Sunday, January 8, 2012

Natural Hair as a Statement

Lyrna, Vogue.It contributor and Editor of Lurve Magazine, in an interview with Natural Belle
One of the questions I get asked most often about my hair (after how do I get it to curl like that, to which I always have to answer, sorry, honey, that's just my curl pattern) is whether I feel like I'm making some kind of statement by wearing my hair in its natural state. At first this question used to offend me. Like, damn, can't a sista do something for her damn self without everyone trying to attach some larger meaning to it? (Side note: I now understand why my friends with tattoos sometimes get mad when people ask what the tats "mean," which I myself am guilty of. Oops. #gottadobetter) 

So once upon a time, I would have cosigned Lyrna's statement. I still appreciate the sentiment, but in the time between when I first embraced my natural texture and now, I've come to realize that every. little. fucking. thing. in our lives is political. Feminism said it first, but there's absolutely no separating the personal from the political. In my humble opinion, there is very little (if anything) I can do as a Black woman that isn't making some sort of statement in the face of a larger society that still actively tries to stereotype us in every imaginable way. No matter who we are, what social categories we fall in, or what exact boxes other people try to shove us in, choosing to be fully and openly ourselves rather than bending and squishing and silencing ourselves to fit whatever is "in" in the moment is making a statement. We pick our clothes, accessories, and hairstyles for a reason, even if that reason is just I like this/think I look good with this; as Facebook has taught us, "liking" something can be an incredibly powerful social tool. 

But I like imagining a world in which we don't have to see our choices as political, a world where style is just style for everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, etc. That would mean that we as members of the human race have come to see all social categories as capable of all the variation imaginable, and that choosing to do things that run counter to dominant society would no longer be stigmatized. Being free to understand our choices simply as choices would require the end of marginalization, fetishization, and the questioning of authenticity. And what a beautiful world that would be. 

But until then, yes, my hair is a statement. So is my style, the music I like, the way I carry myself, my vocabulary, and basically every other stylized choice I make. The statement I'm making? Bitch, who gon check me?! Here I am fucking up your schemas. Deal with it.    


  1. I've never had that experience like most naturals. I guess people know not to come at me w/ that mess. Anyway, now people aske me tons of questions since I've been natural over 9.5 yrs and they are just gettting started. PS. my mom did say our hair is our crowning glory so I guess our hair does make a statement :-) Vernetta

  2. i literally had the same thought process about this when i reblogged the picture a few days ago. as a black woman, trying to be myself is often also a statement. because society doesn't want me to be myself.

  3. i liked that insight: fb has taught us that "liking" something is an incredibly powerful social tool. never thought of it like that.

    people asking what my tattoos mean: it's a nuanced thing. the tattoo on my left side was supposed to be personal but not necessarily private. so when people who i trust ask respectfully, i decided after some consideration to share what it meant. but i think tattoos don't necessarily have to have super deep meaning, so sure, it can be frustrating when people ask and assume that. e.g. the stars tattoo on my wrist is an expression of bodily autonomy, a reminder that my body is mine to do with what i want. there's nothing else really to it. and i only came up with that explanation post hoc, after i spent some time thinking about why i got it, i.e. those weren't my thoughts at the time i chose to get it.