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Author Topic: Hating your own hair a serious disease  (Read 24897 times)
Posts: 1810

« on: November 16, 2013, 09:38:47 AM »

By Akua Djanie
November 16, 2013

By the beauty myth, I mean the idea that for a black woman to be considered beautiful. She must wear fake hair. These days, the trend is Brazilian hair.

Past fads included Russian, Indian and Peruvian hair. And for those who cannot afford human hair, there is always the synthetic option. No matter the choice, as long as a black woman is wearing fake hair that has either been glued or sewn onto her own hair, she passes the beauty yardstick.

Aside from fake hair, the beauty myth also says that long acrylic nails and long fake eyelashes are a must. And when I say long, I mean long. For both nails and eye eyelashes. Some even go as far as having long toenails! As if all this is not bad enough, some black women (and surprisingly some black men, too) have fallen for the beauty myth that the lighter the skin, the more beautiful the person.

To get this light skin they so desire, dark-skinned people bleach their skin with dangerous chemicals that are known to cause cancer. With all this fakery and skin bleaching, today’s black woman is looking far from black. And this concerns me. You see, each race was created with our own unique features. And one of our features as black people is our kind of hair.

The black race is the only one whose hair grows upwards. If we want our hair to flow naturally, we can plait, twist or lock it. Another option is to hotcomb it.

Otherwise, the only way we can get our hair to flow down is by chemically straightening it. Incidentally, the chemicals in hair relaxers have also been known to be the cause of cancer in some black women.

With regards to our skin colour we come in shades of black, while some of us are very dark-skinned others are very light-skinned, not forgetting the shades in-between. Despite this and for a very long time, black people have been made to feel having light skin and fine straight hair will make them more attractive and also be considered more appropriate to fit into the workplace. When I talk about skin bleaching I do not face much opposition.

At least not as much as I face when I tackle the issue of false hair. It seems women who wear fake hair easily get offended when this topic comes into discussion.

Yet if you ask me, I would say skin bleaching and wearing fake hair are one and the same disease. Because the reason people do both is the same — they either hate their hair and/or skin or feel they will not be accepted unless they change them.

Every time I talk about natural hair, women who wear weaves get up in arms. They take my campaign to encourage women to wear their natural hair as a personal attack. Yet this is not the case. They go on the defensive and there are two phrases I hear time again and again: “I am not my hair” and various opinions that say “It’s my choice to wear a hair weave”.

Sometimes they give me the lame excuse of natural hair being too hard to manage.
So what does “I am not my hair” mean?

We can look at this in two ways. Literally as in meaning, I am not the hair I am wearing. In which case I have to agree. Because as a black woman, if you are wearing Brazilian, Indian, Russian, Peruvian or synthetic hair, then of course you are not your hair.

Unless you are a black Brazilian for example, Brazilian hair is for Brazilians, Indian hair for Indians, Peruvian hair for Peruvians and kinky/nappy for black people worldwide. Whether born in the Africa, Europe, America, Asia or any other part of the world, all black people are born with African hair. Our hair comes in all forms of kink. From soft manageable type to the very had tough type that makes you cry as you comb it.

That is our hair. So when a black woman tells me she is not her hair, I think, well actually you are.
And this is the second way I want to reflect on this issue. Of course, a black woman is her hair. Just as her teeth, blood, sweat, bones, etc, are part of her DNA.

Hair has been used to identify people. For example, hair found at a crime scene can be traced back to the perpetrator who has committed the crime.

So how anyone can say they are not their hair mystifies me. The hairstyle a person chooses to wear says a lot about them. For example, a conservative person would never wear a Mohican, whilst a person with a flamboyant personality may not only wear a Mohican but dye it an outrageous colour.

Just by seeing this, you decipher something about the person. So, again, people who state “I am not my hair” really mystify me. But try as I might to get this point over to the black women who weave, they just never seem to get it. Then there is the issue of choice.

Yes, I totally agree that as human beings, we have the right to make our own choices in life. However, I also believe sometimes, the choices we as individuals make, have to take into account the effect our choices have on others. And I wish women who weave would bear in mind how their choice affects all black women.

You see, we live in a world in which we are bombarded with the image of a beautiful woman being one who is European with long hair.
For the black woman to be considered beautiful she too must look like her European version. Hence the weaving of false hair. And the bleaching of the skin. Aside from the beauty aspect, there is also this notion that for a black woman to be accepted, both in the workplace and socially she must conform to this look. And that is what is happening. Black women have been so brainwashed, they have accepted and conformed to this look. And that is what is happening.

