Braids, kinky hair, and dreadlocks are often looked at as unprofessional in the workforce (one FORMER Glamour staffer stated that afro's were a "Don't"). And there has been many a court case where an African American has claimed discrimination because their boss has a policy against braids in the office. What stings is, how does going with, instead of against, the way you were naturally created to look become an offense to others? The reality is, although few now are going to outright say, don't wear your hair natural, you know that the higher you want to go the more you're going to have to play the hair game. Until you get Oprah like-status, you can't just do what cha wanna (at least not without a fight).Having naturally, unrelaxed curly hair, I float between the "natural look" and the straight look (when I flat iorn my hair) often. I can say that my supervisor has mentioned that she really likes the straight look while never mentioning my curly look. Meaning, I guess I should only wear my hair straight to work. I've even gone for job interviews as a student with the same company with both styles at different, and guess what? I got the job when my hair was straight but not when curly (of course there could have been other variables but still makes me wonder). Furthermore, the people judging where...black women. I never felt unprofessional with my curly hair with my white employers but not the same with black women. I get it, they feel they are in a better place to tell me what's acceptable but still...
Not to be vain, but I think my curly hair is cute. I get compliments on it all the time by all races and genders. But I tell you who I don't get compliments from...black men. Unless those men are "bohemian" themselves (for example have dreadlocks) they aren't with my do. I get flattery from every race of men, even biracial men but not the brothas. I've had black men pull my hair (more than once) to see if it's real. I've met a guy twice, once with curly hair once with straight and lets say the reaction was not the same. It's got me to the point that I'm paranoid. Fearful of going on a first date with my hair in its natural state. At best I'll wear it in a pony tail natural, can't have too much curl and scare them off! It's a shame really because what does that say that black men don't like your hair but other men do?
In the Glamour article, one woman with dreadlocks stated the same thing, saying black men made her feel unattractive yet this is not an issue with the white man she's now married to.
I had a girl of another ethnic group ask me, "why do black women have short hair? why doesn't their hair grow long like others?" I say they do. Have you ever seen a person with dreadlocks down their back? That's their hair! And not just dreadlocks, I have many friends with long hair, all their own. It's called taking good care of your hair. Which, sorry to say, many of us don't due to the harsh chemicals and heat we torture our hair with trying to assimilate into the Westernized style of beauty (I'm not pointing fingers, it is what it is, as they say, I do it too). But on the flip side, our African ancestry, for the most part was such that our hair grows out instead of down. There was a reason for that , at one time.
But I've also had black women ask me about my hair- "how do you get it curly like that? Do you roller set it, straw set it?" No, I say, I simply wash and blow dry. It's natural. When I told this particular woman that, she didn't believe me. God forbid black women have different textures of hair! Could it be a weave? Nope, though nothing wrong with that. Although, many men don't like them (you'd be surprised how many women, and not just black women thank you, rock the weave). Women don't do it for you, they put the weave in for their own satisfaction.
Then I get the ever popular (especially from black folks) "what other races do you have in you?" I ask "What makes you think I'm mixed?" "It's the hair" they say. As if they are searching for an exception to the "hair rule".
I had a friend of another ethnicity once tell me, after seeing my process of straightening my hair, in a round about way, that she was glad she had her hair (she was Asian). I tried not be offened, sometimes it does take blood sweat and tears to straighten unrelaxed hair but damn! Then I had a roommate in college, a white girl, who was fascinated with my process of doing my hair. I wasn't too bothered but (and this is shared experience with many black women who have had white female roomates), doing your hair becomes a performance complete with a question and answer period. I took it in stride- no I don't wash my hair every day (it would get too dry and break off), I use mosterizer to put oil in my hair. My roomate was most fascinated with the ever popular wrap (a technique used by Latinas (particularly Dominicans) and Blacks alike). She thought it was so great that when unwrapped my hair would be ready to go with a shine to boot. She wanted me to do that to her hair...it didn't work out so easily.
In general black women have a special bond with our hair because it goes against the norm and the farther from norm it goes the "worse" it supposedly becomes (aka bad hair). The kinker it is (and most like our African ancestry), the more society has taught us to hate it. Perhaps we are the only race of people that does that to ourselves (I mean I have heard of other races saying they have bad hair days but the term good hair isn't really used, maybe curly haired women of other races may face this image?).
Political vs. Creative
There are times when I feel more empowered with my natural do but no I'm not making a statement, fist in the air, bring down the Establishment/man. I simply feel relaxers damage the hell out of your hair and it grows oh so much faster without it. I'm not a spoken word artist, although I am an artist, I like my 70's long flowy skirt but I also like my pencil skirt. Some people wear their hair natural as a political or spiritual statement other's just like the change it can offer. Few other groups can really do as many things with their hair (successfully) as black women can. So with all out trials and tribulations with our hair that is something to clap for. I simply like change. I cut my hair short, I let it grow long, I (gasp) wear a weave a time or two. I can go for a full Beyonce blonde one minute and tone it down and go clean black hair like Alicia Keys and I've even gone red. Hey, It's a woman's prerogative to change her damn mind...