I’ve noticed a mentality that up until I got my current protective style I believed only a handful of people had. Turns out, more people than previously thought have a strange way of looking at natural hair thus imposing expectations on me and on how I decide to wear my hair. All of which has led to me to ask the question:
What’s the definition of being natural?
Let me answer that question from my point of view. I’m natural because I have chosen to not permanently alter my hair structure via chemicals. However, it’s clear to me now that for some people that’s not their definition of being natural. There have been times when I’d see someone whilst I’m wearing a weave and they’d be shocked and ask where’s the fro?! or I thought you were natural. What perplexes me is even if you’re using extensions to achieve certain styles, some people still consider them more “natural” styles than weave. Why is a weave considered less natural than braids? Cornrows? I get great responses (from people I know and blog followers) when I decide to wear cornrows yet when I wear a weave – I’m no longer natural. Really? How so? What about my weave makes me not natural anymore? And please note, this reaction seems to differ according to the style of the weave. Apparently, it’s ok to rock a curly, wavy or afro weave but when I choose to have a straight weave I’m not longer ‘representing’. Again, really? Does it not count that I’ve chosen not to straighten my own hair to look like the weave I’m wearing? I’ve heard some people claim I can’t be natural because I wear a lot of make up, or I had dyed my hair, or I don’t use all natural products etc. etc. etc. In that same vein can you not argue that manipulating your hair to look longer, fluffier, more defined via twist outs isn’t how your hair sprouts from your scalp thus isn’t your natural hair? I understand that people’s definitions will differ and I’m open to that of course – but where do you draw the line. But what irks me is when other people impose their understanding and definitions on me and expect me to live up to those expectations. People have decided that I’m the ‘fro girl’. So if I’m not rocking that look or anything ‘similar’ I’ve sold out. Hmmm.
So, I decided to finally write this post and pose this question because last weekend I met one of these people in the flesh. At my fiancé’s birthday gathering, a friend of a friend sat next to me and overheard me chatting to my friends about my blog.
“What do you blog about?” He said.
“My fro and I, so my natural hair” I replied.
“So did you leave your afro at home?” He asked too familiarly.
“umm…no (with a very real “you’re incredibly rude” intonation to my voice) it’s underneath this (smile to show I’m not impressed but if you didn’t know me you’d think I was being polite).
Now this guy goes on to explain how if there was a group against women who wear weave then he’d join it in a nutshell. All the while I’m looking at him in a how did we get to this one way conversation manner. After he was done weave bashing, well not really – I interrupted him to say that I know my hair and come winter time, I need to have a style that protects it from the cold. Of course, he looked at me blankly at that point. Then I thought to myself, why am I justifying MY hair choice to a man I’ve known for all but 5 minutes? Because I felt judged. By him judging me, it shows how shallow he is by using my hair as the determining factor of my character. Don’t put me in a box. And just as soon as this guy decided he was familiar enough with me to insult me, I stopped talking, looked the other way and disengaged from this meaningless conversation.
Up until now, I used to think that whilst I’m in a protective style, I shouldn’t really share photos of myself or any experiences having to do with my protective style days. But I’ve changed my mind. My blog is my space. I made it public to share my hair journey with people who are interested in it. At the moment, protective styling – whether it’s fake hair put into braids, an afro weave or a straight one – is a part of my journey so I’m going to be sharing it. Just as not everyone approved or liked my hair before I went natural, when I first went natural, or even now, not everyone will like my hair. And just as I ended that conversation with this guy, I simply said “it’s MY hair”.
No one has to endorse your hair. Who is this guy or anyone else to dictate what sort of hairstyle should make me feel good about myself? The way I see it, it’s all about the intention of why you’re wearing your hair the way you are. I’ve never and I endeavour not to ever make anyone feel that going natural is the only way to go. Do it if you really want to. Relax your hair if you really want to. Do YOU ladies. I just want to show other women that they have A CHOICE in how they can rock their hair. And my definition of natural is one of them.
So, I pose it to you – what’s your definition of being natural?
