Back in my university days I attended Women’s Society meetings and tried my best to engage in conversations with them, now I won’t say I attended every meeting because that would be a flat out lie. I did try, but they were always at times I wasn’t free, but in my second year, I decided to get more active and even ran for a position in it.
So what does this have to do with my hair you ask? Well, I’m getting to that, but during one meeting I remember us discussing many things, including different types of feminism, why TERFS make no sense and so on and so forth. This led to us continuing the talks outside of the room our session was done, and we spoke about our brands of feminism.
One of the people mentioned how she could tell I was intersectional and how it had something to do with my hair – at that point, I was very confused. What on earth did my hair have to do with it?
It was during my second year of university that I decided to ditch my hair straighteners and embrace my natural curls, but as seen in this post, it had nothing to do with politics or identity, but more laziness. I was vaguely aware of the natural hair movement, but I wasn’t involved in it on any level.
Now a quick background on my universities women’s society, we had a lot of people from different gender and sexual identities but at that point, I was the only POC in attendance, so I think that might have been why the confusion happened. If I was still straightening my hair at that point my hair would not have been politicised on any level, and no one would have made any assumptions based on it.
Now is this a big deal? Probably not, in all honesty, it was just a weird occurrence but it does stem from a larger problem. People make assumptions about us based on how we act in certain spaces, and how we perform our racial identities.
With straight hair, I was just your bog standard intersectional feminist, but with curly hair people make assumptions about either how hardcore I am, how ‘free’ I am, or in some cases think I’m pushing the natural hair movement to the extreme.
It’s sort of like pushing stereotypes that I’m really not a part of, although this comment was probably just not that deep it did open my eyes to the ways in which we are seen and expected to perform our racial and feminist identities. I wish the world put more effort into what we said as opposed to how we dress, look and act – but that’s not the world we live in. We make these assumptions every day, but we don’t spend nearly enough time breaking down why we think these things.
It’s similar to whenever a feminist tells a room they are a feminist, some people assume that we’re all burning our bras and hating on men when in reality it’s more of a ‘the patriarchy hurts us all’ approach.
Personally, I feel like the natural hair movement was a great thing for the black and African communities, it did a lot to redefine what is beautiful for us, and in no way am I erasing that hair is a huge part of the shared black and African history. I, like many, grew up thinking straight hair was the only way hair could be beautiful, professional and generally just admired it. I was also told about the good hair, and how it was straighter hair types. But at the time it was not something I was thinking about when it came to my curly hair.
There is also a subsection of the natural hair community known as ‘natural hair nazis’ who sort of look down on anyone who continues to use the ‘creamy crack’ on their hair. However, I take no part in judging women who continue to straighten and relax their hair. My brand of politics is, your body, your choice, regardless of racial, sexual and gender identity – that’s all.
All images are from Unsplash.