This post was hard to write. It’s hard to type when you’re rolling your eyes the whole time! Sheesh!
The source of today’s frustration is that ruckus about the magazine article showing how people with straight hair can get an afro. A lot of people seem to be upset by it. It’s being called ‘cultural appropriation’: a term that I hadn’t heard about or truly understood until last week.
The internet tells me that appropriation is “the action of taking something for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission”. I counter that with “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” perhaps.
I have worn my hair natural for about 9 years. I have a thick head of hair, which used to be even thicker when I was a teen, so early on, my mother had it chemically straightened, so it could be manageable. I continued that process until I moved to Vancouver. Unfortunately, the climate change was tough on my hair and it was hard to keep it healthy. I decided to keep it in its natural state and I never looked back. For me, my naturally curly hair was just my own and it was easy. I wear it because it’s relatively free to maintain and it’s easy and I think it’s authentically me. It’s not a political statement nor because I’m from the Caribbean. It’s just what’s growing out of my head. Need I remind you about my latest tattoo?
This whole cultural appropriation thing with regards to hair is kinda over the top for me. The article doesn’t make a cultural or political statement about afros, its headline simply says, “You (yes, you) can have an afro even if you have straight hair”. It makes no reference about race. Either I’m not understanding it properly or there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this. I think that model was used to show that if you have fine, straight hair, you can have big hair with volume, as in, you can have a completely different look temporarily. You know, just like people with curly hair that get it flat ironed and have a completely different look temporarily.
I happen to think my hair is my most versatile accessory. Even when I had an online dating profile, I wrote right on there, “One thing you should know about me is that you can never assume you’re going to know what my hair looks like.” I change my hair ALL the time. I wear it super short, I add extensions, I dye it, I wear it straight (flat ironed) and I wear it big and fluffy. Every Thursday or Friday, I scour the internet looking for new styles and new ideas. I see something I like that would flatter me and watch some videos about it and then make the change. I never once stop to think about the origin of the style. Honestly, I don’t really care. I’m not going to lie.
I wear head wraps on the weekends “like an African woman”. I don’t care that it’s an African-inspired style, I care about the flexibility of being able to leave the house in ten minutes without having to wrangle my hair into something decent. I don’t think about an African seeing me and thinking, “Look at her, she’s not even African, but she wants to wrap her head like us?” For me, a head wrap is not an homage to my African heritage, it’s a piece of cloth. The end.
To me, hair is just a thing. It’s not a political statement. In American history, the afro was a symbol. Women didn’t wear their hair that way unless it was to make a point. Even now, sometimes I get a Foxy Brown comment, which I don’t really understand, to be honest. I do like the attention my hairstyles get, but to say that it has a larger meaning than I have too much time on my hands, I don’t know.
The article shows how you can change your hair from straight to voluminously curly. I’ve read the comments on some websites and there are some that asked, “Why couldn’t they use a Black model? Here they go, not giving Black people credit. Here they go, using White people to celebrate Black successes.” Well, forgive me, but Black models will already have curly hair, no? Oh right, everyone’s sporting straight hair or weaves or extensions these days. So you’re mad because you have curly hair that you don’t want to wear and choose to wear your hair straight, but are mad because people with straight hair want to wear their hair curly? Hmmm…again, either I’m not getting it, or this doesn’t make any sense.
I’ve always thought the beauty of my curly hair is the infinite possibilities it allows me and I get excited thinking about what I can do with it. If someone can show me a way to change up my look (for free and relatively easily), then why the heck not?
Can someone explain to me why I should be offended?