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"Natural Beauties Who Follow My Blog"

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Naturally Fine"

* Naturally Fine*
What’s up with natural hair?
/ "*So God created man in His own image*; in the image of God He
created him; male and female He created them."---Genesis 1:27 /
/"I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days
was seated; His [God’s] garment was white as snow, // *and the hair
of His head was like pure wool*…"---Daniel 7:19 /
/^" His [God’s] head and //*hair were white like wool*, as white as
snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire…"---Revelation 1:14/*/ /*

I’ll never forget the day that I shaved my head (for the purpose of
removing the perm from it) for the first time. I walked into my
school’s cafeteria to the gasp of women and the smirks of men. Some
of these college-educated individuals were even brilliant enough to
state the obvious: "Shellie, you cut your hair!" while others asked
what I was still trying to figure out for myself, "Why the heck did
you do that?"

It was many years later (ten to be exact) before I was able to come
to any sort of resolve---at least one I could be fully at peace with
and proud of. To be honest, my initial motivation was to fulfill the
desire of my boyfriend at the time---a northerner who found perms
and hair extensions to be an overly-dependant accessory for southern
women. Then, it was because my budget could better afford a one-time
fee for a really good pair of clippers over the $50-100 dollars it
cost every other week to go the beauty shop. But even through those
times, I was still not ready to free myself fully of chemical
treatments and so I sported a texturized mini-fro, which basically
means---yes, I still had a perm in my hair.

Looking back, I was confident enough to wear my mane short, but not
confident enough to wear it in its truest form; some people choose
to call it nappy, but I choose to call it natural. Ironically, it
wasn’t until one of my very first trips to my mother and
stepfather’s home in South Africa that I mustered up enough courage
to go without the texturizers and gels to which I had grown so
accustomed. "Shellie, you are so beautiful," my Zulu stepfather
said. "You don’t need all of that stuff."

My African-American mother agreed. "We African-American women have
been so disillusioned by thinking that we have to have some sort of
chemical in our hair to be attractive; that straight hair is ‘good
hair’. It wasn’t until I came out of the European society that I was
able to fully see and embrace our natural beauty without all of the
make-up and perms. We don’t need it. You don’t need it."

But whenever I retuned from the motherland, ironically many other
African-American women who claimed to be just as "conscious" as my
mother was on the issues of natural beauty and black pride were the
same ones who were manipulating me into thinking that indeed I /did/
need it: "You would be so cute if you would perm or at least press
your hair out"; "What do you have against perms?"; "Oh Lord, you
always have to be different from everyone else"; "You neo-soul types
kill me"; "A woman’s virtue is her hair, you know---grow it out";
and even a little girl who to this day continues to say, "I don’t
like your hair…you look like a boy" every time I see her.

I don’t know if it is southern oppression (I am a Nashvillian), the
pressures of society in Corporate America; the infiltrations of the
media whether it be print magazines or television (especially the
video chicks on BET and MTV); the upbringing of those from other
generations who perhaps were told that "nappy is ugly"; or simply
the personal preference to have straight locks rather than tight
curls (which are all naps are, by the way), but when someone is at a
place where they encourage others to stray from their God-given
right to be and look exactly the way God made them, something is
very wrong; with them, not the people who choose the natural lifestyle.
To make sure that it was not just a "southern thang", I did some
research and found that unfortunately, many women across the country
believe that "straight is great" and much more attractive than those
who opt for afros, locks, twists or non-synthetic styles.

Bill Gaskins, a photographer featured in the /Good Hair, Bad Hair /book
which addresses these very issues stated, "The title [of the book]
refers to the terms used by black women themselves to define
different types of hair. ‘Good’ hair is sleek, smooth, fine,
straight and long. ‘Bad’ hair is coarse, kinky, coiled short and
nappy. Such beliefs are obviously derived from a narrow definition
of beauty that is marketed and promoted in America’s fashion and
beauty industry. Their power as a raced-based measurement, however,
goes beyond a personal statement of choice in approaches to
hairstyle and exposes the social and political implications for
African-American culture."

Cultural historian, Bruce Tyler goes on to say that due to the
nineteenth-century pressure for African-Americans to "properly
groom" themselves, "When female slaves attempted to change their
nappy hair to good hair, they were hoping for inclusion through an
imitation into Western beauty standards. Hair was slicked in waves
with axle grease, wrapped with string to make it straight and
relaxed using concoctions of potatoes, potash, lye and heavy fat."

This concentration carried on into the twentieth-century with Madame
C.J. Walker’s invention of the straightening comb and the continuous
upgrades of lye perms which remain to be heavily popular even today
despite the warnings that pregnant women and girls under the age of
twelve should refrain from using them due to their hyper-sensitivity
to the chemicals, which should cause us all to ponder, if perms are
not good for them, what makes us think that all women are not
at-risk to some degree?

As a matter of fact, Nappturality.com states, "Around 75% of Black women in America regularly, permanently alter a genetic racial trait, their hair. In doing so, many suffer scalp problems, hair loss and chemical-related disorders," and "Chemically relaxed hair is not healthy hair, no matter what it looks like on the outside. Extra care and special damage control
measures must be employed to prevent the relaxed hair drying out and
breaking off."