Black women have been so brainwashed, they have accepted and conformed to this image imposed on them. Today, for a black woman to wear natural hair, she is considered Afrocentric, radical, a rebel, or controversial. Wearing false hair is now normal for the black woman, whilst wearing her own natural hair is not the accepted norm. Does this make any sense?

I (perhaps) might not so anti-weave if this is not the case. But to tell me, as a black woman, that for me to ahead, to be accepted and to be considered beautiful I have to weave the hair of other races is something I will never buy into.

And each time a black woman weaves, she makes it harder for those who choose to be natural. That is how their choice affects others.

You see, by conforming, the black woman is agreeing that “yes indeed, her hair is ugly”. She is agreeing that with natural hair can still teach. She can still drive a bus. She can be a doctor, a dancer, a friend, a mother, a wife, etc. Everything the black woman is doing now, she can still do with her natural hair. But because we do not see this, black women no longer believe it.

The black woman now believes she looks much better with her “ugly” hair hidden under a weave from the head of a Brazilian, Peruvian, Indian or Russian woman. I wonder if black women ask themselves how real this human hair is? Because if you calculate the amount of hair black women buy, you have to ask if there are enough women with hair to cater for these numbers? If this is not hatred of your own hair, then what is? And to hate your own hair is I think a serious disease.

Because deep down inside there must be something wrong with the woman that looks in the mirror and hates what stares back at her. Just like the anorexic person hates their body, so too is the hatred of one’s own hair and skin an illness. — New African.

Daudi Taresa
Posts: 5

« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2013, 02:13:26 PM »

The issues raised in this article that I wholeheartedly agree with, but there are some others I think it has missed that I hope other persons reading would consider.
The ‘hate’ pan African women have for their hair is a symptom of a malady that is far more systemic than simply saying women should love that which is a living part of them. In many ways a woman who chooses to wear her hair however it comes out of her scalp is radical, as she is asserting the idea that she is satisfied with whoever she presents herself to be regardless of how it curls, coils or falls.
I am offering a distinction between the woman who wears her hair in natural ways but attempts to alter her curls to a more ‘palatable’ version as opposed to just wearing her hair in ways that highlight the beauty of whatever type of hair she has. This distinction is key as all women (black, white and every other colour) face a global culture(s) where the female image is constantly under scrutiny.  The focus of a woman then becomes about being desirable not simply being who or what she is.

In this situation black woman face the oppressive voice of the patriarchy and racism. Ask any woman with natural hair about the level of support she receives from her family (particularly older black women and black men in general) about her natural black hair. Not wishing to paint everyone with the same brush but natural hair is still not viewed as beautiful in most cases until it is long or unless it is curly or wavy (as opposed to kinky or coily). Also there is also a view that natural is a youthful fad that is grown out of a woman matures or becomes more respectable.

If hating our hair is a disease, then there are people within our culture that infect and expose black women to this hate much like a virus.
I can not guilt/criticize/blame women who do wear natural hair because I do not know the personal journey they have had to walk in order to come to a sense of self acceptance and truth. if you do not come from a localized space where there is some level of acceptance for black hair you will not feel comfortable in your womanhood to attempt it. I often feel in many ways the Caribbean has facilitated this more than other parts of the world but my experience is limited to the western Atlantic areas.

More often than not when I hear of women transitioning they talk about concerns related to still being attractive (to men and society). Consequently many women with natural hair prioritize showing your ‘curls’ and there are all manner of techniques that are used to ‘define curl patterns’. By curl patterns I mean manipulating your hair so that it looks less coily and more wavy. Not to mention the importance placed of long hair. Remarks such as ‘the beauty of a woman lies in her hair, and when her hair is long she is truly beautiful’, often drive women to look for options to ensure their hair is always should length and as a woman in a hair salon once said, “if I can’t grow it, I will buy it”.
 All of these ideals are still very much based on the idea of desirability that is not based on an acceptance of self.
I submit that having natural hair does not mean you have been cured by the serious disease. You just might be presenting as asymptomatic.
Posts: 29

« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2013, 08:07:33 PM »

I agree with you Daudi Taresa,that at times we (women) manipulate our hair to get the more " acceptable looking" curls/ waves.  I myself must confess that I have manipulated my hair at various times to get the  "right looking" texture.

However, we shouldn't just limit it to weaving & relaxing our hair. What about dying our hair? Some of us try to dye our hair in the right shade in an attempt to brighten/ lighten our complexion. What about the blonde trend that celebrities like Beyoncé and Nikki Minaj wear? We do not only copy the look because it is pop culture or that it is the " trending style" at the moment but it is an unconscious attempt, to look European. I myself went through the blonde craze & realized men gravitated towards me because of the "European attempted" look & this can be attributed to their social conditioning.

