Sunday, October 18, 2015

You've got the look, Part II

*We’re still listening to Prince and Sheena*

This issue of extreme artifice in women really has had me thinking. The issue of hair deserves its own space. Hence part, II.

The issue of natural hair vs. processed hair is polarizing in the Black community. I will admit to being shocked/sad/irritated/disappointed when I see Black women whose hair is relaxed. It almost seems like smoking. Oh you still do that? Really? Insert confused face here. I don't mean to suggest black women who relax their hair or rock fake hair don't like being black. However…

What DOES it mean when you can't look at yourself with the hair that grows from your head? What does it mean that you can't appreciate how fun and interesting your hair is? Full disclosure--- while my hair is "natural" I am currently blondish (hurtling at warp speed towards grey) which is decidedly unnatural. Mind you, I am sassy as hell, but decidedly unnatural.

I had a conversation with one of my cousins about her hair and she straight up said to me that when her hair is not "done" i.e. is in need of a relaxer it has a negative effect on her morale. Listen; far be it from me to suggest that anyone, much less a relation of mine, to walk around with low morale because they think their hair is ragged. I just think that this issue of hair comes from a deeper place. It's challenging to determine what is a fashion statement or an expression of personal style vs. a sentiment of deep personal loathing.

I have a good friend who was deeply, deeply attached to hair that I can only describe as horrifying. Seriously. Worst. Shit. Ever. But she loved it. I told her repeatedly that she should wear her own hair, but I got excuse after excuse. Finally, after what we’ve both coined at the Weave Disaster of 2014 she finally started wearing her own hair. She looks amazing. Beautiful, natural, youthful and free. Another cousin (I'm loaded with them) in the past few years has gone backwards and embraced weavedom. It is shockingly bad and distracting. We're not close so I'll never be able to talk to her about it. But it makes me sad. Intelligent. Successful. Pretty. Hair, fucked.

Because I find this topic so interesting, I wrote a paper about it for a class I took. I learned more than I wanted to know about African skin bleaching, Asian eye “corrective”, the quest of the perfect, Latin American ass. It has been suggested that women of color are victims of attempting to achieve a White standard of beauty. The notion behind this theory is that White people are thought of as being smarter, more attractive, more successful etc. That via colonialism we (people of color) have embraced the idea that we are some how less than, that we are only worthy if we are as close to White as possible. Obviously there is no scientific way to prove this. However, just within my own culture I have seen evidence of this. When I was a little girl, people would compliment my mother because I had a “bel tet” (beautiful head of hair). Sure some would say I was well behaved or cute etc., but the hair was a huge selling point. I remember when I got older and started getting my hair done at salons, the women would tell me how “lucky” I was to have such “good” hair. I had a colleague (An African-American woman) say to me repeatedly “You have such a nice grade of hair”. Now, this is hair that I have and don’t know any thing else, however it has always made me uncomfortable to accept a compliment about the texture of my hair—if you like the style color etc. that’s one thing and I thank you. But the texture? That’s genetics. I guess you can thank master for creeping into my ancestor’s quarters.

Fucked up when you think about it isn’t it? But there it is.

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