What Judging my Hair Says about You

Photo credit: Carrie Mae Weems

“I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.”

 bell hooks

If you are a woman of color, no matter how you style your hair, someone will be offended. Rock a perm? You have no idea who you are. Love your weaves? Well, you just don’t love your hair. Embrace your natural hair texture? Some women and men of color label it as unattractive. Everyone, it seems, has an opinion on women of color and our hair.

This topic remains a staple in conversations with my girlfriends, Mom, co-workers, and of course at beauty salons across America, and no doubt, around the world. Countless books by renowned authors such as bell hooks, and profound visual artists like Carrie Mae Weems address how beauty for women of color is defined in a Eurocenteric and patriarchal culture.

The Afrocentric among us view loving our natural hair as a panacea to the lack of self love. If we begin by understanding history, and reject the chains of self hatred, we can change so much in our community, they proclaim.

Folks on the other side of the argument articulate, at times, a kind of historical amnesia. It’s just hair, they scream. How I choose to wear my hair has little to do with white supremacy, racism, capitalism, or any other ism. This of course ignores the real impact of colonization on the collective psyches of people of color.

Still, for me, both of these perceptions are somewhat limited; human nature and our view of ourselves is richly complex with multiple layers. Any kind of fundamentalism, which by its nature must define one or several kinds of behaviors as wrong, limits our humanity and freedom to empathize with others.

When you place me in a box, because I do not adhere to your myopic definition of beauty or self acceptance, you speak volumes about yourself, and a need to define an “other” as inferior to your “enlightened state.”

We are all on a journey of self love, whether you are walking along that road with an Afro or weave, it remains a journey none the less. My way is not your way, but why is that wrong? Rants never produce more understanding, only greater division.

Live In Color – Emelda

Photo Credit: Emelda  De Coteau
Photo Credit: Emelda
De Coteau
Emelda De Coteau
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3 Replies to “What Judging my Hair Says about You”

  1. Oh my!!!! How I love this post!!! We’ve speculated on this before, among ourselves, but I am happy to see it addressed here. I have nothing to add, as you’ve summed it up perfectly! 🙂 Keep on encouraging self-expression, self-love and self-acceptance, chica! 😉

    1. AWW…Thanks so much for reading, girlie! Yes. I believe that self love is a critical piece of freedom and joy. I am so glad the piece resonates with you!!

  2. Some women look good in any color (remember Linda Evangelista ?) but most women don’t. If you had blonde hair as a kid, you’ll likely look good as a blonde adult. Find out more in My Best Blonde Hair Tips and Tricks and in Hair Color Mistakes Women Make .

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