There are so many times when I’ve heard it said: I can’t go natural because my hair is not as “thick”, or as “beautiful” or “insert any word you’ve heard before”, as yours. Well, I want to make it clear that no matter the texture of your hair, there is no such thing.
I’ll admit, there have been times in my life when I wished I’d had really smooth and long straight hair, most notably in my primary and high school years. Looking back I’ve often wondered why this was the case, when I can’t get enough of my curls right now. But then I remember that there are still many many women out there who believe their natural curls and kinks are ugly, and that it’s not considered desirable, professional or acceptable in today’s society.
I am by no means an expert on history, but I honestly believe a great deal of it has to do with the fact that women of colour were indoctrinated with the idea that only straight hair is sexy and beautiful, and that anything else is nappy, or kroes. In South Africa’s apartheid history, the Pencil Test was one of the tests applied to people of colour to determine whether they should be classified as white or “coloured” (persons of mixed racial heritage). The Pencil Test involved sliding a pencil or pen in the hair of a person whose racial group was uncertain. If the pencil fell to the floor, the person “passed” and was considered “white”. If it stuck, the person’s hair was considered too kinky to be white and the person was classified as “coloured”. The classification as “coloured” allowed a person more rights than one considered black,” but fewer rights than a person considered “white”.
In the so-called coloured community of Cape Town where I’m from, the largest community of mixed race people in Southern Africa, it seems that the desire to have silky straight hair has also become somewhat of a cultural trait. Here you will often hear women express the desire for more European or Asian hair.
Often during the years that I’ve worn my hair in its natural state, I would get the question, “Aren’t you going to blow dry your hair straight?” for whatever event I would be talking about with friends and sometimes family. It could have been for a job interview, a wedding, a graduation, or any do considered important. It was almost as if my curls were okay for everyday comings and goings, but just not good enough for special events. I know that this type of talk doesn’t only happen where I’m from, but it continues to make me sad whenever I hear it.
When I have a daughter one day, I want her to grow up loving her natural texture, no matter what it is. I don’t want her to start out thinking that there is something wrong with her hair and that she has to alter it somehow.
Even though we have come a long way, to a large degree the idea of straight hair being sexier and more desirable is still perpetuated by the mainstream media. I’m so happy for the online platforms that exist, where beautiful women across the globe who are rocking their natural hairstyles can talk about hair maintenance, health and acceptance in a world that often isn’t as supportive or as accepting.
I honestly do not have anything against women who choose to straighten their hair. But let’s please look at the reasons why some of us are still applying harmful chemicals like relaxers, as well as damaging processes, such as excessive heat to our hair, and start by addressing these issues. Don’t freak out if you don’t have time to straighten your locks before that interview or date. Anyone worth their salt will be drawn to you by much more than what is represented on the outside alone.
Fall in love with your natural hair, and if you already have, just continue to love it.