For many brown women, their hair is both a blessing and a curse. It’s beautiful and versatile, but also the source of contention when people don’t understand it. In its chemically relaxed state it takes on the status quo European standard of beauty of straight and silky.
In its natural form, however, the curls of brown women vary from extremely loose to tight and kinky and all points in between. However, when worn natural, the hair is arguably its most versatile for it can be braided, straightened, worn as a statement-making afro, and more. Sadly, how brown women wear their hair is often the source of great criticism no matter how its worn.
It’s 2017 and studies show that there is still strong bias against brown women who wear their hair in its natural, un-chemically treated state. The pressure for brown women to conform to mainstream white America’s standards of beauty often drive many use products that some studies have linked been linked to cancer and other conditions.
Still, many brown women are sent the message that no matter what they do to their hair, it’s not good enough. For example, as recently as last week, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), had to stand firm after Bill O’Reilly criticized her hair. After O’Reilly likened Waters’ hair to James Browns, she posted the tweet below to let him know that she was unbothered by his cheap shot:
I am a strong black woman. I cannot be intimidated, and I’m not going anywhere. #BlackWomenAtWork
— Maxine Waters (@MaxineWaters) March 29, 2017
Despite the criticism and negative bias many brown women face, they’re also forced to deal with the curiosity that many people have about their hair. This video explains how some brown women are forced to welcome invasion or be seen as unwelcoming if they reject advances when asked if someone may touch their hair.
Simply put, hair is a pretty big deal to many brown women; the bigness of that deal extends beyond the superficial aspects of hair and has political and social ramifications that most people can’t comprehend. So, when former First Lady Michelle Obama was spotted rocking her natural hair, it was a big deal.
This is the picuture I have been waiting on for like 3 years. COME ON NATURAL. pic.twitter.com/HF8AYpsciB
— gif sommelier (@meagnacarta) April 2, 2017
People went nuts in response to the posting of the tweet/picture above:
— Dellea Copeland (@delleacopeland) April 3, 2017
— Marquise Griffin (@mjamgriffin) April 3, 2017
@meagnacarta her natural hair was hiding for 8 (+) years 😩
— angela🍼martinez (@crybaby_angela) April 3, 2017
@meagnacarta Me too! She can finally do her
— Terryl Renee Quarles (@terrylrenee) April 3, 2017
Their white counterparts don’t need permission or someone in a position of leadership or prominence to make a given look okay/normalize it, brown women sometimes do, especially where hair, make-up, and fashion are concerned. So when @meagnacarta says, he/she has been waiting on Mrs. Obama to rock her natural hair “for like three years,” it’s a sincere way to acknowledge that the same First Lady who caught hell for wearing a sleeveless dress, wouldn’t have been able to live down wearing hear hair in its natural form.
Brown women are beautiful no matter how they wear their hair, though. The problem is they don’t always get that message from society because natural hair isn’t commonly accepted as “pretty.” Michelle Obama being seen out with her natural hair likely reminded some brown girls/women and taught others, of their beauty.
Featured Image via Getty/Chip Somodevilla/Staff