Archive for March, 2012

Stereotypes of natural haired women

Posted in Beauty standard, Natural hair care, Racial/ethnic stereotyping on March 28, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Since recent events have made me hyper aware of race and stereotypes, I’d figured I may as well discuss those issues as they relate to hair, since that is the main reason why I created this blog in the first place.

But first, here are some styles I’ve worn during the past week or so:

The first two pictures are a wash and go, the second two pictures are a flat twist out. I’ve been having a string of good hair days of late, so I’ve been fairly pleased.

As I’ve stated during the whole time I’ve had this blog, the way I’ve chosen to wear my hair is not the norm in the black community. Although more black women are ditching chemical straighteners and are choosing to go natural, we’re still a minority. Natural hair isn’t understood nor accepted by a number of blacks. Due to systemic racism and brainwashing, we are taught to believe that our curly and kinky hair are ugly and that straight hair is beautiful. The pressure to conform to this BS beauty standard can be so strong that women risk hair loss, burns and breathing problems just so they can fit in. From where I sit now, it’s pathetic, but at the same time it’s understandable given how heavily stratified race is in this society.

Here’s a breakdown of common stereotypes about natural hair and the women who wear it:

  • Natural hair is dirty. Because natural hair can have a rough, wiry appearance, some believe that naturals don’t wash their hair frequently. Speaking for myself and many other naturals that I’ve encountered through hair boards and in real life, that assumption is simply not the case. I often wash my hair twice a week, as do some other naturals. Some wash their hair every day. Naturals are advised that water is their friend and is the best moisturizer there is, so as a result, it leads many of them to wash their hair frequently. In contrast, many relaxed women are told that water is the devil because it dries out their hair and makes it frizzy, so they are advised not to wash it frequently. That’s right, I said it. When I was relaxed, I could go weeks without washing my hair in order to preserve a style, especially if it was initially done at a salon, because it would have been impossible for me to duplicate the style at home. Other formerly relaxed women on the hair boards have said the same thing. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some naturals who don’t wash frequently because they do exist, but in general, to say that our hair is dirty doesn’t have much basis in fact.
  • Natural hair is unmanageable. It’s only unmanageable if you handle it as you would straight hair. We naturals literally have to research how to handle our hair because many of us had mothers who had us use perms at an early age and as such, we never learned how to care for the hair texture we were born with. Which means never combing our hair while it’s dry. Which also means only using wide tooth combs and combing our hair when it’s wet or damp and full of conditioner. Any hair handling technique that is used for straight hair is death to curly and kinky hair.
  • All natural women are militant. The qualifying word all is particularly bothersome when it comes to discussing stereotypes because painting everyone with the same brush diminishes their humanity and uniqueness. As far as this stereotype goes, it has its roots in the 1960’s, when women went natural mainly to make a political statement. A lot of women today don’t decide to go natural to say “fuck you” to “The Man,” nor do they all wear dashikis, raise their hands in the black power salute nor shout “Black power!” and “Kill Whitey!” A lot of women decide to go natural for the same reasons I did-because they were sick of running from rain, humidity and pools, they were tired of caustic chemicals burning their scalps and they were tired of broken off hair. I personally am not a militant person, though some may disagree because of my posts about race the last few days. However, that still does not make me a militant person. I am not demanding that all white people be put to death since I have white friends. I’m merely discussing a topic that a number of people would rather avoid and I don’t feel that I can afford to run away from it. I don’t have the luxury of forgetting that I’m a black woman every day. So I have to deal with race because I’m directly affected by it.
  • All natural women are vegan/vegetarian. That qualifying word, “all,” again. There are some naturals that are vegan or vegetarian; however that does not describe yours truly. I do eat poultry and seafood the majority of the time, but I do enjoy a good burger every now and again. The idea that natural haired women are all Mother Earth types and health food nuts is interesting. Just because we’ve chosen not to put caustic chemicals in our hair doesn’t mean that we all extend that to the rest of our bodies.
  • Naturals don’t bathe or use deodorant. This one is hysterical. Refusing to use chemical straighteners doesn’t mean that we eschew all manner of personal hygiene nor does it mean that we need to go from one extreme to another. I’m not a fan of smelling other people’s funk, so I don’t feel the need to embrace mine.
  • Naturals only listen to neo-soul music (Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, India Arie, etc). The thought that all of us only listen to the music of other naturals like ourselves is hysterical. We listen to whatever music we like, just like anyone else. While I do listen to Erykah Badu, Jill Scott and India Arie and am a fan of all of them, I do like other people too. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Sade. Seeing her in concert last year was the ultimate experience for me. I also like Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Musiq and John Legend. Not to mention the old school, like Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin and Patti Labelle. I like hip hop. I like disco.  I like jazz. I even like (gasp!) some white artists like Sting and Adele. I just like music, period.
  • Naturals hate relaxed women. I can somewhat understand how this natural hair stereotype came about. You see, lurking in hair forums and out there on the streets, there are women who have made it their life’s mission to convert the world to natural, much like former smokers and alcoholics who make it their life’s work to denigrate smoking and drinking every chance they get.  Again, this isn’t all natural women. Just some. Personally, life is too short for me to denigrate the hairstyle choices of my friends and family. While I would be overjoyed if they gave up relaxers and other chemical straighteners, browbeating them into it wouldn’t work and may cause them to do the opposite, which is cling to the chemicals more tightly. They have to come to the light in their own time, like I did, if they ever do. Besides, generally, what other people do to their hair makes no nevermind to me. As naturals are a minority, we are bound to interact with relaxed women at some point during our everyday lives. Many of our mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, friends and co-workers are relaxed and to ignore them because they have yet to see the light is silly.

