Do you think this agrees with how you are actually perceived? If you’re not natural, what do YOU think of naturals?

Love,

AB,

xx

18 Replies to “Just Because I Have Natural Hair Doesn’t Mean That I Am…”

  1. I love this. We hardly notice the other box we walk into while trying to break out of one box. Once you identify as one thing, you’re suddenly expected to fit into all the stereotypes that come with that.
    Great to know someone else sees this.

  2. This our new blog is really nice o. Well done ladies. Just to add my own talk talk: So while I’m dealing with a boss who is constantly telling me to ‘make my hair’ (btw her hair is the definition of 101 reasons why you should stop using relaxers), an Aunt who is always suggesting different brands of relaxers e.t.c. I just experienced a new dimension of natural hair stereotype. Went to preach the gospel last weekend in a notorious part of Lagos and one very bold guy walked up to me while I’m praying with someone and asks why is your hair like that (as per, gold highlights and a ‘fro is not for a child of God or what?) Me too I asked him why he cut his hair the way he did then he started cussing. I walked away from him and into a brothel where I led 2 prostitutes to Christ. My sincere appreciation to the guy for questioning my moral values because of my hair. He’s not ready for a preacher with a golden afro and demons have no clue as well. I’m gonna be kinky and pretty in heels while I kick the devils ass. Ok ngwa bye!

    1. Thanks Anu! And thank you for sharing!

      That is truly a new angle to the hair stereotype! Natural hair is not Christlike or preacher like?

      Slay the stereotypes and slay dem demons! xx

  3. Stereotypes are never a good thing, positive or negative; they can be very limiting, placing one within its confines and making it difficult to take a step out. My natural hair serves as a reminder to me to express myself and not allow peoples opinions determine how my life will go. A while ago, someone told me that I wouldn’t get a husband because of my hair, that ladies with natural hair are usually feminists and they can be very strong-willed. I just smiled and told him I am both and it had nothing to do with my hair. My hair is natural because I love the way it looks and feels, my hair is natural because relaxers were wrecking havoc on my scalp and I couldn’t take it anymore. I do not wish to make any statement or send any messages to anyone with my hair. As you said, hopefully soon natural hair will not have to mean or prove anything. 👍

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Temi!

      LOL @ not being able to get a husband because of natural hair, because it implies a woman is a feminist & being strong willed.

      Let the hair serve as a filter for us, in that case. Eliminating on our behalf, the type of man we do not want ^_^

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this articulate piece. Woke and Potential freak cracked me up. 😀

    My hair is relaxed but I understand how people sometimes form prejudices about other’s personal style or lifestyle choices. The reaction that my threaded hairstyle received was a lesson in People’s Opinion 101. Yes, Chimamanda put it aptly, Stereotypes do not tell the complete story, barely the half of it.

    Tbh, I have become very accustomed to seeing natural haired girls that it’s no longer a “thing”, it looks like a totally natural sight (surely a pun) and I don’t reach into my pocket for a label to paste on their forehead.

    Indeed, having respect for other people’s choices is only civil.

  5. I didn’t need an inspiration to go natural. I don’t like relaxers. I was just finally excited that there was another way I could wear my hair. Oh and secondly it helps me to be creative. When I’m broke and need to treat my hair. There’s a correlation between my going natural and my love for cooking

    1. I felt the same way! Like the excitement that there was another option. I’d like to hear more about the relationship between your going natural & your cooking!

    2. Same! It was “oh I can finally give this up? Good!”

      On the matter of stereotypes, they’re everywhere and I get it. People associate a certain look with the kind of people they first saw it on. The creatives were wearing natural hair when most women didn’t know that was an option.
      Locs for example. I made a joke on my blog about looking like I’m about to strum a guitar- I was wearing loose twists that look like locs (I don’t play the guitar).
      Like the post says the stereotypes have at least expanded in the last five years. In time, with more naturals around, people will begin to understand that there are allll kinds of women with natural hair, with personalities developed long before the hair change.

      1. “People associate a certain look with the kind of people they first saw it on.”

        Fair point! 🙂 (and thank you for just triggering a future post!)

  6. I like this post very much because it digs deep, it makes me wanna ask myself why I went natural. I have asked that question severally and the answer changes every time. When I did decide to go natural I was simply tired of relaxed hair. Relaxers make me cry and I was done with the whole experience. But now? I think being natural means more. It’s now the way I like to express my quirkiness. Of which, I knew I was quirky but I could only express it through my opinions and thoughts on issues. I am a poet and a writer so yes natural hair seems to fit right into that personality. But I am also a lawyer and wearing my hair to Court in free afro can never cut it and better not dream of trying it with a female judge! My point? Natural is acceptance. It’s a revelation. And AB? You are right. We are and probably were all the things we were before going natural. I guess being natural just adds the spunk to it!

    1. Thank you Kemi for your input! I used to wear my fro freely in formal spaces until it got bigger. Now, I’m not as sure. I could try it, though 🙂

  7. I usually have my fingers in my scalp when i’m deep in thought and the feel of my curls (undergrowth) inspired me to go natural. Plus I feel textured hair has more character.

    I thought it’d be low maintenance so imagine my surprise when i started having washday that lasted hours or waking up to hair that seemd more like a bird’s nest lol! My hair dries out really easily so I either have it in twists mostly then braids or wigs. On the rare days I have it out, I just use pins to improvise a style.

    I am beautiful, enjoy vibing with creative people, appreciate art (dance and music are my fave form of art 🙂 I support gender equality, treating others kindly and I don’t think i’m a queen just because my hair is coily. The most carefree I get to is singing in my car or bathroom….and i’d rather not deal with my hair on most days…still natural and won’the have it otherwise!

    Love the layout and color scheme of the new website by the way. Well done ladies!

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