Black Hair and Femininity Part 1 (Youth Speak Out Series)

From a young age, my mother has enforced in me the idea that my type four hair is beautiful. She taught me that good hair is healthy hair; that hair texture is not important and that everyone is different and unique in her own way. Like many Black women in Corporate America she spent many hours in a beauty shop chair under a hair dryer letting ammonium thioglycolate soak into her scalp to make her hair straight. After having me, her pride and joy, she decided to go natural in a successful attempt to teach me to love the hair that God intended to grow out of my head.

But as I grew up, went to school, associated with new people who looked different from me, and joined social media, I began to notice a pattern in which our society praises and uplifts people with tighter curl patterns, and typically, those people do not look like me. I also noticed how society is so quick to put an emphasis on masculine and feminine; short hair is seen as masculine and long hair is seen as feminine. While no one explicitly told me that I was masculine, as I got older I became more self conscious over my appearance and my hair because it as, and still is very short.

I’d never had an issue with my natural hair until I joined social media. Being the only Black girl in my grade level through elementary and middle school, being different worked in my favor. It made me stand out and set me apart from the other students. However, when I joined social media, I was introduced to other Black girls who didn’t wear their hair natural. Girls who wore weaves, braids, and wigs. Girls who had longer hair than me.

So here I am at thirteen years old, taking all of this in at once, and like every other person my age, I started to compare myself to these girls.

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Photo by Misha Voguel at Pexels

Flash forward to 2020, now a high school senior I can confirm with great pride that my confidence levels have increased tremendously. But I’ve been faced with a dilemma that brought me years back to my early days of social media. I’ve been thinking about doing the big chop and cutting my hair.

3 thoughts on “Black Hair and Femininity Part 1 (Youth Speak Out Series)

  1. Sarai W

    This is a wonderful piece! You are not alone. When I did my first big chop, I was the only girl in my high school with natural hair and I had never seen my curl pattern before cutting my hair, so I kept it picked out. I hated it and eventually went back to a relaxer. Flash forward all these years later, I now know how to care for my hair, what products mix well with others, etc. and I love my hair! Learning to love our natural, God-given hair can be a process, but it’s so worth it.

  2. Edissa Nicolás-Huntsman

    Colette, you’ve touched my own hair pain, memories and trauma with your musings. Black women’s hair is yet another frontier for compassion, gentility and radical acceptance. We are in fact, deeply human.

  3. kmooreart

    This may be sound strange coming from a natural blond but as such I don’t see the reasons behind the hype. Fine, blond hair is a pain in the butt. I absolutely LOVE my husband’s black hair. Fortunately for me, he keeps it natural, allows me to talk him into keeping it longer than he would normally choose and lets me play with it and pet it. I’m so sorry that the “fashion” is for long, silky hair. It’s nice, I guess, but it’s not “all that”. And two of the most feminine women I know have shaved heads. They look amazingly feminine. All the best to you!

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