“Your Curls Ain’t Like Mine”: Natural’s and the Curly Hair Wars

A white man once said that it the entire world were full of only white people and no other ethnicity’s existed, white people would fight each other over eye color–the blue-eyed people versus the brown-, grey-, and/or green-eyed people–over who had the prettiest eye color. Unfortunately, I think that man was right: Creating rankings and developing standards of what is good, better, and best is just a fact of human nature.

With this fact of human nature in mind I can’t say I’m surprised to find that a fissure in the natural hair community has been brought to light, courtesy of singer/DJ and Carol’s Daughter spokesperson Solange Knowles. Ms. Knowles used Twitter to point to an article on Modern Meid someone has sent her about the “Curly Hair ScoreCard”–my description, not Modern Meid’s–about the seeming preference for a certain type of curl among black women with natural hair:

I’m just going to say it straight. I believe there is a bias in the natural hair community when it comes to certain hair types and hair lengths. I believe there is a hierarchy. Those with bigger and/or longer hair seem to get a lot of praise for it. I guess because it’s not seen as often? I guess it’s because people aspire to obtain that for themselves?

One comment (I didn’t exactly copy or quote this) goes a bit like this;

People have left the bone straight mindset but now they are in the defined curls mind set.

That’s what it really feels like if I’m honest. A lot of naturals are looking for ‘the thing’ to define their hair. Whether it be hair butters, hair gels or other defining products (even techniques), a lot of naturals want to ‘pop’ their curls or have defined styles.

I’ve experience the bias Modern Meid is referring to. When I first began wearing my hair natural, after doing the ‘Big Chop’ is July 2011, as my hair began to grow out all I did to maintain my style was to basically wash and go. I used moisturizer to avoid having a dry scalp and to soften up my hair, but that was about it. After my hair was an inch or two long I attended a book launch. At this launch I had one woman tell me there were products that I could use to make my hair appear curlier; she had seen a woman with ‘real pretty’ curls and, if I wanted, she could find out what products the woman had been using..perhaps I might want to try a texturizer?

As my hair grew out I received other slightly ‘off’ comments. I wear my hair in very similar styles to what you often see on Solange–afro’s, of various sizes and shapes, never a perfectly round and entirely picked-out-to-perfection style. I like for my hair to look multi-textured; bedhead is sexy to me. yet I still get plenty of comments from well-meaning folks who seem to think I don’t know that there are plenty of products out there that I can use on my head to get more clearly defined curls, more shine, and more clearly coiffed appearance.

My hope is that “a good curl” hasn’t become the new “good hair.” But you never know…

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