I am late to this conversation, but I want to contribute, haha! I think being natural should mean whatever the woman wearing the hair wants it to mean. As India Arie said, 'We are not our hair'. Personally, I do not see weaves/relaxers and braids as the same thing, because braids, cornrows (done with extensions) and dreads/locs are traditional African hairstyles, that people have been wearing on the continent for centuries. Weaves and relaxers were created to allow black women to alter themselves to conform to Eurocentric notions of beauty so they could get ahead in the workplace, etc. So to me, they are not quite the same. That being said, that is just how I view it. No one is allowed police anyone's else hair and dictate what is natural and what is not. If it makes you feel good, rock your weave! Just know the history behind it and where it comes from, so the choice is conscious.
My Fro and I is one of my fave blogs, Aisha! Always great convos going on here. Stop by mine and check it out, if you'd like: http://coffeeandtvandme.blogspot.com/.
Hi Aisha, yo! this guy *scratching my head*, he was going to know me..yo!! he was going to respect the ground i walk on. am happy you tried to be polite so that you can enjoy the party.
Natural hair is embrasing what you naturally have, i dont relax my hair because naturally i have soft/fluffy hair and i dont have a problem with people relaxing theirs my hairliner is sensitive and i dont see any problem when people doing it, actually i wish i can rock it as protactive style..unfortunatley hairliner limits my wish.
Lol, writing this post has gotten me over the foolishness that is this guy's mind lol. Thanks for commenting!
Do you girl, in the words of India Arie, "I'm not my hair, I am a soul that lives within…." So don't worry about nay sayers that define themselves by hair texture! Great article
Being natural to me is simply not doing any forms of relaxing/texlaxing etc. I'm fine with hair colour as long as it isn't damaging to the health of my hair. I'm sure a lot of us have been through what you went through – I guess it comes with the territory and also people assuming the know what the journey is about. Bet you he didn't even know what you meant with protective styling!
Do YOU girl!
Ohhh I didn't even confuse his little mind with the term 'protective styling'!! I wasn't going to sit there and educate him on anything – would've just been a waste of my precious time. And you bet, I'm doing me!!
Gurl! My friend was deemed "naturally non-compliant" because she was wearing makeup. *rolls eyes* Another friend who's natural was disapproving towards me because I had a wig on – mind you, she braids and twists her hair with extensions. Her reasoning was that braids or twists only work on African/black hair, so it's not the same as having a weave *insert straight face*
Btw, I put up a post on my personal blog about the definition of natural hair, being the hair that grows out of your head and isn't permanently altered – and I got all kinds of negative feedback, because here in Nigeria, they call relaxed hair 'natural' because it grows out of their head… not like that, it doesn't! But I was simply stating my opinion and I was called stuck up! Well, at the end of the day, we decided to just go with Unprocessed and Processed hair.
Thanks for commenting! Woooow…stuck up? Really? Why can't we just be? But yeah that's an interesting angle…is natural hair what comes out of your scalp or hair that is not chemically processed. Hmm…very interesting. I may pose it to my other readers. Because all this time we're referring to natural hair as untouched hair when in fact others are even calling relaxed hair natural. Your friend with the extensions who criticised you for wearing a wig – there's nothing to stand on in that argument. Dreads also 'work' on white people yet we Black people rock them all the time without being told they're trying to be white…
I can totally relate to the predicament you found yourself in. Like with many things in life; people will always want to impose their beliefs on you. What frustrates me, is that even though they never have the facts straight, or don't understand the reason behind something, that does not stop them from having their uninformed opinions.
I've had relaxed hair, then started texlaxing and now I'm "natural"; in the sense that I don't use relaxer. I however still use shampoos,conditioners and other hair related, (not necessarily all natural-organic) products. I think the nitty gritties are for those whose identity perhaps lies is in their relationship with their hair, and if so kudos to them. But, personally I'm of the opinion that ones hair is on their head, and what they do with it is their prerogative.
Thanks for the comment Nas. I don't get the whole unsolicited opinion sharing, it's actually grinding my gears lately. And most of the time, it's when they just want to appear as if they know something when in fact they have no clue – case in point with this guy.
Beautiful post! The only thing that defines natural hair for me is hair that is not chemically straightened i.e no relaxer or texturizer full stop! Colour, weaves, braids and twists with extensions, and wigs are all part of the versatility of our hair and don't make one any less natural. Cause the hair underneath is still unaltered. I too love both relaxed and natural hair that is healthy, even though mine is natural. People need to open their minds a bit more smh..