Recently, I had to reassess myself & question myself as to why I was dying my hair various colours ( red, brown, blonde). I discovered that I was guilty of engaging in shadism, as I was dying my hair for the purpose of what best suited my complexion, i.e, the colour that would make me appear to be fairer. I was also trying to acquire a European look. When I made this discovery, I dyed my hair black and have decided to stick to my roots. Now my " friends" relate to me on how " boring" I look with the natural colour of my hair. But I'm not bothered by it because I'm moving with what is true to me.

Posts: 29

« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2013, 10:18:45 PM »

India Arie- "I Am Not My Hair"


Thoughts anyone ?
Kurious Rose
Posts: 14

« Reply #4 on: November 25, 2013, 04:17:12 PM »

The subject of Africans wearing their hair naturally will be controversial for a while yet. While some may perceive the increase in persons wearing their hair naturally as a positive thing, this can only be properly assessed on a case by case basis. In other words, the motive behind wearing hair naturally has to first be ascertained before one concludes whether that decision was positive or not.

For many, 'natural' hair is one of the many hairstyles worn alongside wigs and weaves. For others, they may wear their hair 'naturally' to rest the hair as a result of chemical damage in order to regain some length to then return to their chemical fix. Given that society is conditioned to view European standards of beauty as ideal as the article points out, wearing hair naturally as a political statement or as an act of rebellion is valiant. It is quite praiseworthy the few natural hair wearers who have made the conscious decision to become symbols of rebellion against accepting the status quo. In other words, the action of having natural hair is much less significant than the reason behind it, especially when it is a statement of pride in one’s genetic appearance and not kowtowing to dominant Eurocentric societal ideals.

As Daudi Taresa pointed out, there is a preferred look to ‘natural’ hair as well with a strong preference for long and wavy types. The kinkiest strands are least favoured and there are a plethora of YouTube videos with tutorials on how to “define curls” that illustrates the point. In this way, wearing one’s hair without alteration by chemical processes is still not necessarily natural. Curl defining methods such as braid and twist-outs and straitening strands by heat is not a step-up from chemicals and is not natural in its truest sense.

Additionally, females, whether they have ‘natural’ hair or not, find other ways to distract and detract from their blackness by wearing European-styled makeup, accessories and other methods in order to assimilate. In this regard, many natural hair wearers still have to contend with other ways in which light and white skin ideals are prominent. If the motive for wearing natural hair is not about expressing awareness about bogus standards of beauty and becoming a living, breathing example for better, then that ‘natural’ hair is a mere fad which could change at any time.
Daudi Taresa
Posts: 5

« Reply #5 on: November 26, 2013, 09:06:22 PM »

RE: “I am not my hair”
I think most people lost the point of the song. I view it as one woman’s journey (and her view of other women’s journey to) in transcending labels. It is a song about a woman who does not want to be limited by what her hair looks like.
I think this is step one on a longer journey. Step one is important, but there comes a point when you must accept that you are your hair, and to have said that you are not your hair is itself giving in to a system which diminishes the dignity of the black person.

I appreciate the music though.

I loved this conversation on Huffington Post.
Posts: 533

« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2013, 05:16:30 PM »

Belle, "as I was dying my hair for the purpose of what best suited my complexion, i.e, the colour that would make me appear to be fairer" It is almost amazing how we all know that the "suitable" colour is the one that makes you appear fairer.

I on the other hand never dared colour my hair because I was warned how much darker, and therefore uglier, I would look with anything but black hair. And not too black either because that would actually reveal how dark my complexion is. As if it was some kind of secret. One to be ashamed of and to be kept hidden.

Re:I am not my hair - I agree with Daudi Taresa here "to have said that you are not your hair is itself giving in to a system which diminishes the dignity of the black person." The people I have come across who use this argument have all had their hair in a form other than what it naturally grows (at that time at least.) That says something.

I remember when I went natural three years ago, I made sure I was very creative with my hair. I wore it in all shapes and forms EXCEPT its most natural state. Head wraps became my favourite accessories. Growing up in East Africa, hair and hairstyles were a class and an age thing. Coming from an elitist family, it was emphasised that unaltered natural hair was for poor people. Natural hair could be worn for some time, and that was okay because it was an option. For the poor, it wasn't an option for it was the only style they could afford. For the sake of class, natural hair had to be altered. Even in schools, children from upper economy classes could wear their hair long and hot combed. This was common in private schools, but forbidden in public schools.

