Why I Stopped Categorizing My Hair
I went back to natural in September 2013, I had a friend come over and chop all my damaged hair right off. Nothing about the journey has been easy, i.e being bald without a curl to my head or frustrated comb snapping detangle sessions or just learning to love and appreciate its beauty in a society that tells me it's too different to be beautiful. Still to this day, I'm learning new things daily about how to care for it, but what I never imagined having to learn was how to categorize it. As all new and even old naturalistas do, we run to the internet searching for new techniques, styles, remedies, treatments, growth/ retention potions (because we're magic, y'all) and products. I searched for all of that and still do, but when I first began my journey I was met with "what type of hair do you have" or videos titled "twist out for 3b hair." For the sole purpose of this piece, I'll let it be known that I'm categorized as 4c- coily, kinky, shrinkage on a bean, peek a boo where's her hair after a wash and go, 4c. So as a 4c, I was warned that watching a video for 3b hair wasn't going to yield the same results. But aren't we all natural, can't a simple two strand twist give us all a poppin' stretched style even if it looks a little different? Aren't we all learning how to care for our curls? Aren't we all navigating this world where we're told to straighten and relax our hair to European standards together? I stopped categorizing my natural hair when I realized it was just another way to divide us.
I have a friend who believes that the categorization of natural hair has become the new colorism. That this hierarchy is the newest way to divide and rank us, and unfortunately I agree. It isn't unusual to see 3a hair types on light skin black women and 4b hair types on dark skin black women. It also isn't unusual to see light skin, loose curled women in the media now. Yes, they've started to recognize us black women and our black hair, but what about us darker women with densely packed curls? When do we see ourselves as the norm instead of on rare occasion? I don't know about y'all but I'm tired of cheering at the screen when I see a woman who looks like me advertising something. It's kind of twisted if you really think about it, it's so rare that I see myself depicted that I audibly yell "yaaaaas" amongst other things. Women like Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong'o have made impressive strides in the media by rocking their natural hair paired with dark skin to major events like the Emmy's or on major covers such as Vogue. I thank and respect them for their courage because they went against the grain and challenged the status quo, they forced the world to take in their beauty. We've been taught to look to the looser curls as standard and consider it "good hair" but I personally think that healthy hair is good hair. Yes, my curls shrink so much that they're pressed right up against my scalp giving the illusion that I just big chopped yesterday but it's still "good hair." I'll never forget hanging out with a friend and he made a comment that looser hair was "good hair." I had to read him real quick but can you really be mad when we're conditioned to think this way? The only conditioning we need to be taking part in is deep conditioning. I think it's time to do away with the hair hierarchy and just look at our hair for what it is, hair. Natural, curly, coily, kinky, bouncy, luscious, beautiful hair. We naturals come with crowns in all shapes, sizes and patterns and we should celebrate it all the same.
Article by Olivia Steadman-Oladipo