Maybe I’ve always been a bit blasé about hair because mine grows so easily; I could always switch from natural to permed and back again. But lately especially, I find myself tiring of the natural versus relaxed hair debate.
I understand all the connotations of having relaxed hair. Believe me, I do. I too have had weave itch, the sort that leaves you slapping your head repeatedly in public, with no thoughts whatsoever as to how mad you look. No care either. Nothing but the desire to scratch that unreachable, infuriating, itch. The near soporific effects of scratching it cannot be matched by anything in this world.
I have suffered the sores that come from digging too deeply with a pen or other handy pointy object under dandruff and sweat encrusted wefts. I have had my hair fall out from too much relaxing and traction from braids. It was not pretty.
Still it’s such a shame that black women’s hair is so highly politicized. I understand why it would be but it still is sad that it is so. Because the truth is that I didn’t change the way I wore my hair because of any movement but because relaxers affected me really badly. It was just not worth it. To ME.
And that’s what hair boils down to in the end: personal choice. It doesn’t really matter what anyone thinks. Of course it is entirely possible that had I not been in Newcastle where African hairdressers were few and far between, or were not properly trained and expensive to boot, I might have continued with the weaves and the braids and the creamy crack. It is possible. After all, it costs twice or three times as much to have natural hair made in the market in Nigeria – unless it is isi owu. And even then, chances are that they will use the wrong comb and complain so loudly about their fingers hurting that you will feel you have serpents for hair like a gorgon.
The way we wear our hair is not only an expression of how we feel, who we are. It is also purely functional. With the hustle and bustle of daily life, not everyone might choose to have natural hair. Some women might prefer to wake up and run a fine-toothed comb through their hair before they leave for work. Others might polish their gorimapa with coconut oil and bounce. Because let’s face it, hair is work. Natural hair is work, even our ancestresses knew that. Hence the wigs and head-dresses they wore to give their own hair a rest in between styles. Relaxed hair is also work; anti-breakage this and placenta that and hair burning and sores and picking the scabs on your scalp and money, money, money.
So, I guess what I am asking is, can’t we all just get along? Shouting abuse across the (not-so) great divide isn’t really the way to be heard. That girl with long flowing Brazilian/Peruvian/Chinese hair might secretly wish she was another race. She might have received negative messages about her hair her whole life. Or she might not even consider herself any less proud of her race. That woman with dread locks/an afro/bantu knots/a twist out might have her hair that way to prove she is a Sister. Or she might simply prefer the peace of mind that comes from knowing she can walk under the rain or swim any day without a huge freak out session being involved. (Or that emergency plastic shopping bag, shoved over her face like a masquerade!)
It’s a shame one side is considered more ‘professional’ to the other’s ‘creative’ and ‘political’. Does having weaves mean I can no longer write poetry and fiction? No. Would having locks mean I can no longer wrap my head around facts and figures in financial institutions? I don’t think so. And yet that is the way it is seems now. People are being forced into these boxes by corporations, society and even by themselves.
Let it be. Live and let live. [Insert choice of cliché here]. This post was not supposed to be deep (or even particularly well-writen, har har). I am just a bit tired of all the slings and arrows. How a black woman chooses to wear her hair should be her choice. She is entitled to it. Just like she is entitled to change her mind about her choice. That’s what it means to be truly free and that can only be a good thing.
9 thoughts on “I am tired of this hair, hair, everywhere.”
Reblogged this on The Wordsmythe's Weblog… and commented:
I couldn’t have said it any better. Thanks for taking the words right out of my mouth, Nwuye. Don’t mind if I share.
I agree with you completely. It is a matter of personal choice and I don’t see why anyone should be judged because of their choice of hairstyle. Personally, I like the different look a weave gives and when I think of all the processes and products for taking care of hair, I get a headache.
No we can’t. Because:
1. People need to stop presenting their personal motivations as proof of why Collective concerns are invalid.
Lots of people say ” i don’t wear weave because I want to look white.”, and while I believe them, because this is probably true, just because the INDIVIDUAL does not particularly want to look white, does not mean that as a population we are not trying to emulate whiteness and white standards of beauty.
2. By wanting to just all get along, you are tacitly accepting to live in a society and world where the hair of black women continues to be valued significantly less than that of others, and by association, black women continue to be devalued relative to women of other races. This is the world we have grown up in, it should not be the world the next generation grows up in.
3. Our attitudes to our hair are a symptom of the sickness of white supremacy that Nigeria is infected with.
Think about it, we live in a country, OUR OWN COUNTRY, where:
In the same school / classroom, Nigerian children are flogged for making noise, while half-caste children are let off the hook.