However, the issue here is not whether or not one has the right to
have whatever style they wish whether it be permed, pressed,
colored, weaved or styled in its natural state. No, the real concern
is that it appears that many women feel the need to /defend/ their
desire to wear their hair in the state that God created it, rather
than succumbing to the pressures of tradition, society and other
women. The fact is, as black women, no matter what you personally
decide to do with your own hair, the /last /individuals to challenge
their sisters’ right to a natural style and the first who should to
come to the defense and encouragement of it should be the black woman.
So why don’t we do it? Is it possible that like so many other things
in life, we attack what we do not preference or personally
understand?

Moreover, like the film "Mean Girls", perhaps like the
high school cliques and college sororities that we were a part of in
our youth, could it be that we continue to confuse conformity and
individuality, believing that we all must look alike to fit in? Or
maybe, just maybe we are subconsciously threatened by anyone who
steps out and does what they want as it relates to self-expression
because there is a part of us who wishes we had the same creative
boldness and innovation.

The theories vary as much as the people who conjure them up, but
this piece is not to encourage the sisters who process their hair to
change their style any more than it is to make the natural sisters
appear better than the rest. If I did that, this whole recitation
would be pointless. What it is to do is remind women---all women
that beauty does not come in any one form and to be natural is not
being "rebellious", "un-kept" or "avoiding beauty’s fullest potential."
On the contrary.

Since the beginning---which was the Word, we were created in the
image of God---an image that Scripture describes as having hair like
wool (the dense, soft, curly hair of sheep---hmmm); moreover,
historians have documented the pressures that have come with living
in a Western civilization, including the preoccupation with the
chemical processing of the hair to look more like European women. As
the Word also says, with wisdom, we must also desire to obtain a
clear understanding.

Without a doubt we are all made in the image of God, which in turn
makes all women beautiful, but there is something special about a
woman who chooses to look and then live (a whole ‘nother piece) as
God created her, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. Natural
doesn’t just mean "nappy" because the reality is that so many of us
have other heritages running through our veins that causes a variety
of textures as it relates to our hair. However, living naturally
/does mean/ that we will not put ourselves in physical or financial
harm just to look contrary to our original creation and that we will
refrain from denouncing those who do not have the desire to succumb
to modern-day peer pressures of America’s distorted and oftentimes
contradictory definition of what’s in and what’s out as it relates
to being beautiful.

Because the reality is, when you truly believe in your own
individual beauty---the one you see before the Almay, MAC or Cover
Girl; the one who doesn’t frown or tear up at the sight of new
growth or being without hair color or extensions; the one who can
smile at her skin tone, facial structure and size; the one who
commits to celebrating her good points as well as her "flaws"
without reservation, apology or the applause of others---you can’t
help but embrace the originality of others.

Especially when they can do the same thing. With their hair…or
otherwise.
©Shellie R. Warren/2004

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ARTICLE?

7 comments:

Khandi said...

Amen!

Carol said...

To God be the glory, this is well said. I believe that it should be bottled and sprinkled all over evryone.(LOL)We should be proud of what God gave us, because we are the only race of people that is blessed with the naturally coiled hair aka nappy, full lips, big hips, brown skin that others pay good money to get and some of us are trying to do everything we can to get rid of it. What is good hair, good hair is just that good it is hair. Keep on being you, for I appreciate the wisdom you offer.
Peace and blessing.
Simplynappy@blogspot.com

Aya said...

How I wish more of us would embrace our own natural beauty and stop trying to measure ourselves based on European hair standards. Many of us are trying so hard to defeat the "naps" through perming, weaving, etc. It's kind of sad. Our hair is "good hair". Unfortunately, many of us no little how to take care of it. This was a great read. Thanks for sharing it with us.

robinc said...

You are a gifted writer!I am learning to embrase what I see in the mirror. Thank you

Renea said...

Loved the article! Succinctly describes everything that I've experienced too. I wish that wasn't the case. Hopefully, when I encounter people like that I am able to ask them why MY hair bothers them so much. To point of that their disdain is THEIR issue, not mine. It is so sad that we are in the 21st century and still enmeshed in the pathology and legacy wrought by slavery and racism. Sadly too, my African women have been indoctrinated into the same warped thinking. In capitalistic form, we have marketed our degradation to them.

n'Drea said...

Hey, I'm back :) Thanks again for standing in the gap for JA. Love you much.

BTW, one of my goals is to visit South Africa one day. I'm praying about it.

When I saw that verse in the Bible that mentions Jesus' woolly hair, I was like, "Say what?" Woolly hair? Nappy hair? God?

Now I know God is not defined by colour or race or gender, but it does make you wonder about Him having woolly hair. At least, I do.

Can I also add that I absolutely loathe all those pictures of Him looking all blonde and blue-eyed and totally effeminate? When I was a little girl, I thought He looked like that. No wonder I had issues about my blackness and having nappy hair. But thank God, now I'm FREE!

Chosen Vessel said...

"Ladies" thank you all for sharing your thoughts.....Let me throw my AMEN in there to, I think it is a great article.