Johanna DeBiase of xoJane

Johanna DeBiase of xoJane

Unless you’re wearing a hat, hair is one of the first things people notice about you, especially if you are a woman. The style you choose sometimes leads people to assume certain things about you and treat you accordingly.

XoJane writer Johanna DeBiase wrote about her experience as a white woman with dreadlocks.“People started to treat me differently. My hair preceded me. When I entered a room, people stared at me as if the usual etiquette did not apply. People made assumptions about me based on my hair. The main one being that if I had dreadlocks, I must smoke pot, like Bob Marley,” wrote DeBiase.  She also said she had strangers offered her other types of drugs and that she believes she lost out on job opportunities because of her hair.  DeBiase eventually cut off her locks and went with a bald look, which made people assume she was a lesbian.

As a black woman who has had natural hair for the past 15 years or so, I can relate to people having different reactions and perceptions of me based on my hair choice of the moment. Regardless of style, the fact that my hair is relaxer-free makes some people think I am a super militant, down for cause, f*ck the man, power fist up type of chick. I love my people like the next person, but I my choice to go without a chemical that changes the texture of my hair is not based on politics. I just like my hair the way it grows out of my head.

Over the years, I’ve had a teeny-weeny afro, an in-between afro (what I have now), a huge glamorous Diana Ross afro and I’ve flat-ironed my afro into a flow of hair that ended somewhere on the middle of my back.  The flat-ironed hair without a doubt always attracted the attention of older black men who would all but kneel and bow before me, exhorting the praises of long hair on a black woman.  In its curly state, regardless of length, I am sometimes subjected to anti-weave, anti-relaxer rants but people who I think don’t realize that they sound like pompous jack asses. Just because I choose to wear my hair this way doesn’t mean I have any negative opinion of women who choose to do something else.

But the big fro was hands down the biggest attention getter. I mostly got positive attention from women of all ages and races and both genders. (It was indeed a divine ebony cloud of awesomeness and I’m on my way back to that.)  Occasionally though I would get a side-eye or barely whispered “nappy” comment from black women who chose to straighten their hair and saw my hair as unkempt. All good though. I don’t have the desire or energy to entertain such foolishness.

What kind of reactions have you gotten for your different hairstyles?

Follow Demetria Irwin on Twitter at @Love_Is_Dope and connect with her on Facebook.

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  • Denver

    I wear braids. About three months ago I was in Rite Aid and the Black woman cashier made a comment on my hair. She liked my braids and then she said, “Oh,and it’s your real hair too.” It wasn’t my ‘real hair’, but I didn’t correct her, because I thought it was an inappropriate comment to make in the first place.

    Just last week I had a Black woman co-worker remark several times “Denver got her hair done! Denver got her hair done!” I couldn’t figure out why she needed to announce such a trivial thing.

    • RJ

      I think the cashier thought she was giving you a compliment or she was fishing for information. But like you said it was an inappropriate comment to begin with.

      Do you think the woman in your office was trying to clown you and say that your hair did not look done before? However, you do know that you could politely ask the woman what she meant being that you are co-workers, but the element of surprise has rendered me silent before,too.

    • Denver

      I don’t feel that she was trying to ‘clown’ me. I think she just took notice that I got my braids redone and for whatever reason, felt that it was worth noting out loud. This has happened to me in every environment where that are Black women.

  • apple

    boo hoo for that white girl, “oh life is so sad because people treat me differently for hair style i chose”.. its not like her hair naturally grows in locks and she can’t easily revert to the international beauty standard for hair.

    people can fool themselves and say hair doesn’t matter but it does, if it didn’t we wouldn’t have so many articles, documentaries, and stories about it. hair determines how people treat you, if you will get that job or not, how people perceive you, if you’re likely to get marry, how many time or money you will lose or gain.. hair is a big f—king deal

    but what different hair styles has got me.. well with weave, it makes men and women find me pretty and attractive. without it i’m a bit invisible, men ignore me (which isn’t so bad when it comes to harrassment) and people in general don’t acknowledge me or give the same attention as before..its a bit strange

  • Mari

    While I’m not entirely my hair, my hair is entirely me and is inherently a reflection of me. Now, as for people’s thoughts about my hair…that’s an entirely different story. Their opinions are not a reflection of me or any part of my person, that’s simply their bias.