I’m the first to tell you that i’m apprehensive about joining movements based around beauty ideals. Whether its meant to uplift or deconstruct them, i’m the person who is wading at the shallow end of the pool. Its not because i don’t see the inherent value in organizing around this kind of issue, but because down the line it devolves into something which disappoints my soul.
And honestly, after nearly 4 years of being a natural haired woman, i can faithfully say the way the movement is going is disappointing my soul, and for a few basic reasons.
For one thing, I’m fed up with the amount of capitalism that has overtaken the natural hair movement. If people want to buy a t-shirt celebrating their natural hair, then fine, that’s cool. In fact I’m right there with you. its good to have a reasonable amount of pride in what you’re rocking.
But the thing that bothers me is the constant emphasis on buying, consuming in excess, and oftentimes consuming things which are by and large not always affordable to all.
I used to follow a lot of natural hair blogs, but my trite and true favorite is SavvyBrown. Why? Because the shit she tells you is easy to replicate. Tea rinses for example? My house is swimming in tea, so i have to spend no money at all to boil a pot of water and then subsequently rise my hair with it. Her DIY recipes take regular household products and turn them into natural hair aids, such as her DIY hot oil treatment using olive oil. The majority of the products she recommends can be found at a big box grocery store, and her reviews on high end products are sparse enough for me to believe that she is committed to giving people advice that is truly affordable.
Whereas others that i’ve read are about providing you with the consumerism and cost that can be found among high end people with relaxed hair, except with natural hair.
I mean there are oils, moisturizers, conditioners for co-washing, conditioners for deep conditioning, leave in conditioners, styling pomades/gels/sprays, rollers, specials brushes/combs/pillow cases/scarves/towels, liquid shampoos, bar shampoos, hair dryers or diffusers, accessories, ect.
Damn, that’s a mighty long list of products just to do one’s hair. and I’m sure i’ve missed something here. Either way, i’ve seen blogs which recommend combinations from this laundry list. And I’m inclined to believe no matter how you divide it up, it still comes out to an exorbitant cost.
Its as if you never left your relaxed home, honestly.
I mean, lets be real. The natural hair movement is not made up of wealthy people by and large. A good percentage of us, if not most of us, are people on budgets, who don’t have extra cash to be throwing around left and right on reconstructing new regiments or buying new products when somebody says “Shop!” or “ditch this because this more expensive product is ten times better for you hair”. We have other financial commitments beyond just buying the best for our natural tresses.
And not to say that just because you read a blog you are automatically inclined to take all of its advice 100%. But a lot of people read blogs because the information is oftentimes reliable and free. And instead of just leaving it on the consumer to say “well i can’t afford this so i’m not going to buy it”, it should also be about healthy natural hair living at an affordable price. Lets give people advice they can follow consistently and not just once with feeling. In these rough financial times, it should be about promoting a level of financial sustainability with leeway for new things.
This brings me to my next level of disenchantment: the trend towards “less kinky”.
If there is one thing that i’ve noticed, its the push towards natural hair that is seemingly “less kinky”.
Now there is a HUGE, OVERWHELMING difference between PEOPLE BORN WITH LOOSE HAIR TEXTURES and hair styles, products, regimens which are aimed at making your hair less kinky.
However, nobody calls it that. They call it “more managable”.
Honestly, i’m not in love with the term “more manageable” on any level. I think as a concept it alludes to this romanticized Eurocentric ideal of hair, whereas European hair is thought to be more manageable because the hair patterns are loose. Kind of like the “run your fingers through it” hair theory.
Which to me is a slap in the face as to why people with Afro-textured hair went natural in the first place. I’m no expert in African American studies, but i do believe the point of natural hair during the black power movement was to reject an ideal of beauty imposed on African Americans by a majority white society. To reclaim what we had forgotten in the hopes of one day becoming equal to white people , i.e the features which make us “black” or part of the “African diaspora”. However you want to phrase it.
In fact, the black power movement’s stance on black natural beauty echoes the voice of Marcus Garvey and other pan-Africanists who were trying to uplift their race by rejecting assimilationist means of doing so.
And for me its gone past the experimentation with natural hair phase, beyond seeing just how far the rabbit hole goes. Its become down right a-historical on a lot of levels, patently ignorant of what came before or flat out rejecting it. Its as if those days of black power never existed, as if the hair style never belonged to an ideological movement, and afro-textured people weren’t attempting to unite across lines of class and gender for a common cause: liberation.
I know the black power movement was not perfect by any means.
However, anything which evolves from the past should improve off the past, not ignore it all together with the hopes of reinventing the wheel. Reinventing the wheel is a cyclical and historical joke that almost never happens successfully. But building off the past, honoring the past, those do have their successes.
So when i see natural hair moving towards the “less kinky” by virtue of force instead of natural, i get extremely sad. Cause i didn’t sign up for this shit because i wanted perm free hair that still conformed to a larger societal standard about what “good hair” looks like.
I didn’t sign up for a movement that is rapidly becoming more about consuming than it is about unity across class, gender, and diasporic lines. a movement that is phasing out its afro-textured pride in liu of “more manageable but still natural” pride.
i signed up for black pride, kinky pride, simple living pride, anti-capitalist pride, fucking eurocentric beauty standards pride, embracing the black natural you pride.
don’t get me wrong, i’m happy we are experimenting and pushing things to the limit. But lets not forget the strides with natural hair that were made so we could get to this point and proudly call ourselves natural. Lets not forget our history, our past and present struggle for natural to be recognized as “good hair”, worthy hair, professional hair, beautiful hair.
Lets not forget that what makes afro-textured hair so beautiful is what grows out of our heads, not what magic we can perform to make it look different that what it is.
Lets not turn the natural hair movement into a new wave of assimilation.