Nigerian children are forced to shave their hair very short according to the school rules while half-caste children are allowed to sport huge afros if they are even compelled to cut their hair at all in the first place.
School advertisement billboards and brochures now feature white children as if the school is advertising the number of white children in the school as an indication of what a good school it is.
The police are afraid to arrest white people.
You can have an incredibly grating, scraping voice but still become the number one tv presenter in Nigeria out of nowhere just for looking white ( Eku Edewor )
Light skinned Non-Nigerians ( Chinese ) can beat up, mistreat Nigerian employees and nothing will happen.
Foreign parents can demand Nigerian schools bend the rules especially for their child and it happens.
You now have to hunt with a microscope in any Nigerian pharmacy or department store to find a body cream that does NOT bleach.
99% of all body creams in Nigeria now say “Lightening” or “Bleaching” (Oops, I’m sorry, I meant to say “Toning” )
Whereas Nigerian music videos were once full of Nigerian girls, it is now compulsory to have White girls in your music video. Nigerian music video models are losing revenue, losing JOBS to illegally employed white women in their own country.
All these things, are part and parcel of the problem we have with natural hair and our identity in Nigeria.
They are all branches of the same root.
We do not want to BE white, because that would mean not being Nigerian. But do we want to LOOK white?
One word, Dencia.
Sugarbelly: We have had this debate before years ago about this “hair” business so no need to get into that here. I am very aware of your opinions on other blogs.However, abeg, it is 2014, the word is bi-racial or “mixed”, get with the times, just like nobody wants to be called “nigger”, nobody wants to be called “half-caste”. I am not sure which “half castes” you grew up with or went to school with and saw them being treated differently. Most of the mixed kids I know were bullied in school, some with very bad experiences because just like you, people assumed that their lives were “easier” because they were mixed and felt a need to show them “pepper”. I had low cut in secondary school like all the J.S.S students and if anything, I got punished a lot because seniors wanted to see me cut grass or fetch water or sweep like I was their dancing money. The need to see me “turn red” was always a popular one. That I was mixed has never made life easier for me, if anything, you never really belong anywhere. There is hatred from both sides. I am only writing this here because I think the statements you made here are ridiculous. You are only assuming and presenting things as facts, which is always dangerous. I do not know Eku Edewor but I doubt that she just woke up one day and got a job. You have moved back to Nigeria recently so you too must understand how that country works. With the right connections and money, you can do anything. It is corruption and not “colour” that gets you to the right places.My broke ass has never been given a free ride anywhere. As far as you have money, black or white, you will meet the right people.
However, I agree with you that many “emulate white standards” of beauty and that Nigeria has many problems with corruption in general. I do not think they are all “branches of the same root” as the problems we have are very complex and are due to all sorts of factors…. and can not all be combed with the same brush.
The “hair problem” for me, is a luxury problem. These are issues that people that have eaten three times daily can afford to discuss. My hair has never defined my identity and neither has it been a significant part of my identity. I don’t place any value on hair in general, black or white. The problems we face as women in this world is enough. I don’t give a fuck about hair.
Honestly, I started reading the post but stopped at ‘half caste’. I literally just turned off there and then.
I’ve put up something on my facebook page about this hair issue too.
I like what the blogger said: I really do.
I love this post! I’m a relaxed haired lady myself, but I completely agree with letting other people do whatever makes them happy. It is a personal choice and I hate hearing one side bash the other for wearing their hair the way they do. Your hair is beautiful by the way!
Not sure how many of you commenting are Nigerian, but I specifically used the word half-caste because:
1. That is what mixed race people are called in Nigeria, and unlike the US/western world, in Nigeria “half-caste” does not have any kind of negative or prejudicial connotation.
2. The owner of this blog is Nigerian, and I believe she understands the above.
3. I was illustrating the literal thought process of Nigerians when they discriminate against fully black Nigerians in favour of mixed race Nigerians and white people. They literally revere the person for being the legendary “half caste”.
So, perhaps you stopped reading my comment at that point, but I did not say anything offensive.
Nigerians have never oppressed mixed race people. In fact Nigerians have a history of oppressing other Nigerians in favour of mixed race people.
It is appropriate to use the term in a Nigerian circle of discussion because this is the every day non-offensive, completely neutral terminology that Nigerians use to refer to mixed race people.
Would I use “half-caste” in an American circle of discussion? No. Because it is an offensive term in America.
However, everything I came here to discuss pertained directly to Nigeria and Nigerians in Nigeria.
I completely agree. It is her choice and whatever makes her feel beautiful and her best is up to her.