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.
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?
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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?