“Nappily Ever After” (Hair Raising Conversations) by Minna Salami

Hello TTT Ladies,

I feel this article relates to our Sept 2012 book of the month “Nappily Ever After” by Trish R. Thomas

Hair may be seen as a woman’s crowning glory, but in African heritage societies it is much more than that. In all its variations:extended, plaited in an endless variety of patterns, decorated with cultural adornments, locked, naturally loose,sparkling with oil, or carefree and frizzy, black hair styles and particularly women’s are not only a question of style and beauty but also of culture, politics, and history.

The hair conversation-so common amongst black women that it is tiresome to others and some black women themselves is actually one that I believe is not only desirable but also important.

When black women discuss hair, we are talking aesthetics but we are also in often-subtle ways discussing political, sociocultural and historical events.

Implied in our conversations are a myriad of stories, historical and contemporary. From the vast numbers of Afro-wearing black women who until this day are harassed by police or airport security to the :good hair”-phenomenon.

When we talk about hair, we are also analysing career choices; coming to grips with whether and/or why it is still considered unprofessional in some circles to wear an afro or locks.

We are reassuring each other that we won’t judge each other by how we wear our hair. As singer Erykah Badu, whose career has seen her in both in many hair styles as in hair controversies said “everyone with locks ain’t for the cause,and everyone with a perm ain’t for the fall”

We are posing the questions:

Straight hair is polished and curly hair is wild, is that a fact or lie? why is it that in the 21st century, relaxers and weaves are standard hairdo for a majority of black women with the sales of home relaxers totalling approximately $50 million a year in the US alone.

Why are some black women who wear their hair naturally seen to be non-conformist and radical?

Why are some black women with  straightened hair more visible in the corporate world, in pop, as broadcasters, in the White House?

When we ask our friends and acquaintances how long they have been natural, or cropped, or locked, their answers also tell us other things; they reveal how society has reacted to various choices.

A study in 2006 conducted by the University of Alabama, showed that hair texture was perceived as even more important for society’s approval than skin colour, which indicates that a dark complexion person with straight hair might at times have an advantage over a lighter skinned person with tight curls.

“If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed” the comedian Paul Mooney said in the documentary “Good Hair” “If your is nappy, they’re not happy.

Anyone who thought such preconceptions were outdated or irrelevant in contemporary western society would have been reminded otherwise by such events as Glamour magazine editor saying in 2207 that Afro hair and locks were a big “no-no” in the do’s and don’t of corporate fashion, or the negative reactions by some Republicans to Malia Obama hair twists last year. One thing seems certain as mane-queen Diana Ross said “Hair has always been important.”

As in other politics, where you have a spectrum of voters who debate, agree, disagree, and share some values black hair politics is too contrasting.

Not everyone finds implied profundities lurking underneath the conversation, Some find it to be superficial and exploitative. Why are black women so vain about their coiffures, they wonder? Are they simply more obsessed with their follicles than other women? They roll their eyes in a here we-go-again manner as soon as the topic approaches.

Of course the black hair conversation doesn’t always escapes shallowness, but more often than it goes beyond vanity, it’s something to bond on because it contains a shared cultured experience.  After all, we can’t just go from believing black hair is unruly/ugly/unprofessional, you name it, to loving our hair without some sort of discussion about the transitional process (literally).

There is a lot of pent-up emotion wrapped in conversations of hair. Regardless of the style they choose, many black women still feel the need to continually justify it. When the complex social political concerns that have to do with black hair aesthetics are no longer part of our social fabric, then I reckon the conversation will gradually fade out

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2 thoughts on ““Nappily Ever After” (Hair Raising Conversations) by Minna Salami

  1. Pingback: A History of Black Hair From the 1400s to Present « Hair & Now

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