Natural Hair Extremists


I'm not a big fan of weaves, I don't think they suit me and well and I just don't think I'd do a good job at maintaining them. But that has never allowed me to put down women who do wear them. However, I do like wigs, I've worn extensions many years ago, and I love to switch up hairstyles. I love that about being a (Black) woman (with natural hair), how we can go from braids to afros, straight to short.

In the last few years, natural hair appreciation has boomed in the Black community, not only in the United States, but even in other parts of the African diaspora like Cuba, South Africa, the Ivory Coast, and Brazil. I love every bit of this awakening and loving of Blackness, however extremism has been in the midst with this glorification of natural hair.

So I'm in this natural hair group and I saw someone post a screenshot of a young woman wearing faux locs. The first few sentences of the woman's caption was in disapproval. I take a closer look at the photo thinking: "What's wrong with her hair? Is it janky? Did she do a bad job?" The disapproval with the post was the fact that the woman was wearing faux locs. I continued to read the caption and she expressed that the woman in the photo should just "grow locs" instead of wearing faux ones. I read the comments with some people agreeing and disagreeing with her. Some stated that the purpose of going natural was to not put any extras in your hair such as extensions or weaves. I've even seen debates of people stating that adding color is considered to be the antithesis of being "au-naturalle".

Me being me, I went to the poster's page and went through her photos. Unsurprisingly, she had quite a few photos wearing wigs and weaves in the fall and winter of last year. It's Spring 2016 now, which means not too long ago, less than a year ago, she too was wearing what she deems as unworthy. Perhaps she had taken the photos prior to the dates of posting them, but the idea still stands: once upon a time you wear wearing weaves and wigs, and now that you're natural or wear your natural hair out, you feel the need to put down women who still wear them. I also noticed that she was wearing make-up in her photos, another practice stated as "unnatural" by many Natural (Hair) Extremists. Even if someone never had a relaxer, weave, or extension before, it still doesn't give them the right to put down others for wearing them, especially with knowing the condition and history of hair and identity in our community.

Since being natural, I've never heard of such strict "rules" for being a "real natural". I always felt being natural meant being chemical free of relaxers, and that's it. I've even seen some women complain about "fake" afros and kinky hair weaves with the "just grow it" rebuttals. While I understand the community health concerns over relaxers and even some weaves, I don't see much harm in other hairstyles on natural hair. At this point it's clear that some women want to feel superior and are being plain bullies. The irony of that situation is how some "natural" women continue to eat unnatural, processed foods, place unnatural products on their skin, among other "unnatural practices". That may be a reach to some, but if you're going to be an advocate for the natural life, do it across the board.

Ironically, one of the elements embraced in many Natural Hair Communities is embracing African cultures and history. I find it strange that so many praise ancient African civilizations such as Ancient Kemet, but forget that or are unaware of the beauty standards practiced by the women (and even some men) in these eras. For example, Kemetic women were known for wearing wigs, extensions, and make-up. Extensions, wigs, and make-up is nothing new to Black culture. Perhaps wearing straight hair weave that resembles "European" hair is (correct me if I'm wrong), but these practices have been used in many cultures since ancient times. People seem to be so obsessed with this one sided view of "natural beauty" and this binary idea of "natural" vs. "chemical", that they forget there's nothing new under the sun. Natural ingredients such as khol, moringa, frankincense, beeswax, and other plant based products were used by peoples in the civilizations of modern day countries like Egypt, Ethiopia, in the West African region and many other locations. In despite of the fact that indeed there is a lot of of chemical filled make-up in our modern era, there are plenty make-up lines that are all natural or vegan such as Plain Jane, B.L.A.C. Minerals, and The Lip Bar.

Make-up and different hairstyles have always been related to art and lifestyle, as well as identity. To categorize everyone who wears wigs, weaves, and extensions as "self-hating" and attempting to hide their natural hair is ignorant. I do find that some women use the term "protective styling" as a cover up due to disliking their natural hair. Some even will point out how Black Australian Melanesians have blonde hair, so that supposedly invalidates how some Black women wear certain weaves in regards to the European beauty standard. Although these blonde haired Black people are a minority and many only mention these peoples when discussing hair. No matter how much people try to flip it as just a "hairstyle", White beauty standards are still a factor for many in the Black community. Yes it can be your choice, it's your prerogative, but if it comes from a place of embracing European beauty standards, it is what it is. Nonetheless, that's not our duty to argue with them on it nor to tear them down.

While the desire for a more "Eurocentric" appeal for beauty is clearly evident in our community, there some women enjoy switching hairstyles on some Regine Hunter ish. Someone even noted that there are women who may be dealing with health issues such as cancer and wear certain styles until they're comfortable in their natural state. We live in a 9-5 society where people have children, jobs, school, errands, and other responsibilities to accomplish and certain hairstyles are low maintenance. At the end of the day, there will be women who will take time to return to natural and there will be those who won't return to it.

I feel like there is strong insecurity and competition on both sides. I feel like some natural girls feel they need to compete with relaxed girls and girls who wear weaves because straight hair is socially accepted in the mainstream. And I feel like some relaxed girls and girls who wear weaves see how much love natural girls are getting and feel some type of way about that. I even discussed this last year in a video about natural hair jealousy.  Either way, I want no parts of this illusion of a war or competition because seeing that we're Black women still under scrutiny and in danger across the globe, no one is really "winning" anything. And then there is an issue of hurt on both sides. I've read stories from women with natural hair who have talked about how their friends and families ostracized them for their choice of returning natural. I've also heard stories from non-naturals who have been put down and judged for not being natural.

I'm confident and comfortable with my natural hair and I've never gained that confidence from putting down women who wear weaves, wigs, or extensions. As a matter of fact, when I think about my natural hair and why I love it, other women, nor do their hairstyles never come to mind. Since some of you all are so concerned about how people wear their hair, how about y'all start waking them up every morning to style it.

As Black women, we have so much shit to deal with; sexism, misogyny, racism, lack of protection, and other negative factors as well as our struggles with beauty and identity. Being seen as the most undesirable, complexes with skin tone, and dealing with our hair make our plight more complex and unique to that of other women who also grapple with American beauty standards. It's nothing wrong with being proud of being natural, educating and encouraging others to return natural. Seeing Black naturals walking the street legit makes me happy. I always love having discussions with random Black women who are interested in the natural lifestyle telling them the do's and don'ts of maintaining healthy natural hair. I'm not a fan of relaxers (anymore), not big on weaves, but deliberately bashing women for wearing weaves, relaxers, and extensions is childish, petty, and wack.

We're all dealing with internalized racism/self-hatred, years of anti-Black brainwashing from the media, among other struggles while wearing Black skin. Natural hair doesn't automatically make you "woke" or a "queen", just like weaves, relaxers, and extensions don't make other Black women "ratchet" and "ignorant". We don't need any extra division from either side. You don't have to like weaves, wigs, or extensions, you don't have to support them, but understand the different reasons why different Black women wear them and don't use your natural hair as a stepping stone of superiority.

More Reading:

How does black hair reflect black history?


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