Team Natural or Team Relaxed? What started out as women cheerfully showing pride in their locks has turned into another divisive tool amongst women of color. Last week I wrote two articles for Madame Noire; the first article was about having realistic expectations for natural hair, which sparked a nice conversation amongst women with different textures and how they were learning to work with their hair. The next day my article was posted on how to wear a good weave on a budget, and boy oh boy, did I cause a firestorm on the Facebook page. Almost immediately someone asked why we weren’t encouraging women to wear their real hair. And thus it began a mini comment battle between women who enjoy wearing extensions and relaxers and women who enjoy toting natural hair. No one realized that the author (me, of course) giving advice on weaves was someone who had been natural for many years, just a day after providing tips for those with natural hair.
A few days later at the 2012 Met Gala, Solange Knowles hit the red carpet in a dazzling canary yellow Rachel Roy gown and a fluffy curly afro. Every other natural woman online was ohhing and ahhing while reposting her picture to their respective social media accounts. She looked beyond fabulous…with her wig on, but because it looked like a real afro, no one cared. And that should be an example of how contrite this schism between “team natural” and “team non-natural” is. While it’s great to have a support system when going natural, to bully others into feeling like they are less than or don’t love themselves because of how they choose to manage their own hair is foul. It’s also hypocritical when we are praising the natural hair “image” of celebrities who are really rocking weaves, but dogging out the real world women who wear them as well. Weaves can work as a great protective style that allow women to switch up their look and explore different looks without damaging their real hair (if done right of course). The key is to have healthy hair, not just natural hair.
And women who aren’t natural have played into the drama as well. There’s no need to be combative by spreading negative stereotypes of women who choose to wear their hair natural. There is nothing butch, boyish or dirty about natural hair, as it can be just as feminine and hot as any other hairstyle. Natural women can achieve the same lengths of “long hair don’t care” as those who are relaxed. And when it all comes down to it, in order to maintain and grow long healthy hair, whether relaxed or natural, we are following the same hair care standards. One of the most preeminent books that has shaped many of the natural hair gurus’ ideology was written by a woman with relaxed hair, Ultra Black Hair Growth by Cathy Howe. It details a hair care regimen for growing relaxed hair that is parallel to the regimen for natural hair. It’s really all just hair.
One of the most beautiful factors of being a woman of color is the versatility that exists among us. Black women are the most diverse group of women and our hair can do just about anything. Our hair is one way to show our versatility. Just as one should not dictate that a person should only wear her hair straight or tell someone they look manly and hard with natural hair, one shouldn’t dictate that everyone needs to be natural and that you are trying to be something you’re not if you choose not to. For some, that is just not a realistic expectation as this point. You should always respect the comfort levels of others, and that consideration carries over to hair.
Hair is an extension of ones self. Hair does not make the person. In fact, character and confidence can completely change the shape of a hairstyle. So let’s stop telling someone else how one should wear their hair, and stop trying to insult each other to make ourselves feel better. Let’s stop defining ourselves by the nature of our hair. Live freely and direct your energy into helping others build up their good character and confidence.