Wednesday, 5 September 2012

My Right To Remain Natural And Not Be Stereotyped.

As someone with natural hair, I had to respond to this article because I felt it trivialised what (some) naturals go through.

Black women have every right to remain relaxed. In fact, they probably have a bigger right to remain relaxed compared to people who want to go natural. Getting your hair relaxed has now become the norm. People don't question you doing it. People don't look at you up and down or as if you have two heads when you're wearing relaxed hair.

To suggest there's a war on straight hair is laughable and false. As I discussed in this guest post for Afrodeity Ltd., I demonstrated how healthy hair is shown in hair commercials. I also demonstrated subtle jabs at curly hair in the media. Straight hair is still put on the pedestal and is deemed as well-maintained, beautiful and healthy hair.

I wear my hair in its natural state and I have been told by almost everyone that my hair needs to be 'done'. I've also had people looking at me and wondering if I forgot to go to the salon that day.

There are still many black women out there wearing an 18 inch weave or a straight faux pony tail with slicked back relaxed hair. I see it all the time and no one bats an eye.

“Well, my relaxer…” she said. My eyes widened, and all sound came to a silencing halt. She went on to explain she always made it a point to tell people she was relaxed because of the widespread notion that only natural hair is healthy hair. 
A lot of people aren't even aware that you can have healthy relaxed hair, let alone healthy (and even long) natural hair.

It’s tough to be a user of the creamy crack these days. And although statistics show that over sixty-five percent of Black female consumers are currently relaxed, the all-consuming natural hair movement would make you think otherwise.

The stats do not lie; a lot of black women still wear their hair in its relaxed state. The 'all-consuming natural hair movement' isn't as all-consuming as many would like to think. Where I live, there's probably 1 natural for every 8 relaxed heads (a rough estimate). Of course in bigger cities like NYC and London you'll see a whole lot more naturals. Despite all of that, many more people still wear their hair relaxed. This natural hair phenomenon doesn't stretch too far and isn't as widespread as the paragraph above suggests.
 Having a hair preference has become a crime against your own ethnicity. Hot-headed naturalistas—even in the year 2012—will revoke your Black card for flaunting a few straight strands. 
There are some natural hair nazi's but they are (thankfully) in the minority. Some natural hair nazi's are even controlling in regards to natural hair, so it's not a natural vs relaxed thing. Furthermore, a lot of naturals take pride in their own hair but also like to switch it up and wear straight hair on some occasions.

In addition, a lot of naturals do not equate natural hair with ethnicity. A lot of naturals are stereotyped as Afrocentric when in fact many aren't. The reality is that naturals have different reasons for going natural and that goes beyond Afrocentricism and blackness.

Michelle Obama wears her hair straight on most (if not all) occasions. No one has questioned her, Malia or Sasha's blackness. So natural hair = blackness is an old, tired rhetoric that has become a stereotype for naturals.

A little research on today’s straightening creams proves that they’re not the damaging conks of the past. Due to the booming business of natural hair products, relaxers were forced to change their formulas about five years ago to incorporate a slew of conditioning buffers like shea butter, argan oil and keratin. Today, most relaxers are much milder.
Relaxers may be much milder right now. There may also be techniques to ensure you don't get relaxer burns... but the fact still remains that Boston University linked hair relaxes to uterine fibroid tumours. Wearing a relaxer should be a personal choice, but its possible dangers shouldn't be ignored or underestimated.

"I desire to wear my hair straight most of the time and proudly have a professional stylist relax my roots every eight to 10 weeks,” says Tahira Wright, who mainly wears her hair short. “It is deep conditioned, trimmed, and it's never over-processed. I rarely have to put heat on my hair, if at all, in between appointments. Healthy hair can be achieved and maintained whether natural, colored or chemically treated!"
I'd like to believe many naturals are very aware of this.
When asked if she’s ever felt pressure to go natural or received the notorious side-eye when discussing her relaxed roots, she confessed, “Yes,” but says that it doesn’t bother her one bit. "My beauty regimen is very personal, based on my own individuality, how I desire to look, and what fits my lifestyle. If not treated well, natural hair, just like relaxed hair, can become very dry and brittle. I love versatility!”  

Some may argue that natural hair is more versatile than relaxed hair as we can go from natural to straight and then back again. Do you if you're happy with your relaxed hair.

But when it comes to Black hair, having a point of view other than “natural” has been deemed archaic. Natural is the new black. At the heart of the matter is the prevalence of permanent damage, and allegedly hair hate. Over-processed strands are obvious, but the idea that having a preference means automatic dismissal of your God-given roots is up for debate.
Again... Michelle Obama's blackness has never been questioned because she wears her hair straight.

Furthermore, natural is not the new black or anywhere near it... it's still something that is accepted with difficulty. It's still not mainstream and it's only now that the mainstream media have started to show some love for natural hair by featuring naturals in commercials and on television etc.

I've also had my fair share of natural hair prejudice. Trust me when I say that when I was wearing straight hair, I got better treatment.

I think it's sad to run into a sister who hates her hair in its natural state. People like that have bought into society's definition of beauty, which excludes us,” says Sage, a curly-hair woman who went natural five years ago. “And, for the record, no you should not be using harmful chemicals, such as relaxers, that are known to cause damage to the hair and scalp.”
Yes it is sad and not just sad it is also quite common to find girls who think that way. Why should something that we have naturally be deemed so negatively?
Equating relaxing to self-hatred is not a fair comparison says Candice Frederick. That's such a ridiculous assumption! I do it because I like it and I felt I needed a change. It's just hair. No big deal.”
I agree with you Candice Frederick. It is a ridiculous assumption and as a natural I don't believe any of that either. Some may do it because of self-hate but others may relax their hair because of the maintenance or they just like the straight look.

Alas, the war wages on. Too often—especially within the Black community—acceptance of one thing typically means absolute rejection of another. Don’t we all want choices when it comes to our most prominent vehicle of creativity? We should  be looking forward to the day when our vast hair needs commands an entire store aisle at local drug stores for both curly and straight types. Black hair care will never fit into a one-size-fits-all model, and there’s only one hairstyle truly worthy of intolerance, and that's the Jheri curl! 
There is no war though.

I've encountered relaxed ladies or people with the relaxed hair mindset telling naturals what they should and shouldn't be doing with their hair. I have experienced this firsthand. This article suggests that naturals ostracising relaxed ladies is a one-sided occurrence and that the natural hair community is giving all of the grief when that is far from the truth. Naturals have to face those who are relaxed or have a relaxed/straight hair mindset as well as the mainstream media. We can get grief from all sides.

As someone with natural hair, I frankly don't care what the next person does to their hair, as long as they keep it healthy (whether it is relaxed or natural).

As written in the article (and I am in utter agreement), ''black hair care will never fit into a one-size-fits-all model''.