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Natural Hair and the Myth of Militancy

When I first went natural – back before Nappturality.com in 2000, I remember the hostility I and many women like me encountered about it. 

No matter what internet forum we went on, all without exception carried this attitude that those of us who went natural by choice, and more specifically those of us with that kinky, afro hair type considered to be a “bad grade of nappy” automatically had some kind of superiority complex if we weren’t on a quest for curl definition.  On the other side of that box, we were considered the Black bohemians -  musicians, artists, revolutionaries, women of undefined sexuality and those bucking the social order by making a statement with our hair.

 

I can tell you that this perception and the need some of the anointed guardians of the Rules of Black Women’s Hair to box us all in was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Nappturality.com. It is still one of the forces that keep me building every single day.

blackpowerpinBack in those early days of the 2000s we were considered “militant”.  That term was thrown around Black forums on a daily basis. It was as if choosing not to Europeanize our hair and wear it with its texture on show was something unforgivable - why are we showing our secret?

We did not see Black women on TV with natural hair. We did not see our reflections in advertisements, in board rooms, even the music industry outside of Reggae was a no go zone for natural hair. We didn’t see ourselves on the catwalk, on shampoo bottles, in commercials for either high-end cosmetics or dishwashing liquid.

We didn’t have products geared towards our hair, or afro t-shirts proclaiming our love of our hairselves.

We only had each other. And most often, “each other” was limited to our internet friends as our families and real life friends were not wearing their natural hair, or understood why we did what we did.

Militancy as a noun is defined as “a person who uses militant methods in pursuit of an objective. In general usage, a militant person is a confrontational person who does not necessarily use violence. Militant can refer to individuals or groups displaying aggressive behavior or attitudes.”

Using that definition, I can say that those who saw (or see us) as militant, may in fact be looking at our wearing of natural hair as confrontational enough to them and to society in general to be considered a militant action.  So in line with that, some assume that we must have an attitude that reflects what they see as a confrontational thing.

For those who have not yet had the experience of going natural after wearing relaxed hair for sometimes decades, let me explain something to you... Once you make that leap from a long-term relaxer to wearing your natural hair, it’s not just about hair anymore.

“Nappturality” is a journey. Many of us have had our hair straightened our entire lives. It doesn’t matter the process whether it be hot combs and curling tongs, blow driers and flat irons or through chemicals. Our hairstyles were a big part of us little Black girls when growing up - part of our self image of being cute was crowned with our straightened hair.

These images are extremely hard to break, especially when it is so ingrained in us for such a long time. The process of becoming napptural (napptural meaning having natural hair and wearing it) is as much a transition of the mind as it is the hair. Along the way we often have experiences which cause emotional responses, sometimes good, sometimes bad. We may face rejection from our partners or even ridicule from our friends.

Along with all this, we have to re-learn everything we thought we knew about our hair and this is why those who are becoming napptural seek out the help and support of others in a similar mindset.  And it is also why we have groups, forums, get together and communicate around our hair.

Naturals may tell you they feel stronger inside after becoming napptural, or have more self-confidence. This is not a by-product of having natural hair; this is a direct result of their journey to their own nappturality. And whether or not a woman keeps wearing their natural hair after the journey, the strength that came from the knowledge that her natural hair is not BAD hair remains with her for life.

There is nothing militant about wearing natural hair. Militancy comes from the individual, not the hairstyle. Don’t assume a natural haired woman is a Blacker-than-thou militant and don’t assume a relaxed haired woman is aspiring to be White. All this does is repel us from each other.

Thankfully, these days as natural hair becomes more and more accepted and women from all aspects of life and society are embracing their natural tresses, the militancy idea is losing ground. We have certainly come a long way from those early days a decade ago but as I look around, the acceptance of our natural-born hair still has a very long way to go.

 

 

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Last modified on Friday, 20 December 2013 02:41
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