In July I wrote “The Hair Politics of Natural vs. Permed,”a commentary article for Essence’s website, after growing tired of the divisive debate and natural hair roll call on Twitter. In the article, I admit that the topic has been discussed ad nauseum, and how unproductive that debate can be. On most days, I still think the #naturalhair hashtags seem to be a bit cultish. I also stand firm in my belief that wearing your hair in its natural state is not synonymous with having some higher level of consciousness than sisters who wear their hair relaxed or weaved.
None of those sentiments negate the fact that I am transitioning to natural hair. More on that later.
I have very low tolerance for men who have Black women hair issues. Any man who has a strong opinion regarding how he prefers a woman to wear her hair strikes a nerve with me. So when I saw the title of Garlfield Hylton’s post on The FreshXpress, I had to read further to find out what a man could possibly have to say about this topic.
In “Natural is the New Light Skinned,” Hylton writes:
* No doubt, a mouthful. On Twitter I saw others saying things about natural women like “natural is the new light skin” with one woman stating “just because you natural does not mean you have reached some higher consciousness, you just decided to stop getting your hair permed. Stop that “we are the world, black power” bulls**t.”
Now, if every woman rocking a natural is doing it because it is trendy, let me be the first to say that they are well within their right to do so (no matter how wack I think it is). I just want to know why. Where did this trend start? Who started this trend? I am a bit secluded from the world since I spend my days around mostly “educated” people in school and on Twitter. Is this wide spread among ALL women or just a small percentage?
Admittedly, at the end he mentions that there was no overarching point of his article. Thank goodness, because I thought I had missed it.
On top of the article being poorly written, it missed the mark. The author loses credibility when he assumes that Black women are going natural as some type of trend without any evidence to support his claim. But what if women were doing it as a trend? It would be no different than men wearing skinny jeans because a few rappers do it—or when button downs, blazers, and sneakers became hot because Jay-Z did it. Who cares!?!
The title was misleading as hell. With this type of analogy in the title, most readers are assuming that the writer is going to make a point that connects the title to the overall message. Hylton fails his readers here. If by “natural is the new light skinned” he is referring to light skinned being a trend that was once in, the analogy is poor because skin tone is not a choice, or something people can switch up whenever they want versatility.
But Hylton did pose three questions at the end of the article, which indicates that he is at least trying to understand the topic a bit more.
Like so many Black girls, I never had a vote on whether I wanted my hair relaxed. My mother made that decision for me at a young age. I believe my first perm was around the age of 10, and I’ve been perming my hair since.
As a freshman in high school, I dyed my hair for the first time, and have been dying it for over 10 years. A combination of perm and dye over a long period of time will inevitably damage your hair. I have been blessed in that my hair hasn’t fallen out, it still grows at a fast rate, and it’s not badly damaged. But it’s not as healthy as it could be.
I went natural in college for about a year, but I was getting my hair pressed every two weeks. So I never fully got to see the real natural texture of my hair. Going fully natural this time was not really on purpose.
Life happens. I moved from three states in a matter of a month, and it turned out that I hadn’t had a perm since June 26th. Being in a new state with no beautician, and having already gone three months without a relaxer, I started doing research. Tons of research. After reading, watching tutorials, and speaking to other women who assured me that I didn’t have to do the big chop to go natural, I decided to do it.
As I began to do the transitioning styles–bantu knots, twist outs, braid outs, flat twists–and testing out great products, I became enamored with my hair and the journey. I can’t wait to see what the end results will be a year from now.
Transitioning to natural for me is just about wanting to accomplish this. For others it means so much more. But I can say it has made me realize how much one has to love themselves, possess self-confidence, and have high self-esteem to rock their hair natural. There is still a stigma about curly, kinky, beautiful Black hair in its natural state. People will come at you sideways because they think you need to “comb your hair.”
Everyday I question if I am making the right choice, knowing that appearance is heavily attached to women’s success in certain fields in NYC. In addition, Black women have the burden of worrying if White employers will see their hair as some type of pro-Black political statement. So, the last thing we want to do is read a blog post claiming “we’re whack” for following “the trend.”
It really is a journey to go natural in every sense of the word. I don’t know if women are doing it as some kind of new trend. But if so, there are far worse trends that women could be following.
It’s just hair, but it’s not just hair. It does, however, become problematic when we are concerned with other women’s hair choices. And why any man is concerned about how we wear our hair is baffling to me.
I’m less concerned with our hair and more with women knowing their worth. With or without natural hair, we need to celebrate one another for who we are in all of our versatility.
*The grammatical errors in Hylton’s excerpts have not been edited.