What Does “The Natural Hair Movement” Mean to You? | Girl Meets Soul

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What Does “The Natural Hair Movement” Mean to You?

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Here’s another real talk discussion coming at you.  Lately, it seems there has been some discontent in the natural hair community.  I discussed one of the issues in my texture discrimination post.  But the newest wave of discontent seems to be fueled by a CurlyNikki post that featured a Caucasian woman with curly hair.  Ebony.com put out a scathing editorial, which sparked the backlash against the CurlyNikki post, about how we can and should just leave white people out of The Natural Hair Movement.  CurlyNikki responded  with points that I wholeheartedly agree with.  Points such as in order for The Natural Hair Movement to be successful, we first have to accept ourselves, and then others have to accept us.

Which catches us up to today.  I watched a video by India of My Natural Sisters, titled “The Importance of ‘The Natural Hair’ Movement,” which leans closer to the Ebony editorial view of things.  Feel free to watch that video here.

I left a comment similar to this post in the video comments section, but I feel that I could better flesh out the topic here.  So here goes…

Let me start off by saying that I don’t totally disagree with India.  In fact, I agree with a lot of the things that she said–India made several good points and I completely hear and understand where her views are coming from.

First of all, she made a good point that Jouelzy’s texture discrimination video was largely unsupported (or received mixed reviews, at best) by African Americans, but somehow there was rallied support around CurlyNikki’s white girl post.  India compares this to the colorism and hair-typing debates–we all identify with a particular image that mainstream has said is okay for us to identify with (a.k.a. the “anything closer to white is right” mantra).  I hear her.  And I agree. There is a hierarchy in perception that lighter skin is better than darker skin (don’t front–if there wasn’t, lightening creams wouldn’t be part of the booming industry it is today).  We have also created a hierarchy (inadvertently or not) with the hair typing system, with kinkier hair being at the bottom.

[Segue:  I hate generalizations because I don’t fit them, but the colorism and hair typing issues hit home.  I am a dark-skinned, kinky-haired, mixed chic (insert shock and ignorant comments about how I’m supposed to have silky curls blah blah blah here–whatever).  My father is dark, my mother is (by every definition of the term) light-skinned.  And even she fell prone to the mantra that has been beat into the black person’s psyche for over 200 years (so don’t expect it to go away overnight).  She married a dark man and still was hoping that her children–particularly her daughter–would turn out fair-skinned and silky haired.  I actually had long hair as a child–beautiful, waist-length hair.  I remember because, not only were there pictures, but I remember my mother bragging about it.  And yet–what happened?  She STILL relaxed my hair because it was “difficult to manage. ” Result? It started to break off.  That’s how the story goes for practically everyone, doesn’t it? My hair still grew when it was relaxed, and it was still thick, but it never got past the bottom of my shoulder blades ever again.  My mother’s own hair used to grow like wild fire, and I remember being so envious of her light skin and flowing hair until she relaxed it–and it, too, began to break off.  Only now that she’s old enough not to care about what other people think about her did she return back to natural (which, as it turns out, got kinkier with old age–go figure).  The point is the discrimination is real, because the perception is ingrained.]

This conclusion led to the excellent point that we need to fix our image or perception we have of ourselves in order to give our children–our future–a chance.  Again, I agree.  We do need to teach mothers today for the sake of our daughters in the future about healthy hair care.  I also agree that we’re not there yet where our hair types are accepted as a way of life in this society.  And I agree that it needs to get to that point.  Having Lupitia Nyong’o on the cover of People Magazine and Vogue is certainly a step in the right direction, but she’s only ONE person. We most certainly have not arrived . . . yet.

I supported Joulezy when she put out her discrimination video because the discrimination is blatantly obvious.  If it weren’t, we wouldn’t have comments like “natural hair isn’t for everyone,” or “if I had your texture, I’d go natural,” or “I’m afraid I’ll have nappy hair instead of silky curls” etc. the list goes on.  Kudos to India (who, if we’re being honest, has some very type 3-like hair) for pointing out that African Americans with type 3 hair need to acknowledge that the discrimination is real and resolve the ignorance if we’re ever going to move forward.  We need to work and be at the forefront of this movement until it is a generally accepted lifestyle.  At this point, India hasn’t actually said anything that I disagree with or goes against CurlyNikki’s points.

Where India and I diverge, is the idea that we will reach a point of a generally accepted lifestyle in society if we create a certain division.  I don’t think she’s racist for making that point and I do think we need an avenue to discuss these issues and a place for the movement in the black community.  But I don’t think the occasional invitation of the white woman with curly hair takes anything away from that.

