Hair has always been a sensitive topic for women of colour. Historically, hair is rooted in social, cultural, and political complexity whereby straight and wavy hair was seen as more acceptable.
My hair has never defined me. This is primarily the reason I find the ongoing relaxed vs natural debate perplexing. To me, the way in which a woman chooses to wear her hair is her personal choice.
I am a black woman who chooses to apply a chemical relaxer to my hair. This does not make me in denial of my blackness nor does it mean that I want to conform to a European standard of beauty. It is not an expression of self-hate. It simply means that I am completely inadequate when it comes to styling hair. The fact that 99.9% of the time my hair is worn in a bun is a testament to this. I relaxed my hair at the age of 18. It was not forced upon me. I will continue to make that choice until it no longer becomes my preference. Other women may choose a relaxer based on a lack of education on natural hair care. Sometimes, other lifestyle choices may factor into the choice to relax hair.
I admire the fact that more women of colour are embracing natural hair. The versatility of natural hair is amazing. The ‘natural hair movement’ has exploded on social media and on the web. As a result, education on textured hair care has never been more readily available. I enjoy reading the content of Black Girl with Long Hair among others. Additionally, I respect the choice not to be exposed to the harsh chemicals in a relaxer.
Why should it have to be a relaxed vs natural hair debate though? Why do we put so much emphasis on hair? Frankly, I have never been bothered by what’s on another woman’s head. I am, however, bothered by the amount of hair policing done by hair extremists on both sides of the divide. If you search the plethora of blogs, websites, and YouTube channels devoted to natural hair care, I can assure you that you will see judgement and snide remarks by ‘born-again naturals’. On the other hand, I still hear and see criticism of natural hair by women with relaxed hair who think that their hair is somehow better or more beautiful. Sadly, there are many who still view black hair in its natural state to be unacceptable and unprofessional.
I think that it is absolutely ludicrous that hair continues to be a topic that divides our community. I cannot fathom how shaming and judging another woman because of how she wears her hair could ever be deemed appropriate. Yes, I re-evaluate my entire existence when I am at the salon with relaxer scorching the very depths of my soul BUT relaxed hair remains the best choice for me. I will not allow anyone to dictate how I choose to wear my hair. Neither should you.