"People need to open their minds a bit more smh.." my point exactly! Thanks for weighing in 🙂
Good article. I also agree with your definition that natural hair is hair that has not been altered chemically to be straight. I colour my locs regularly but I still consider myself to be natural. I guess at the end of the day you must just do you.
Thanks for reading Nangamso. You have to end up doing you cos clearly everyone has their own definition of what's natural. So subjective.
I'm very shocked at the mentality people have :O how are braids any more "natural" than a weave when braids are done with some of the most synthetic materials out there?… it's a personal protective style preference and if I want to have straight, blond, long weave, all the way to my butt then be it! I haven't had a weave in a long time, not because I think it's not natural, but because I didn't feel like it. That is the beauty of African hair, versatility!
P.s I love the bang,looks great 🙂
Thanks Pretty M. Yes, why shy away from our versatility? I wonder if those same people would see me one day with my own natural hair straightened and still lambast me for wearing fake hair when in fact, even our own natural hair is so versatile. It just puzzles me.
My definition of natural is not relaxing your hair. Antthing else, imo is natural. I have never done a sew in weave, but I consider it a protective style. Do you, boo boo lol
Ditto and amen!
I've also been ambushed cos I just put a weave now after I had a stint of dreadlocks but that's how every one saw it, however, for me it is was simply twisting and plaiting it, the back to my Afro, now am classified as confused apparently I must make up my mind weather I want the Afro or not so natural hair!!!
And as I say to them, if wearing a hat makes me less natural cos I want to shield and protect my hair from the blazing sun, I see no difference in wearing a weave!!!
Umm…why not have the choice to have a variety of styles? Putting a weave on doesn't mean you've decided to get rid of your fro lol! Contrary to popular belief…And yes the word "ambushed" is so on point! I also feel the same way! Thanks for the comment Dudu 😉
"The bigger the hair the more you are natural" so if its slick you not natural! and I bet if you were wearing a Kinkycurly weave he would be so happy and wont even think its a weave! i recently posted some weave pics on some social networks and even when i straightened my hair using rollersets in a video, people gave me their piece of mind and was not a pleasant sight at all: how i wished i had a caucasian side or caucasian hair or how im disappointing the natural hair community…REALLY?
this is why i will always remain firm on "DO YOU"….. surely your gorgeous fro that we all love is thanks to the way you care for it (no matter what technique it is). how people perceive an attachment to social network Usernames and blog titles or even in conversations is simply ridiculous! after replying to 2 ladies, i literally gave up and didnt bother adress anymore comments on how i am "damaging my curls and my mind". But when i do a Blowout, I have never received a bad comment that i am damaging my kinks or curls ….
to me being Natural is: when you are not walking in anyones shadow! Do you! its free World.
Amazing article, Thank you.
Hey Fanta! Thanks for weighing in. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who receives fire for wearing my hair straight – what's up with that? I just don't know how we became so entrenched in what people's expectations of natural hair are. Can we not define it differently? Surely the choice at the end of the day must be ours. Hmmmm…
*Round of Applause!!*
I've noticed this, too. Any protective style that seems "ethnic" is OK, but as soon as you get a straight weave or wig, then there's a problem… then you're not "natural." Then, you're trying to be something that you're not. It's all a bunch of nonsense. When you go natural, some people will make you feel as though you bear this badge of honor that you must uphold at all times; this mindset is senseless. No one ever said that all naturals want nothing to do with weaves; we just don't want chemically straightened hair… that's it! Nothing more and nothing less. A lot of the people who make these stupid comments don't have natural hair and don't understand how time consuming and tiring it can be at times for many women. We need breaks every once in awhile, and however we choose to have a break from our hair is our choice and our business. I've just learned not to entertain people who clearly don't know what they're talking about because if they did, they wouldn't utter such foolishness. And like the saying goes, their unsolicited opinions aren't paying my bills. 😉
Thanks for weighing in Vanessa! Glad I'm not the only one with the same reactions from people. And I was thinking the same thing about how it's the people who make such comments who have no inkling of what being natural is about. SMH.