The point, to me, of The Natural Hair Movement is to say, “Hey world, we are naturally beautiful. There isn’t one standard of beauty and it’s time that you accepted that.”  If you watch the video, India’s discussion of the white woman who acknowledges her privilege and supports the fact that there needs to be more representation of black people in the media is a prime example of that.  The majority first have to acknowledge that there is something wrong with the status quo–the system that was built by their ancestors–for things in the mainstream to change to the point that it becomes a lifestyle.  And creating a division actually spawns resistance.  [I say “majority” not to disparage blacks and praise whites, but to acknowledge that we are called “minorities” for a reason–we don’t control the majority viewpoint (at least not in this country) and we don’t control the narrative.]

We want a space where our kids can say “I look normal,” “I am beautiful,” “I see me everywhere I turn.” But for that to happen, we have to make it mainstream.  It has to become part of everyday life.  And to get it there, the powers that be in the society in which we live, also have to support it.

In my mind, it’s kind of like the difference between MLK and Malcolm X.  MLK was not against the white people who supported the civil rights movement for blacks.  Yes–the civil rights movement was created by blacks, for blacks. And eventually, other people benefited from it.  MLK held support meetings and strategy meetings for black people; had a space and a conducted discussions with black people; but he welcomed the support of white people.  Which made more stride in getting the focus to be “yes, black people deserve basic human rights afforded to everyone else”–and that became mainstream.  Malcolm X was exclusionary to the extreme in the sense that yes, it fired up black people, but incited white people and our goals were met with more resistance.

I’m not saying we don’t need our own space–we do.  My point is, inclusion (not to the point that white women become the focus, obviously, but just inclusion) or acceptance of their support doesn’t take away from our space or our message.  Their support will help our ultimate goal–which is to have this be just an accepted way of life.  A life in which we don’t feel that we have to change everything about ourselves in order to fit in–in order to feel any worth.  The majority has to 1) acknowledge their privilege, 2) show support, 3) not be shunned when they show support, and 4) help promote what we want to become the new status quo.

I want my kids to grow up in a world where they see just as many faces and hair types like their own as other races do, but I don’t want to replace our image as the only image. I don’t want any other race to feel like we do now. It doesn’t make us any better human beings. I don’t think that increased support and focus on our movement calls for the shunning of others, if that makes sense.

[Another segue: People forget that even in mainstream society, white women with curly hair are not the standard of beauty–white women with straight hair are.  And just because their struggle for acceptance is not the same as yours because their skin (or eye color, or whatever) affords them a privilege in other respects, doesn’t make their struggle any less real to them.  The Ebony editorial’s belittling and patronizing comment that Sarah, the white woman in CurlyNikki’s post, didn’t struggle because all she had to do to go natural was put her hair down undermines the entire point that acceptance and self love is an individual journey and there’s no right way to do it. I take issue more with the editor who allowed those culture-specific questions to be asked of a white woman.  Of course a white woman would most likely not need to big chop or transition in order to go natural.  So of course Sarah could only respond the way she did, which left a flippant impression that resulted in so much animus.  A more appropriate set of questions would have been along the lines of “tell us your story and how you ended up accepting your natural tresses.”  The onus in that lies with the writers and the editors.

I actually saw a Pantene commercial yesterday aimed at curly-haired Caucasians basically saying that it’s okay to wear your curly hair as is now because we’ve developed a shampoo for you that won’t strip moisture. Hey, if other people benefit from this movement, why do we have a problem with it? I also don’t see why supporting the idea that we need to show kinky-haired sisters more love needs to be mutually exclusive from showing love to or respecting the other hair types.  This is not Divergent–we don’t have to choose a faction. Everyone has a right to self-worth, no matter what hair texture (or skin color or eye color) they have. 

Also, people forget that there are individuals with “nappy hair” across races.  One of my best friend’s step-sister has a gorgeous head of red, frizzy, practically Afro-textured hair.  But she is Caucasian.  She was the literal red-headed step child.  To boot, she was the nappy-haired, red-headed step-child.  She hated her hair (and still does).  Kids made fun of her curls and frizz and she needed to use relaxers to straighten her hair.  I’d say she would’ve appreciated it if the perception was that her hair was beautiful, but she got teased all the time and had incredibly low self-esteem.  Okay, enough of the rant–back to the post.]

