Are weaves the not-so-hidden force that’s tearing down the black community? At times, you would think so. From lectures and films to op-eds and social media roasts, it seems like everyone wants to weigh-in on why black women need to stop rocking store-bought hair. This discourse is filled with men and women using their extreme views to proclaim what styles equate self-love and putting down sisters who don’t fit that image.
It needs to stop.
Type the word “weave” into Google and you’re guaranteed to see a stream of photos, blogs, and videos with captions and commentary poking fun at sisters “spending all that money on fake hair” or shallow hypotheses on why sisters don’t want to embrace their natural beauty. The interesting thing in all this is that those who tend to belittle women for wearing hair extensions tend to ignore that: (1) historically and culturally, we (men especially) have participated in upholding the Eurocentric standards many black women strive to attain and (2) women wear extensions for various reasons. It’s not always about insecurity.
While there is a need to unpack what we’ve been programmed to find as beautiful, I’m strongly against shaming sisters’ hair choices in the process. Condescendingly telling a “queen” she is “better than” her sew-in is not the solution. The way a person styles their hair does not inherently equate with a level of “wokeness” or self-confidence. Every person sporting locs doesn’t necessarily ascribe to pan-African thought (e.g. Whoopi Goldberg) and on the flipside, a woman wearing a weave is not automatically ashamed of her natural hair.
My hair has always been natural (not chemically processed) but I’ve had about every hairstyle you can think of – mohawk, braids, highlights. My head has seen it all. Weaves have allowed me the versatility to protect my natural hair and try out new looks without making permanent changes to my hair. There are many women with plenty of hair who do the same such as Beyoncé, Gabrielle Union, or Taraji P. Henson.
And it’s not just black women. What sets us apart is the highly political relationship we’ve had with our hair while living in a society that constantly upholds Eurocentric beauty standards. A woman should have the freedom to explore and figure out what fits her best and style her hair however she feels most comfortable without receiving backlash because she’s not fulfilling someone’s trivial standard of blackness.
It is also important to recognize that hair extensions and wigs are nothing new. It’s something that been seen in cultures throughout time from ancient Egyptians to Japanese Geishas.
What’s wonderful about today’s natural hair movement is that it has broadened the idea of beauty and given a new generation of women the encouragement and confidence to embrace our hair textures, despite living in a society that has historically made us feel inferior and unattractive in our afros or coils.
This mentality has undoubtedly been internalized and perpetuated among black people, and often times by black men in particular – from Martin poking fun at Pam for her “bee dee bees” to Yung Berg proudly speaking on his “pool test.” To drag black women for sporting hairstyles that we’ve been told for centuries will make us more appealing, is both hypocritical and insensitive.
I still have memories of my older cousins making a fuss over my tightly coiled hair, being probed about why my mother wouldn’t relax my hair, and the humiliation I felt when my crush noticed the summer humidity wouldn’t let my press ‘n’ curl be great during recess.
Feeling confident to embrace your natural hair in a world that will call Kylie Jenner a trailblazer for sporting a few cornrows, yet label a black woman ghetto for a same look, is no doubt a revolutionary act. But putting ourselves above someone who opts for a different look is counter-productive. Our hair continues to be a political commodity for the world to gawk at and take their digs. As a community, it should be our business to do otherwise.