Hair Beef.

(I’ve re-enacted this scene from School Daze about fifty-hundred times)

I haven’t had a perm in a year. I have tried to go as long as I could, being cheered on by my stylist who says she can work with my new growth because she says I have “good hair”. This is a term I’ve heard one too many times in my life, and I think it’s ridiculous. Because right now, when I try to run my fingers through my hair, there’s nothing good about it. When I made the decision to finally perm it again, the great debate usually starts: To Perm or Not To Perm?

What I have come to realize is that someone will ALWAYS have something to say if you decide to give in to the creamy crack ( street name for the perm). I get inquiries as to why I would do this to myself, as well as pleas to wear my hair curly. What pisses me off the most (yea, I’m starting to let some emotions show) is when I get accusations of wanting to be white (FYI, I actually am half white, so there’s goes that stupid argument) or a challenge on my “blackness”, as if straightening my hair is somehow magically transforming me from Lauryn Hill to Jessica Simpson. And I’m not the only one. Friends of mine who perm their hair have shared the same sentiments, and feel like their identity is being challenged just because they decide to blow their hair out. It’s like Jane from School Daze ( played by Tisha Campbell), getting called a “Wannabe”. Ok, maybe that was a bad example because it comes from an extremely over exaggerated Spike Lee movie (which is one of my favorites!), but you catch my drift. And we can’t win, because Black women on the other side of the fence get the same flack, when they decide to wear their hair in its natural state. You’re always going to find someone who has a problem with your ‘fro, locks, or twists. Questions of whether or not you can make it in the corporate world, or even your attractiveness factor is questioned. We are NOT our hair, but what I really want to know is, when did we start the HAIR BEEF?

Straight hair vs. Natural Hair. Press vs. Permed. Dreads vs. Curls. Why are we fighting over how another woman wears her OWN hair?  Now, I can only speak my opinion from my point of view, so I’m going to focus on the debate of Black women perming their hair, and all the flack that can come with it (isn’t interesting that the argument usually comes from another woman?). An interesting facet of this debate is what I like to call ” The Glorification of the Black Woman Who Decides to Maintain Her Hair in its Natural State”. I think the celebration of wearing your natural hair is much more prevalent than for those women who decide to perm their tresses. Actually, the party for permed hair is non-existent. I just did a quick search on Facebook for groups dedicated to Black women’s hair. Not surprisingly, I found several groups that showcased ladies “keeping it real” with their hair. Here is a few that I found:

  • “Natural Hair Rules”
  • “Natural Hair Lovers’
  • “Natural Hair”
  • “Natural Hair AKAs”
  • “Natural Hair is Beautiful”
  • “Thank God I’m Natural”

For some reason, I was not able to find a “Permed and Pretty” or “Straight Hair Don’t Care” groups I could join to make me feel good about my choice to straighten my strands. What I want to stress here is that overall, I think there is nothing wrong with celebrating Black women and their natural hair. What I do have a problem with is when this celebration turns into the degradation of women who straighten their hair. I have come across several comments in a few of these groups in which women who perm their hair are berated, and basically looked down upon because they don’t keep their hair natural. I uncovered this gem a few moment ago:

“Who should wear the natural look? All those who want to be black, beautiful, and true!”- Carolyn Rodgers, Negros Digest

I’m sorry, but this seems like a jab to me. A jab to the Black woman who doesn’t keep the “natural look”. Because I perm my hair, do I not want to be black? Am I not beautiful? Am I not true? You want to know why I perm my hair?  Here you go:


I perm my hair because it looks like THIS in its natural state. Because it’s thick. So thick, that when I dry to blow dry it myself, I get a full-body workout. Because I have T-Rex arms, and it’s hard to handle all my hair with these little limbs I have. Because it’s a sponge that like to suck up all the moisture in Miami, and I’d rather not look like Michael Jackson from the Wiz when I go to Happy Hour. But I wear my hair straight because it’s MY HAIR. Just like your hair is yours. We are all beautiful, no matter if we Chi it up or use some Carol’s Daughter products. There is no need to tear another woman down if she doesn’t wear her hair the way you want her to. It’s my hot mess, and I’ll do what I want.


7 thoughts on “Hair Beef.

  1. Hola! 🙂

    I think the problem is that our society encourages dichotomies of beauty instead of multiplicity. If big booties are attractive, then skinny women need some meat on their bones. If light skin is radiant, then dark skinned girls are only pretty on rare occasions, etc.

    I’m not sure how old you are, but I can attest that the preponderance of natural hair groups stemmed from the result of such a dichotomy: If straight, long hair is desirable, then this natural nappy mess has GOT to go. But there was no opposite aesthetic 10 years ago. I’ve only worn natural hair 7 years and I still remember the ugly comments, b/c 90% of black women not only had straight hair but PRIZED it.

    There didn’t need to be any straight hair celebration communities because the majority of the black community and mainstream media placed a greater importance on it.

    Your asking why there aren’t any straight hair groups (and there are some, but they are harder to find) belies the origin of natural hair online communities as acts of self-love in hostile environments.

    That said, I’m against maligning choices. I wish for a world where black women’s every action does not call into question their entire sense of self. Relax your hair and your worries, ma… black is beautiful regardless.

    1. I think one of the problems is we (men/women) want to project ourselves onto other people. Whether we want to admit it or not. Whatever we don’t like about ourselves we put pressure on our s/o to change or to not do. I think it all boils down to loving one’s self and being comfortable in one’s skin.

  2. Unfortunately, this is one of those “they just are debates”. It’s a learned behavior and no matter how much people try to enlighten/except/love each other there are going to be those that feel one way or the other. As long as you know who you are and love what you see when you look in the matter, that’s all that matters. This debate will be going on long after we are gone.

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