Disclaimer: This post may offend those who think highly of their hair. You have been warned...
"Does the way I wear my hair make me a better person?
Does the way I wear my hair make me a better friend?
Does the way I wear my hair determine my integrity?
I am expressing my creativity..."
-I am Not My Hair by India Arie
There has been a lot of discourse about hair in one of my Comm classes. One of the students is working on a Senior Thesis about the perception of hair in our culture. I am astonished at how the perception of hair amongst different groups of people signify different things. Needless to say, her project has inspired the following post.
Recently I have been learning more about my hair...as silly as it sounds. It doesn't define me as an individual because I don't have the same attachment and obsession to it as most other women. My hair is a natural curly 3b and I do not relax it nor do I texturize it, if I want it straightened I do a rollerset or blow-dry and flat iron. This routine came to me as a teenager and every once in a while as an adult depending on the season.
As a child I remembered wanting to have long flowy locks of hair like the Disney princesses. My mother would not allow me to straighten it. I could never quite grasp the reason why she would not let me straighten my hair. Now as an adult I can appreciate the fact that my mother (in her own way) wanted me to appreciate my natural hair and did not want me to conform to the indoctrination of "Hispanic/Latino, colonialist" mentalities. I decided after getting my scalp burned almost to a crisp when I was 18, that I would never, ever (not even if you paid me) relax my hair. It was the most painful thing I had ever done to "fit in". You see, for many of us who look the least bit "ethnic" our culture has taught us that curls if not made by an iron makes us stand-out and not look like the dominant culture. This has become such a hindrance to most of us (and by us I mean women in general) because the vernacular of hair has become the definition of our "status" and "femininity."
Women are going through massive lengths to get the hair they want both curly and straight. Perms, relaxers, texturizers, keratin treatments there are so many products and chemicals that we're spending our hard earned money on. Now don't get me wrong I'm not bashing anyone who does any of that, I am just trying to bring awareness of what is happening to "our hair." I know women who refuse to go anywhere until their hair is done. I know women who spend hundreds of dollars on treatments and their hair is still not up to their standards. Little girls are having to have their hair relaxed...do you know how painful that is? What is wrong with us? Why are we implementing so much time and money into these procedures? Why aren't we ever good enough?
Our society is dominating us even through our hair. I am a victim of conforming to society's definition of "beauty," I love makeup, I love clothes but I sure as hell wish I could chop off all my hair sometimes because it's difficult to deal with. Ahah! "difficult to deal with"...that's the excuse most of us use for the things we do to our hair. I want us women to be able to do whatever we please to our hair but to be able to recognize the social aspects of what and why we do things to our hair. Natural hair is beautiful whether it is pin straight or tightly curled. We are beautiful, even if at times we don't feel it or do not look like society's definition of beauty. I highly recommend the book, "The Beauty Myth" by Naomi Wolf...it is not about hair, but the actual critical analysis of the definition of beauty in our culture.
Little by little I am learning to love my hair...it will not define me because my spirit makes me who I am; not what sits on my head or what hides under a hat...we need to love ourselves...correction...we must love ourselves and set an example for our daughters and the future of women. Low self-esteem, no self worth doesn't bring anything positive. I know, I've gotten a bit off topic, it's just that the vernacular of hair falls under the umbrella of beauty, which falls under the perception of culture and status which falls under the dominance of femininity...without a strong foundation and self-identity how do we set the path for other women?