Do you really keep to the word or the spirit of being natural?
My hair is natural. By that, I mean that my hair is not relaxed. Until recently, I assumed that the whole black community had the same simplistic view that I did but how wrong I was. Apparently there are degrees of ‘naturalness’ of which I would probably not even qualify in spite of the fact that you cannot put a comb in my hair without the fear of losing it in its wiry glory. Forgive the note of sarcasm but I’ve never believed that exclusion is the best way to get people on your side which you may have gathered from a previous article about relaxed hair just being a hairstyle.
So who are the hard core naturals? They are a breed of ladies either whom have never relaxed their tresses or who have transitioned from a relaxer at some point. So far, quite normal but this is where by large the similarities end. Hard core naturals believe in natural hair care to the exclusion of all else. To further understand you would have to visit their forums and without specifying any names some of these forums will not even allow discussions on hair straightening or get this, even the words ‘straight’, ‘straighten’ or ‘straightening’ in any form to appear in their threads! These are stringent rules that moderators in the forums will follow to a tee with warnings being handed out to any who dare not comply.
Now I don’t know about you but this strikes me as rather exclusionary. There are plenty of natural ladies with gorgeous locks who wear their hair straightened occasionally; do they not count as truly natural as their tresses are often changed by the ‘evil heated tools’? How about the natural ladies who enjoy a bit of colour in their hair; does changing their hair colour mean that they are no longer natural?
You will find that the members of these forums will braid, twist or curl their hair all without heat for styling purposes and while these are good hair practices, I am curious as to who writes the rules and decides what it means to be a true natural? Does heat free mean you are a true natural or is it a question of avoiding any possible hair texture change by chemical or mechanical means? On the subject of mechanical texture change and without stating the obvious culprits like flat irons* or pressing combs; many ladies know that braiding hair can also change the texture of some of your strands. Overstretching the strands during the braiding process happens often which leads to traction alopecia which can be a permanent change leaving hair follicles damaged and unable to produce new hair.
All this makes me think of some vegetarians who believe that eating any meat replacement product (e.g. steak flavoured veggie grills or vegetarian bacon rashers) is not true vegetarianism as it does not adhere to the spirit of being a vegetarian. They would have you believe that as a true vegetarian you would have to suppress the urge to eat any meat flavoured product even though no animal had to die for it. That would be akin to trying to suppress your humanity, surprise surprise the vast majority of humans enjoy the taste of meat, but that’s an argument for another day!
If you were to apply the principle of the so called ‘true vegetarianism’ to the hard core natural’s view on hair care, then it could also be argued that changing your hair texture by any chemical or mechanical means does not adhere to the spirit of ‘naturalness’. Braid outs are out of the question then because they stretch the natural hair’s curl pattern which is an evil mechanical change right? Banding is also out as this is the same as straightening (Am I allowed to say straighten?). Braiding, cornrows and twisting are also out; your hair does not grow out looking like that! So what are you left with, how should the hard core natural wear their hair?
To keep to the spirit of naturalness, the hair would have to be worn as it grows from the scalp for complete adherence and that means a shrunken afro! Now if you know anything about caring for natural hair, you will know that a shrunken afro is the worst possible way to wear natural kinky* curly hair if you are looking for length and health.
While I’m all for teaching black women to be proud of and to see beauty in their natural hair texture, exclusion just compounds the problem by creating a black or white (excuse the pun)situation. We all know that the world is different shades of grey, my hair is natural but I like straighten it often, I colour my hair and enjoy braided styles too. I’m sure that there are plenty of ladies who prefer to have relaxed hair but curl it or braid it when the urge strikes them.
Black hair care is about learning the limitations of your texture and working with it to obtain healthy hair. I don’t believe in limiting styling choices, too many rules make it difficult to truly enjoy your hair. It’s only hair right?