I must also add that the above listed beliefs are often held by people of color, not white people. I’ve found that a lot of whites really don’t care about our hair. Much of the negativity and disdain surrounding it comes from our own people. Whites have no monopoly when it comes to stereotyping and prejudice. Anybody of any stripe can harbor stereotypes about anything. The difference is how we choose to handle them.

 

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How I detest humanity. Let me count the ways.

Posted in Beauty standard, Racial/ethnic stereotyping on March 26, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

Warning. This is kind of a rant, so if you’d rather not be subjected to it, I won’t mind. Really.

To continue on the Trayvon Martin case-the comment made by Geraldo Rivera the other day still enrages me. In case you’ve been living in a cave, he stated that the hoodie that Martin wore was just as responsible for his death as George Zimmerman was. More of this lunacy is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/23/geraldo-rivera-trayvon-martin-hoodie_n_1375080.html?ref=mostpopular

First of all, I’ve never really respected Geraldo Rivera whatsoever as he’s never had much credibility. I’m old enough to remember as special he did many years ago when he stated that he would unleash the secrets that were supposedly contained in Al Capone’s vault. However, when he opened the vault, it turned out there wasn’t anything in there. There were a couple of other incidents throughout the years that made me doubt his integrity. So his offensive comment shouldn’t really bother me, since he really doesn’t have much credibility, right?  Well, the comment actually does bother me, because let’s face it, I’m sure other people feel the same way. That comment is akin to saying that women who wear tight dresses should expect to get raped. Hoodies have been wore by people of all stripes for years. Including me. So to say that I deserve to be killed for wearing a common item is reprehensible.  When will people learn that what they wear has no bearing on how other people behave. Rape is about power, not about sex. Nor does it have anything to do with what women wear. Women have been raped while wearing burkas, for Pete’s sake. Likewise, Trayvon was killed because of stereotypes and racism, not  because of the clothes he wore.  In the end, it wouldn’t have mattered if Martin wore a dashiki or a polo shirt and khakis. His skin color was what got him killed. Nothing more, nothing less.  That comment is simply another way to avoid dealing with the racism that played a role in Martin’s death. If you can conveniently say “It was the hoodie, not racial profiling,” then you don’t have to admit to any racial bias this society (and very probably you yourself) still operate under.

Then there’s “The Hunger Games.” It’s actually a trilogy of books. I don’t want to give too much away because I will presume that most of you that bothered to read this haven’t read the series, but the first book takes place in a dystopian America sometime in the future whereby two children from each district between the ages of 12-18 are picked to go participate in what are called the Hunger Games, which are basically a fight to the death. The last kid standing is crowned the victor. The entire country is forced to watch the games on TV. So I was introduced to this book last year when I read it for a book club I belong to and was totally hooked.  It was initially released as a young adult novel, but people of all ages like it. It didn’t read or feel like a typical “kiddie” book to me. It’s very well written.

