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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