Lions, and Tigers, and Hair: The Roaring Opinions That Have Created Hair Trauma in Black Women
Lord, it’s about time we go deep! We’re three articles into our new “Faded Females” series, and I would be remiss not to take it back to our roots to talk more on hair trauma in black women. And while I’ve already spoken about redefining feminine cuts and hairstyles, it’s important that we take a step back and actually look at our history too.
Negative Internal Hair Dialogues
Before we dive into how and why hair trauma may exist, let’s briefly talk about the internal dialogue (and feelings) a black woman might be having with herself as she navigates through said trauma:
- Self-Doubt and Insecurity: "My natural hair isn't pretty enough," or "I look better with straight hair." These thoughts reflect internalized standards of beauty that favor Eurocentric features.
- Fear of Judgment or Discrimination: "If I wear my hair natural, will I be seen as unprofessional at work?" or "Will people think I'm not taking care of my hair?" These concerns stem from the fear of negative perceptions and discrimination in professional or social settings.
- Frustration and Exhaustion: "Why can't my hair just be easy to manage?" or "I'm tired of spending so much time and money on my hair." These thoughts can arise from the often time-consuming and costly process of hair maintenance and styling.
- Longing for Acceptance: "I wish I could just be myself without worrying about my hair," or "I hope one day my hair will be accepted as it is." These reflect a desire for societal acceptance of natural hair and a release from the pressure to conform.
- Resentment Towards Societal Standards: "It's not fair that I have to change my hair to fit in," or "Why are other hair types seen as normal but not mine?" These thoughts indicate a critical awareness of and resentment towards societal beauty standards.
- Identity Conflict: "Am I betraying my heritage by altering my natural hair?" This reflects the internal conflict between personal choice and cultural identity, especially in communities where hair is a significant cultural symbol.
These thoughts and feelings can be deeply personal and vary widely among individuals. They highlight the complex emotional landscape that black women navigate in relation to their hair, influenced by a history of racial discrimination and contemporary beauty standards.
The Root(s) of Hair Trauma
- Historical Trauma and Colonial Legacies: Colonialism and slavery have historically demonized and ridiculed natural black hair. This legacy has propagated standards of beauty that prioritize Eurocentric features, leading to a long-standing devaluation of natural African hair textures and styles.
- Pressure to Conform to Eurocentric Standards: Some black women feel compelled to straighten their hair or wear wigs/weaves to align with societal beauty norms. This pressure can lead to a disconnection from their cultural identity and heritage and also impose financial and time burdens.
- Chemical and Heat Damage: The frequent use of chemical relaxers and heat styling to achieve straight hair can lead to severe hair and scalp damage. This includes hair breakage, loss, and scalp burns, often resulting in long-term or permanent hair damage.
- Discrimination and Microaggressions in the Workplace and Schools: Black women often face discrimination and microaggressions related to their hair in professional and educational settings. This includes being deemed “unprofessional” for natural hairstyles, or facing policies that explicitly or implicitly discriminate against natural or traditional African hairstyles.
- Psychological Impact and Internalized Racism: The constant scrutiny and negative perceptions surrounding black women's hair can lead to internalized racism, low self-esteem, and identity struggles. Many black women may feel they must alter their natural hair to be accepted, leading to a complex relationship with their self-image and cultural identity.
There is no denying that hair trauma in black women is more than just about hair – it's about history, identity, and fighting against a tide of unfair beauty standards.
The remedy? Rock your hair however you want! Step into it fully, and own it!
It's about time we all embrace and celebrate the unique beauty in every curl, kink, and wave — TOGETHER.
Let's make the shift, not just in style, but in attitude too.