Willow’s hair, my hair, black women’s hair is important whether we like it or not.

Willow’s hair, my hair, black women’s hair is important whether we like it or not. February 9, 2012

I could cry, I could cry, I could cry because I have a herd of work trips coming up and absolutely no hair plan whatsoever.

I posted as much on Facebook the other day with a laundry list of my many —wildly expensive— options:

  • Cut & press, every three weeks-ish ($45 – $85)
  • Kinky Twists ($185)
  • Micro Braids ($290)
  • A new wig ( $65 – $700)
  • A sew-in weave ($75 – $250)

…and many more.  The problem is my hair is a weird length (long on top, short on the sides and the back, which has made it impossible to do the natural thang, which if you remember I tried to do natural at this length with disasterous results.

I’m feeling unusually stressed about this because I’m a professional.  When I go to a work conference I want to look like a professional.  I can’t look like I just rolled out of bed in the morning.  I don’t want to look like I just rolled out of the bed in the morning.  I have no option for an easy style right now.  Well, for any style right now.  This is the problem that myself and many women with a distinctly African, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, etc. hair texture face.  You can’t hop in the shower, wash your hair and expect that it’s going to fall into place.  It doesn’t work like that. AT. ALL.

My friends who are distinctly ‘natural’ spend A LOT of time managing their hair.  There are literally thousands and thousands of blogs dedicated just to managing black women’s natural hair, with many thousands more YouTube videos dedicated to the same.  My friends who get straightening perms (a.k.a. the creamy crack) may spend anywhere from $60 – $120 a month on the upkeep.  And as you see above, any of the other options are expensive as well.  Y’all know black women’s hair is a multi-billion dollar industry, right?  But you probably know that from Chris Rock’s Good Hair Documentary.

When we cut off all our hair ala Willow Smith, folks wonder if Will & Jada Smith are good parents. Seriously?!?!  Read this interesting article over on My Brown Baby about the drama Willow’s “big chop” has caused along with her own daughter’s accidental reverse mohawk.  Apparently Jada has said that when Willow initially asked to cut her hair it was because she didn’t want to be held back by it: “Mom, I’m really tired of the hair. I just really feel I’d like it to get in the pool. I want to just swim. I just don’t want to be bothered with the hair.”  Great point, Willow! I want to swim too!

 Back in 2009 Solange made a similar chop in 2009 she tweeted: “I just wanted to be free of the bondage that Black women sometimes put themselves through with hair.”

This is what I’m feeling.  The money, the time, the inability to wake-up-and-go (a privilege I’ve enjoyed most of my life because I’ve kept it long).

It’s not that I can’t go bald, it’s that I worry about the perceptions of what that style will mean for me, and that’s on top of my not liking the look on me.  I remember when my friend, Shereena started wearing her hair short and natural at work.  She came under pressure at work because of it.

I’ve been short-sassy-and-natural before…

…a little longer below…

…but my pregnancies have ruined those natural curls that came so easily before. Total. pregnancy. buzz kill.

I wonder if black women’s hair is more important to the culture we live in than we even want it to be.

Who created this machine where girls in India can’t sleep at night for fear their giant, long ponytails will be cut off and sold for $600 American dollars they didn’t get to profit from?  Those young women from India are in massive demand thanks to who? African American women.  It’s a hot mess, y’all.

But how did it get this way? Most of us want to wake up, look like an ordinary (or ordinarily beautiful) woman and go about our lives without this inordinate amount of attention given to our hair. But that’s not the world African-American women live in.  I know for doggone sure that if I started walking around with my hair unkempt, spent not a dime on it, folks would wonder if I had fallen knee-deep into depression or had seriously lost my mind.

Or I could spend a lot of money.

Or I could go bald, and feel like a really weird version of myself.

I think the artistic side of hair is fantastically fun, but I’m saddened that the state of my hair means so much to the culture at large.  A professional business women she be able to wear a cropped bald cut, natural twist out or whatever type of fro she wants without appearing to be unprofessional.

And I hate that we so often get weaves that are meant to resemble the texture and wave of a European texture of hair.

Weave is not wrong, it’s not evil.   It’s that *sometimes* it’s hard to celebrate what our hair naturally looks like amidst the clatter and chatter to look like white women…those messages we all are constantly bombarded with.

(And Lord knows, I’ve rocked many’o’weave —-no judgement here).

I think I’m having my India Arie I am Not My Hair moment, y’all! =)  I’ve come a long way from this post, eh?

If your a white women or man, are these dynamics you have ever thought of before?

To my sistas, what are your thoughts on Willow’s cut?  On weaves? On natural styles?


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