Don’t Touch My Hair...Seriously

After watching Hulu’s Bad Hair over the past weekend— a horror satire film set in the 1980s about a young black womxn who gets her first sew-in in order to advance her career— I also began to reflect on the 2009 documentary Good Hair which similarly explores the cultural significance of hair within the Black community and then thought about my own relationship with my hair. After all, hair, in general, is a big deal for all womxn for different reasons like public perception, self-expression, and even measures of intellect according to this article

Hair is a complex thing because the way we feel about the locks that grow out of our heads can be personal and private. Yet for those of us who may not wear cultural or religious head coverings, hair is simultaneously a very publicized feature. And like most other aspects of a womxn’s identity, she’ll be judged based on the color, length, and texture. That last point is especially true for black womxn who daily have to face struggles on the basis of race and gender in ways that other groups do not. In this article, I want to open up about my thoughts on Black womxn’s hair in relation to my own, the natural hair movement, and the daily microaggressions we face. 

black and white photo of a woman wearing glasses Photo by uncoveredlens from Pexels When Solange melodically sang “don’t touch my hair” over and over on the track by the same name, she wasn’t just talking; she was expressing how many Black womxn feel about their hair. Because of anti-blackness and Westernized standards of beauty, Black hair is weaponized in education and the workplace in addition to day-to-day microaggressive probing/questioning. Black hair is like no other—seriously. If you didn’t know hair texture can be categorized according to what is called a hair typing system. On this system, you’ll come across the phrases 3A/3B/3C and 4A/4B/4C which are known as the curly and kinky hair texture categorizations. While people of other ethnic groups can naturally possess a hair texture under the 3A-3C placement (usually if they are of mixed race/mixed with Black), textures 4A-4C grow predominantly—if not exclusively—from the scalps of Black people and those in the diaspora. Basically what this means is that texture 4 hair can be characterized by dense, tight coils or spirals either in an S-curl pattern, Z-curl pattern, or zig-zag-pattern. Texture 4 hair is prone to dryness and shrinkage, common processes in which natural Black hair reacts to hair products depending on its porosity level. If you want to learn more about the semantics of natural Black hair, you can read these articles and/or check Youtube which has millions of videos on how to identify hair texture(s), porosity type, and different styling methods! 

*Here are some of my favorite natural hair gurus you can check out if you want to be both educated and entertained: Chizi Duru, Keke J, BlakeJael, Halfrican Beaute, ChaeButta, FaceOverMatter, GEM Naturals, Janae Mason, Naptural85, Tajah Symone, and Taylor Anise*

woman wearing a white dress and jewelry Photo by nappy from Pexels While it may seem as if in recent years, natural hair is being embraced in the mainstream media, I can’t help but feel the support and representation is both performative and tone-deaf. If you didn’t know what the natural hair movement or NHM is, it started back in the 1960s and 70s when Black people started to wear their natural hair textures as a symbol of Black pride and liberation (hence why people heavily associate that era with afros). Although the movement has been around for decades now, it really gained popularity in the 2000s and 10s with the boom of social media platforms like Youtube and Instagram. In this modernized interpretation of the NHM, womxn with textures 4B and 4C (really just 4C in most cases) would post pictures and videos about all the facets of their hair from learning to love their textures and styling tips to protective styles and hair politics. But like most other BW positive social movements and commentaries, the voices of BW became overshadowed by mixed-race womxn and non-Black womxn with looser curl textures

Essentially, the internet ruined the natural hair movement. Time and time again, society shows that the voice, concerns, and struggles of Black womxn are unimportant and that it is our job to be inclusive—can you believe that? We’re responsible for our own oppression! The NHM was created for womxn with 4C hair because we don’t have a safe space to be ourselves and relate to people who have the same exact experiences. It’s just frustrating that not only are we excluded from many ‘feminist’  and social justice movements, but when we do create our own as a result of this exclusion, it gets infiltrated by the very people who excluded us. 

Two women with braids with the sky in the background Photo by Lawrence life from Pexels This isn’t just an issue in hair politics though, as cultural appropriation is a global issue of stealing intellectual property and artistic influence from Black people as a way to perpetually subjugate and disenfranchise the community (but that’s a different discussion for another day). 

My journey to self-love and acceptance is not unique; like most Black womxn and girls, I had a time in my life where I hated how I look because society imposes that naturally Black features are ugly (i.e. broader noses, fuller lips, wider hips, and kinky hair). Funny how now everyone wants to look like--nevermind, I digress. But anyway, how I learned to learn myself isn’t important, it was quite simple; I had to take away the things I used to assimilate in order to embrace what I was naturally given. So I stopped contouring my nose, finally started wearing the proper shade of foundation/concealer, stopped concealing my upper lip so it would appear smaller, stopped using perm relaxers—there’s nothing wrong with relaxers or contouring by the way. It’s up to each individual and people can do/wear what makes them feel good. It’s just not my choice anymore because the implications of those choices didn’t align with my journey and that’s what matters at the end of the day—and anything else that would otherwise be a form of self-hating behavior in order to become the “desirable” and palatable version of Blackness. 

It's my hope that you’ve learned something from this and that you can understand that while hair is important to our identity, it is not our identity.