When I relocated to Europe as a young child I was constantly fed with a single African story; enslaved, servant for whites, non-autonomous. I didn't know how these images affected me until later. Two years ago I remember feeling that I looked like an enslaved person and I didn't want to be associated with that image. I learnt how to braid my hair for that reason. As it grew and required more time to alter it, I decided to lock it. Anything but the 'slave' look. At least the locks would give me a Rastafarian touch which is associated with the Caribbean - a step up from Africa.

One year later I am considering cutting it to give myself a chance of accepting myself, because it is part of me.

Below is an article about UK singer Jamelia and her hair experience.

"My hair has always been important to me.
As a schoolgirl, I used to get up at 5am to ensure I had enough time to do my hair before school.
Although for a black woman I would be described as having 'good' hair - because it is long and straight - naturally, it is not luxurious, thick or sleek enough to meet the demands of the endless photo shoots and concerts I am involved in for my career.
That's why, in many of the photographs you see of me, I am wearing hair extensions.
For me, putting in my hair extensions feels like a confidence booster, like a man putting on a smart suit.
I wear them to bring out the best in me and to transform myself from busy mum of two into my alter ego, Jamelia the pop star."

Full article here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1036155/Why-Ill-wear-hair-extensions-pop-star-Jamelia.html#ixzz2lxeedvA4
Daudi Taresa
Posts: 5

« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2013, 11:27:38 PM »

I have had a different experience of hair. As a child I was characterized as having ‘good’ hair, in the main because my hair retains length well. By the time I was 4 I had hair down my back. Even as a child, I recognized that my hair set me apart, particularly because adult women felt the need to touch my hair-which annoyed me.

Since my teen years I have cut off my hair a twice of times, choosing to wear a ‘boy cut’ or low fro for stretches at a time, but every time I grow my hair I become more aware of how others interact with me. I have straightened my hair a few times and when I do, my attractiveness seemingly increases. More often than not however when I cut off my hair or revert the persons who have challenged me the most on this are women. I think the stage that is least acceptable to most persons is a medium to large afro.  There is something about all that black hair that is ineffable and therefore the source of fear and mistrust.

Fifteen plus years later I stopped cutting my hair. I was at a place in my life where I wanted to try long hair again. Along the way I have come to broad understanding of self, especially as it relates to self care and black femininity. I improved my hair techniques and use natural products. This has brought me to a place where I accept that my hair is a lifestyle that my younger self was not yet prepared to take on. Natural (in the complete sense of the word) hair is a lifestyle choice, much like becoming a vegan, not everyone is emotionally, socially prepared for it.
Belle: I am curious what is your take on the song and what is your hair experience?
Posts: 29

« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2013, 10:22:10 PM »

Sorry for the delayed response

To be quite honest, I can not totally relate to the negative sterotype attached to African women wearing their natural hair; as I have very wavy hair and my features are predominately East Indian. However, I have done everything there is to do to my hair- I have relaxed it, braided it, cut it off, flat ironed it & dyed it in various colours. I must admit, once my hair grooming went against main stream, I tended to receive negative opinions about my hair styles, but once my hair was dyed and flat ironed- the compliments would flow. As I previously mentioned, I dyed my hair to "brighten" my complexion & by straightening out my waves- according to popular belief I was having a " good hair day". Once I reassessed my decisions & realized I was engaging in shadism, I made the conscious effort to embrace my hair. Additionally, by rethinking my choices, I have recognized that I am an example to little girls and  young ladies, as such, to me, I was not setting a good example for them. Instead, I was showing them it was okay to neglect their identity and to embrace something that in nowhere represents them. So, I have made the conscious effort to embrace my natural hair & I hope to encourage them in that direction. I know it is no easy task to work through such social conditioning but it must be addressed.

With regards to the song, like you rightly said, " it is one woman's journey... In transcending labels".  However, to say that you're not your hair, to me, is a type of denial and being dismissive of ones identity, to an extent, because,once an individual recognizes their history and who they are, then they are equipped to break the many  barriers established by society.
Posts: 35

« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2014, 08:40:44 AM »

"My Boyfriend Changed After I Did the Big Chop"

“Oh Shit” he howled, as his eyes connected with my new do.
“You like it?!” I asked excitedly.
“What you ‘bout to do with IT?” he asked. His face had “concern” written all over it.
“Nothing…” My heart sank. Not the answer I was looking for….“I can rock some big beautiful earrings, and headbands—” he cut me off.
“No Weave?” he asked, as he took a seat, breathing deeply. “I have to get used to IT” he said, as his eyes bounced around my hair.
My feelings were hurt. He could have lied, and left my feelings in tact. Hindsight is 20/20, today I appreciate his honesty.

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