Tag Archives: prejudice

Does hair typing set us back?

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I have never been overly concerned about what my hair type was. However I do consider it useful information when learning how best to manage my hair. For example I knew that certain styles demonstrated by bloggers would not necessarily turn out the same with my hair and I would have to adapt them accordingly. Also, when it came to my hair care regiment I was able to develop techniques that worked best for my hair type. I understood that not every method would work the same with my hair.

However what happens when hair typing becomes detrimental to the way you see your hair or to the way other people respond to you. Have we just replaced the derogatory terms ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’ with type 3 and type 4 hair. Unfortunately this is the negative result of hair typing and I think it is becoming more and more evident.

There are a few hair typing systems. One of the most popular ones is the one formed by celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker. Have a look at the diagram below:

While this information can be useful it should not be used as a ranking of good to not so good. We must respect the fact that natural hair is very diverse. Some women don’t have one hair type overall, their hair may be made up of a combination of the different hair types. So not everyone fits into a particular box  of a certain hair type.

Esperanza Spalding
4a

Shingai Shoniwa
4b hair

We spend a lot of money on curl enhancing creams, puddings and serums. When the fact is if the curls aren’t there to begin with they are not magically going to appear just because you apply these  products.  Rather than being disappointed, a person in this position should accept their hair the way it is and focus on the many of styling options that are available to them to create curls and waves. I hope these products haven’t become the new ‘creamy crack’. I dread to think that another woman would look down on someone with hair that is say 4b as opposed to the more curl defining hair types. Corinne Bailey Rae and Tracee Ellis Ross have stunning hair but they are not representative of everyone with natural hair,  when you consider the shear diversity of natural hair. Other hair types are just as stunning but in a different way, neither one is superior or better. If you fall into the trap of thinking like that you need to remember why you went natural in the first place. For many of us  it was to be free from the pressure to conform to what society typically states is beautiful and to embrace our natural beauty.

Debra Messing
3a hair

Keri Russell
3b Hair

I’ve heard horror stories of certain naturals attending hair care events and being told that their hair wasn’t kinky enough (simply because they were of mixed heritage) or being told that their hair was too kinky for the products on display and both were made to feel like they didn’t belong there.  Neither scenario is acceptable and is the result of nothing but ignorance and the same attitude people had about natural hair being inferior to straight flowing European hair. I know white women who use afro hair care products because they have very curly hair, would we turn them away just because they’re not black? That would be absurd.  Some of them can relate to us because they felt the pressure to straighten their hair for years. I have  also heard of some YouTube vloggers who have decided to close their accounts and delete their videos because of  a lack of interest in their channels.  They have claimed it is because they don’t have what is perceived as the ‘good hair’ type that usually is related to having super defined curls and really long hair.

We are supposed to be moving forward not replacing derogatory terms with different ones with the same sentiment.  More and more women are deciding to go natural, this is a good thing that should not be met with disappointment. If we accept that natural hair is diverse we can avoid this. The same applies to women who have relaxed hair, it all comes down to choice and it would be just as wrong to make someone feel inferior for having relaxed hair as well. Inspire them don’t bash them!

Alicia Keys
3c hair

What do you think about hair typing? Is it a good thing or has it set us back to where we were?

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Natural hair in Nigeria – a review of the ‘Curls Allowed’ article written in the Guardian.

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While on the internet I came across an article by Monica Mark written for the Guardian Newspaper called Curls allowed? No say Nigerian women. Click here for the link to the original article.  Being Nigerian myself it immediately caught my attention.  We often talk about the challenges black women face living in a western society. Growing up in the UK,  I soon came to realise what was considered  beautiful and what was not. Of course women of all races grow up with insecurities but it certainly  didn’t help when every time you turned on the TV or opened a magazine there were very few representations of girls or women like yourself.

Children are very impressionable and when one of your favourite toys is a Barbie doll it isn’t long before you want to look like her.  It is not a person’s idea of beauty that’s the problem. There is nothing wrong with having a certain preference or individual taste. However, it’s when our idea of beauty causes us to be biased or discriminatory against others that don’t fit those ideals, that causes problems. If society dictates that long flowing hair is beautiful where does that leave those who have coily, kinky curly hair? As a result people who don’t fit the western ideas of beauty may end up being made to feel inferior or may even be discriminated against.

So it may come as a surprise to some people that these same ideas of beauty could exist in Africa and that African women face discrimination from other African women and men. The article by Monica Mark highlighted the attitudes in Nigeria towards women with natural hair. It was almost as if natural hair was considered to be uncivilised or unkept.  They refer to it as village hair for instance.   I remember when I first went natural, my mum presumed I didn’t have money to do my hair.  I often had to explain to people that my hairstyle was deliberate and no, my hair didn’t break off.  It was like they were conflicted because on one hand they would compliment me on how thick and healthy my hair looked but on the other hand they would still ask me when I was going to get my hair done. The funny thing was that having a really bad weave was acceptable but having your hair natural wasn’t.

Something that struck me from the article was a comparison made between the attitudes of South African and Nigerian women.  Salon owner Abogo Ugwokegbe said:

“South Africans like natural hair because they’re not fashion-conscious, but Nigerian women like the latest fashion,”

So having natural hair was not considered fashionable.  Perhaps it’s not that South African women are not fashion conscious but that they  are less ‘western conscious’.  When you consider the history of South Africa, it is understandable that the women want to embrace their identities as black women, natural hair and all, as opposed to seeing western culture and identity as superior.  That was the main point of the article. The fact that in Nigeria straight, European hair is considered better than kinky afro hair. The people interviewed in the article were brutally honest and extremely frank.  Getting a weave was considered essential in order to be taken seriously in the workplace and even to attract a future husband.

“No rich man will marry a girl with village [unstraightened] hair,” declared Esther, 18, a rural migrant to the capital, Abuja.

These attitudes exist because many see western culture (especially American culture) as superior and a step in the right direction.  For example many aspects of the American culture are copied, from music, fashion to even the accent. This includes the ‘western look’.  I think this is a shame. I believe people excel when they embrace who they are rather than trying to be carbon copies of others.   For example one thing they do well in Nigeria is braids. When I get braids done I like to go to an African hairdresser because I know that they will do it well.  Braids are a part of African culture and they are a good way of managing our hair. When other naturals were interviewed for this article, one of them explained how girls have never been taught how to manage their natural hair. I think this is definitely at the root of the problem.

We admire the convenience of other hair types and enjoy that convenience when we wear weaves and relax our hair. Of course the burnt scalps and the traction alopecia that some women experience, when these styles are not done safely or too much, certainly isn’t convenient.  It’s good to see more women going natural because it means that more of us will learn how to manage our hair and then teach it to our kids.  I personally don’t like to see western culture ( and usually the negative aspects) copied and replicated into a very poor version.   Articles like the one written in the Guardian will help to highlight these problems and encourage people to consider why these attitudes exist in Nigeria.

Follow the link and read it for yourself. What do you think about the attitudes towards natural hair? Where do you think these attitudes come from?