We somehow need to find a balance so that one day, we can look at all the textures in the world, across all the races, and feel zero animosity or resentment.

Obviously, we’re not close to being there yet.  But I still think that should be our aim.  Is it just me? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the issue.  Sound off below!

Peace, Love, and Live Life Full,


Comments +

  1. sporterhall says:

    Hello! Wow! What a post! I did watch the video before setting out to write this comment, so lets see where I go. I too agree with India on a number of points, although she was a little tricky to follow, being that she is so passionate on this subject. I don’t feel that she was being racist at all, simply because she raises many very valid points. After all, everyone has a right to do so. I have to admit that I am not into the hair-typing craze. This may sound crazy but I have no idea what my hair type is. I have been natural now for 2 years and simply love it. When I run into someone that I knew back in the day, they often comment and say how nice my hair looks but are always quick to add, “but you always had ‘good’ hair anyway.” What? Seriously? I never really know what to say to those comments. I just do my best to rock what I have. Personally, I have basically come full circle because I once was natural as we all were at one time, until I was introduced the infamous ‘creamy crack’. I used to rock a serious fro back then. But I’ve simply returned to what has always been there. I think we’ve waken up and realized that there’s so much beauty already there and we are now exercising this knowledge in a huge way. So, to me, the ‘revolution’ lies in our willingness to acknowledge and accept ourselves and our natural lockes. I’ve talked to so many women who tell me they wish they could where their hair natural or that they’re afraid they will look crazy. And I tell them, yes, it takes a lot of confidence to rock a fro or other natural hairstyles for that matter. But I’ve never felt more free than I do when sporting my natural ‘do’. I just wish we could all realize that and strive to experience that same feeling. It is very interesting that African Americans rallied around CurlyNikki’s white girl post -vs- the hair-typing discrimination piece. At the end of the day, support should be welcomed from all avenues, but we must remember, that our hair and all of the varying textures have always been ours and that no one, supporter or not can take that away from us. Please forgive me if I have jumped all over the place and made your head spin. My eyes are on their last leg for the night. Hopefully, I won’t be too surprised when I re-read my comment again tomorrow with fresh eyes! Again, great post! 🙂

    • D'aller Naturel says:

      Hello Friend! Always a pleasure to hear from you! I hear ya – India was a little hard to follow at times, but like I said, she made excellent points. I only take issue with the fact that division has never benefited us in all of history. It’s only when people came together that things really moved forward.

      I too don’t care for the hair typing system. Like I mentioned in my post, generalizations putting people into boxes often don’t work because people usually fit across boxes and no one knows what to do about that. If I followed the rules of identification, I have about 4 types on my head ranging from 3c – 4c (all kinky – “kinky curly,” “kinky coily,” “kinky kinky” — lol, okay, I made the last one up, but it IS on MY head lol). Plus, it allows for division and discrimination, as we are seeing. Because if you’re going to classify, no one’s ever going to say all classifications are equal. There’s going to be a pecking order. The typing system is only useful for figuring out what types of products may work on your hair. And even then (in my opinion), porosity and density play a bigger factor because a lot of people have multiple “types.” But I digress. Geez, I could write a whole other post lol.

      I think the hurt is so deep, and we have been excluded so many times, that we forget that just because we may be “justified” in having something that is for us, it still isn’t beneficial to do the same thing to others that they have done to us. Also, it doesn’t take AWAY from it. Other races, even whites, benefit from the most recent Civil Rights Act, but the historical significance of “this is the movement that gave blacks rights” isn’t tainted. It’s kind of like the gay marriage movement right now. It took a lot of heterosexual judges and advocates to say “yes, it is their right” for the movement to propel forward. Why? Because heterosexuals are the norm, the ones in “power”–they control the narrative. Just because homosexuals are justified in having their own movement on the basis of discrimination and exclusion, doesn’t mean it would’ve been beneficial to their cause to be like “sorry heterosexuals, keep your support to yourself.” And that’s what we have to realize that we’re doing–in the hair typing debate, in the colorism debate, and in the who belongs in the natural movement debate.

      Type 4 (or kinky) sisters need to stop feeling like victims and that their natural hair journeys were more difficult than type 2 or 3 sisters and shutting them down every time they tell their stories. The type 2/3 sisters are entitled to own the difficulties in their journeys too. On the flip side, Type 2/3 sisters need to stop acting like they are on the “good” side of the “good hair/bad hair” debate (I believe the only bad hair is damaged hair). In the same vain, natural hair sisters in general need to stop disparaging curly-haired white women like the difficulties they face are not valid. Everyone’s journey is different. And each difficulty is a very real obstacle to that individual. Hiding who you are is hiding who you are, no matter what lengths you have to go to to do it.

