Live Your Most Beautiful Life
Today, more women are embracing natural hair and expanding and shifting today's beauty paradigm to embrace curlier textures. At the same time, I've heard many people say: "I don't mind natural hair on women - as long as it is neat." I can't help but interrupt and ask: "What do you mean by 'neat'? What is 'neat' anyway?" The person usually pauses before they start explaining what neat is, or they pause and say, "I don't know how to explain it. Just...well, neat!" It's that pause that makes me wonder: What is "neatness" when it comes to black hair? And why do so many of us struggle with defining it?
I start thinking more about the meaning of "neatness" when I learned about the recent buzz around Solange and the way she chooses to wear her natural tresses. CurlyNikki.com (a natural hair blog) reposted Solange's comments about her hair from a recent Essence Magazine article, and the blog's commenters criticized her for - well, not styling her hair in a ways that appeared "neat." For example, they criticized her for having "dry, unstyled and unshaped hair." Another commenter said, "I'm going to say it: "Natural hair can be VERY beautiful. Solange's hair is not. Even if she wore an afro, pick it out even or something. It always looks unkempt." Another person wrote: "This is why people think natural hair looks bad."
I think it is perfectly fine to express one's opinion about a hairstyle and not get thrown under the bus about it. However, I do wonder about the possible existence of a subtext or unspoken rule within the natural hair movement about what it means to have "neat" hair. For some, "neatness" may revolve around putting the hair up in buns all the time and never allowing it to be "let out". For others, it may revolve around creating shape and style with the hair and giving the curls some definition. There are also many women who don't care to subscribe to any notion of "neatness", and just allow their hair to do what it does.
What bothers me about the neatness issue basically comes down to one thing: Is our perception of neatness within a natural hair context still dependent on Eurocentric standards? When we go on job interviews and we feel the need to press our natural hair or pin it up in a bun, are we subscribing to a Eurocentric standard that says our natural tresses simply aren't neat without manipulation? Or are we re-defining neatness in a different way as more women with natural curls figure out what it means to be stylistically acceptable without a dependency on Eurocentric acceptance? And if we are re-defining neatness, what is the actual definition then?
In your attempt to tell me what "neatness" is, you may very well pause as you try to define it without offending my natural curls, my reason for going natural, or you may avoid invoking a Eurocentric standard of what "neat hair" is. Your pause may very well be justified. Perhaps there is no such thing as "neatness" outside the paradigm of European beauty. Perhaps my hair is "neat" the way it is, natural kinks and all.
-Written by: A Cafe Belle Guest Blogger