When I thought of the term “good hair” I always thought it was a sentiment specifically germane to the black community. It never once crossed my mind that it wasn’t — until a Persian woman used it to compliment me on my newly natural hairstyle:
“Your hair looks really pretty. You have a good grade of hair. I mean — it’s not like some I’ve seen.”
When I debuted my newly natural hairstyle to my family, I got plenty of mixed feelings and commentary, but one commonality was that my texture was good. I have to be honest, a part of me felt relieved that I fell under the “good” category. I think about the golden geese in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory and how each egg was inspected to determine the good from the bad. I was glad that I wasn’t a bad egg. When my family used the term, “good hair” it was like a badge of honor, but fast-forward to when a Persian woman used it to compliment my texture and it suddenly took on new meaning.
I continued that conversation feeling offended. Although she thought she was giving me a compliment, her words stung. I felt like she was telling me that my sisters with coarser hair were less than.
She then began to discuss her own hair grooming regime and — despite its damaging affects — her love affair with her flat iron. She explained that she naturally had very curly hair, but refused to ever wear it in public. It was then I realized, non-blacks have hair complexes too.
Like color complexes, hang ups about hair texture are something that cross color and cultural lines. From Asia to the Caribbean, sleek, straight hair remains a beauty mainstay.
In Asian cultures, women often opt for an ionic perm (also known as Japanese thermal straightening). In India, the women thoroughly comb through their hair and use oils to weigh down the curl. In the Dominican Republic, the blowout is synonymous with beauty.
While in recent times the campaign for black women to embrace their beauty — natural hair and all — has significantly helped us love ourselves, I think that we forget that other women of color suffer from the hurt of rejection too. They struggle with their beauty identities just as much as we do. They look for beauty icons in a white-washed media, just as we do. They burn, tug, clamp, and stifle their beauty to appeal to a mainstream esthetic just as we do. My Persian friend taught me that it is important for women of other cultures and ethnic backgrounds learn to embrace their beautiful just the way it is and say: My _____________ is beautiful.
– Christian Richardson