      I just get tired of the idea that division is what gets us where we want to be, because I truly believe it’s the opposite. Say we successfully bar white women from the natural hair movement. We raise our kids to fully love their natural tresses, but at the same time have been inadvertently teaching them through our actions, our words, and our outrage that white women have no business being in the natural hair movement. Once we reach the point of self-acceptance, who is left to carry the torch that’s going to make the switch to be like okay white ladies, you too can now partake in hair diversity? (because from India’s video she seems to be saying it is only then that we can invite others)… No one. Because our children will have learned from us that the only way to love themselves is to keep white people out of it. After all, that’s how the negative perceptions of ourselves were past down from generation to generation–through the words of our mothers and their actions/body language. And while we’re doing this, what’s happening to the white side? They’re growing more and more resistant to our goals because we’ve shunned their support or involvement at every turn. Natural human reaction to something like “stay away” is “fine then. You stay where you are and never come into my sphere.” I just don’t see how that’s helpful to anyone.

      Ah, my friend. Any longer, and this comment will be a post in its own right lol. But yeah, I totally hear you. No one can take our “naturalness” from us. And we can provide support to every texture of hair without having to be mutually exclusive about it. People need to let go and find the confidence to just be them. But easier said than done, right?

      • sporterhall says:

        Wow! If only everyone would let go and feel free enough to give feedback like this! I guess this too is something that is hard for many to do. Like you said, easier said than done! And yes…that’s right! 🙂

  2. stvictor28 says:

    I think we all forget how this country works and what time has taught us. Yes it is ok to befriend and have supporters who are white but we should never lose focus. The moment we do lose focus on our goals that’s when the door opens failure. Companies don’t worry about what skin type you are or what hair type you have they follow the money. When we start focusing on the more fair skinned silky hair textures that starts a ripple of women of that same genre to follow. To be honest white people spend more money. So all of these big named companies will follow the money and the NHM will become just a phase. Target walmart, all of these pop up beauty supply stores need a reason to keep moving forward. Please don’t lose focus y’all this movement is way to important.

    • D'aller Naturel says:

      Quite frankly, that’s my point. Stop shunning the support, but at the same time stay at the forefront. Statistics show that for our population size, black women spend more money on hair products than any other group. So, though big companies follow the money, they also follow the popular perception. I too believe these companies don’t care about race as long as they get their money, but you also have to keep in mind HOW it is companies in the beauty industry make their money–they prey on our insecurities. After all, how could you possibly sell a product that “improves” my look if I feel that I could naturally attain that look or if I felt that I was already perfect? There are two main philosophies that drive sales in the beauty industry: 1) Is this image popular enough that we can make people want to have it even though they can’t actually make it themselves (e.g., attaining a certain look unnaturally like fuller lips with botox, straight hair with relaxers, etc.)? And 2) Are there enough people in the mainstream genre that the majority view can make sales on its own merit (e.g. every hair color or hair care product targeted at white women with straight hair). Companies alter their products based essentially on those two spending patterns/philosphies. This explains why the relaxer sub-industry has taken a bit of a dive in the numbers as more and more black women decide not to use relaxers and why there are more hair care products (even by some mainstream beauty companies) that are now targeting women with wavy/curly/coily (any other texture than straight) hair. Twiggy made the thin-stick look popular and there was a lot of money to be made because that look was nearly impossible to attain without a food disorder. Then J-Lo came on the scene and companies realized that there are a lot more curvy women willing to spend money on clothes targeted for them–that it’s profitable to start serving the women who make up the majority of the gender. Thus, curvy lines (which are still around even in some “high fashion” lines were it’s trendier to sell the “straight-thin-no-curve” look) were born. Change comes with acceptance then popularity. Without acceptance, I can see how it would just be a trend and die off later. But no one ever got acceptance by shunning those who tried to support it. No one is saying to step aside and lose focus. Just don’t make it WWIII when white women show their support. Teach them, inform them, explain why this is important and don’t shun their support when it does come. There is nothing here about losing focus. It IS an important MOVEMENT.

  3. […] 8. What Does “The Natural Hair Movement” Mean to You? […]

  4. […] the fact that other women were also represented did not offend me.  After all, to me, the point of the natural hair movement is to get a different standard of beauty–our standard–mainstream so that we and our […]

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