The beauty and fashion industry have failed its Black constituents time and time again. Subliminal messages about acceptability within a cisnormative society are perpetuated in an aim to uphold white standards of beauty, leaving us Black girls out to dry. The exalted promotion of a pressed out, relaxed and, ultimately, damaged crown is an image that all Black people, regardless of gender, are familiar with.
We are “nappy” and “bald-headed” as opposed to “silky” and “lusciously full of life.” We douse our hair in $10 boxes of creme relaxer to make it “easier to deal with.” We cling to our weaves, wigs, clip-ins, and sew-ins, for the protection our hair, yes, but also to avoid any further masculinization of our features and our bodies.
For those of us whose hair isn’t loose enough, long enough, or doesn’t bounce while walking, it is hard to get through life without experiencing microaggressions. Judgemental comments about our hair, or the lack of it, snake their way into our ears, in front of our eyes, and out of the mouths of countless people within and outside of the community.
Where’s your hair?
You have no edges.
It looks like pubic hair!
We are accosted by wondering Whites and quizzical people of color at every turn. We are demonized in our appearances. We are encouraged to conform to the restrictive standards passed down to us from generation to generation.
Some Black women use hair to defend their femininity, in response to the ignorance of a society that takes away from our beauty and lived experiences. Others use hair to empower themselves in confidence and appearance, due to being told their natural hair is “too difficult to handle.” All Black women, however, know the sting of hair being used against us to prove some inane point or uphold stereotypes that continue to tarnish our image.
“Aggressive,” yes. “Determined,” no.
“Loud,” yes. “Outspoken,” no.
These adjectives, that are so commonly tacked on to our image, often masculinize us in ways that women of other races are not. Tack on a queer or trans identity, and the rhetoric surrounding our hair is even more brutal and attacking.
Are you a boy?
No matter how many wigs you wear you’re still male underneath.
If you want to be a girl, why don’t you cover your natural hair?
As if our natural hair isn’t good enough. As if the ways in which we are perceived have nothing to do with toxic social limitations, and everything to do with the fact that our hair grows in different ways than that of other races. Black trans women, in particular, are the main ones to experience this phenomenon.
We are painfully reminded of how undesirable we are. We are called “men in wigs” and “shemales.” We are stripped of validity, told we aren’t pretty enough, and forced into a box based on the way our hair falls on our heads.
It’s common practice for a Black trans girl to throw on a piece in an attempt to pass better. Natural hair is assumed to be one of many “indicators”, facets of our appearances that give away our truth, which is extremely destructive to a trans woman’s self-image.
And the only way to reverse the narrative of Black women being “nappy headed hoes” is to promote images of us wearing our natural hair out.
Black hair is so beautiful, y’all! The way we can manipulate it, twist it, curl it, loc it, braid it and so much more goes to show how strong and resilient it is. Our hair is a declaration of the type of women we are.
We are bold, envied, groundbreaking, and powerful! We have the hair that people lowkey wish they had. Kim Kardashian, and literally every white girl that gets some variation of box braids in their hair, I’m looking at you.
We exude feminine wile and confidence, not in spite of our hair, but because of it. So, go ahead! Wear it out.
Let people ogle and admire the magic that is your curly, Black-as-hell hair.
Ivana Fischer is the Culture Editor of WUSSY and a film and media enthusiast who specializes in cultural studies. You can find her across all socials @iv.fischer