The subject of natural hair has always been a hotly debated topic. Conversations include whether or not it is professional or the belief that the texture of your hair determines its quality. These topics stem from deeper conversations about race but they intersect, creating a dialogue about what exactly blackness is.
The Natural Hair Movement
The Natural Hair Movement of the 1960’s ushered in a wave of natural hair acceptance that hadn’t been seen before. Black women did away with chemical straighteners and began taking pride in their Afro’s. As trends came and went, black women found themselves using chemicals and tools to straighten their hair again. But the growing acceptance of natural hair allowed for the revival of Natural Hair Movement in the 2000’s.
As more women began to “go natural”, many had no idea what that would look like for them. It wasn’t until Oprah’s hairstylist, Andre Walker, created a hair texture chart, allowing black women to universally categorize their hair. The texture chart started off as a way to help women determine the best way to care for their hair but instead, it became another way that women were divided and compared.
Walker’s hair chart uses numbers one through four as the main categories and letters a-c as subcategories. Most black women’s natural hair tends to fall under either category three (curly) or four (kinky). Understanding that colorism is the discrimination against people with darker skin, texturism is the discrimination against people with 4c hair, the kinkiest texture and therefore, the furthest from being straight. It isn’t always the case that loose hair texture equals light skin, however, entertainment and social media suggest otherwise.
Media and Social Media
It is no secret that media representations of black women have always favored lighter skin and straighter hair, resulting in an unhealthy relationship with the way black women view themselves and each other. Even though strides have been made to combat this issue, such as casting dark skin women with kinky hair for more lead roles (Viola Davis in How to Get Away with Murder or Lupita Nyong’o in Black Panther) there still remains a clear division between what type of natural hair is really acceptable.
Social media has allowed for black women all over the world to share their experiences with growing their natural hair. Hashtags like #BigChop #NaturalHairJourney and #LengthCheck enabled women to compare their journeys and share hair care tips. However, women with 4c hair have had a harder time finding products that cater to their texture. Because 4c hair is very kinky and tight, it suffers from the most shrinkage making it appear to be shorter than it really is. Some black women see shrinkage as unattractive resulting in them stretching their hair to show the full length and growth.
In addition to social media trends, hairstyles like wash-n-go’s or finger coils exclude women with 4c hair because it does not have a curl pattern that can be easily defined. For 4c hair, laying your edges and slicking down the small hairs on a person’s hairline, is not the easiest task. Furthermore, texturism is seen in social media memes that suggest 4c hair is not attractive compared to looser curl patterns. Many hairstylists even require their 4c clients to have their hair blow dried straight before attempting to style it.
No one can control the texture of their hair, but there is still pressure for it to look a certain way. According to social media, black women can only celebrate their hair if it falls under a certain pretext. The hair must be wavy or curly, never kinky or nappy. Years of colorism have already caused tension among black women. Now texturism has disguised itself in the modern Natural Hair Movement, causing yet another divide that black women must overcome.
Written by: Jordan Bennett