Anyhoo, I’ve been on fan boards for the book, which often consist of people under the age of 25 mind you, where some of the posters were dismayed to find out that they cast a little black girl to play Rue, one of the tributes that is forced to fight in the games, in the movie version. This disguted me, because the book clearly stated that Rue was black.  On page 45, no less. Then the posters would argue that since Rue reminded Katniss, the main character (who is white), of Katniss’s sister, Prim, that Rue couldn’t possibly be black. Yeah, Rue reminded Katniss of Prim because of her demeanor. Her race was irrelevant.  Prim was described in the book as a sensitive, gentle soul and Rue was similar in demeanor to her. But see, here is where stereotypes and racism come into play again. Black people can’t possibly be gentle or sensitive, hence, why Rue couldn’t have been black.  Here’s a website that contains more lunacy on this matter:

http://jezebel.com/5896408/racist-hunger-games-fans-dont-care-how-much-money-the-movie-made?utm_campaign=socialflow_jezebel_facebook&utm_source=jezebel_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Due to Hollywood’s long history of whitewashing, I was pleased that they did actually cast a black girl as Rue. Just as an aside, Rue’s hair was gorgeous. I was personally glad that they didn’t attempt to straighten it at all and thereby force her to conform to a European standard of beauty. She’s beautiful in her own right.  I actually saw the movie over the weekend and liked it overall.

So yeah. I’m not in a great mood right now because humanity in general sucks right now.

Stereotypes and profiling

Posted in curly/kinky hair, Racial/ethnic stereotyping on March 22, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

As I’m sure you’re all aware by now, on Feb 26th 2012, Trayvon Martin, a black 17 year-old Sanford, Florida teenager was shot and killed by 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who is described as a white Hispanic.  The self proclaimed ‘neighborhood watchman’ felt that Martin looked suspicious and didn’t  belong in the gated community, even though his father’s girlfriend lived there. These suspicions led to a physical altercation between Zimmerman and Martin, which ultimately led to Zimmerman shooting  and killing Martin in cold blood. The “suspicious”  looking teen was in fact only armed with a bag of skittles and a iced tea.

Honestly, when this story was first brought to national attention a few days ago, I thought, “Not again.” Incidents where non-blacks murder blacks simply for the color of their skin are unfortunately commonplace and justice for them is scarce. This case in particular deeply affects me because I have three nephews near the same age as Trayvon and I know, as a black woman, that the same thing could have easily happened to them. None of my nephews have ever been in serious trouble. None of them drink, use or sell drugs, have ever gotten a girl pregnant or have ever run afoul of the law in any way. In fact, one nephew is in the reserves and is on a track team. Another nephew is on the wrestling and football team in high school. And the third nephew is on the basketball team at his high school. But to a number of white people, none of those things matter. They’re branded as devious and criminal simply because of the color of their skin. Because of these attitudes, they’re forced to behave diffently in certain situations than other racial and ethnic groups. For instance, we have to tell my nephews that in the event that they should be stopped by the police, they cannot mouth off, they have to be still and so on, because failure to do so could cost them their lives as we are not valued in our society and the wrong cop wouldn’t think anything of taking their lives. Most  mothers in most other groups would never think to have such a conversation with their child. 

Zimmerman certainly did not see Trayvon as a young man who stayed out of trouble. Who did good in school. Who had two loving and involved parents. Who was attending one of Miami’s top high schools. An average teenager who was addicted to sugar, video games and rap music. No. He saw a hoodlum. He saw a thug. He saw a threat to the neighborhood and someone who either did not belong there or, in his opinion, did not deserve to be in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. What he saw that day was a stereotype of a Black man that he had seen over and over again and converted into fact.

I was a psychology major in college. In one class, the professor explained that in a society that disseminates information at a dizzying pace, stereotypes were a way in which people organized and filtered it because otherwise, we’d be overwhelmed. However, Treyvon’s murder is a prime example of how stereotypes can become dangerous and how people accept them as truth for every person. Especially stereotypes related to people of color because, even in 2012, there are White people who have had little to no contact with any persons of color.

Sure, they might know their Black mail-woman on a first name basis and even give her a Christmas card every year. They might chat with the Pakastani man that works in the neighborhood grocery, but for some, that constitutes all of the direct interaction they have with a person of a different ethnic background.

Images on TV or elsewhere in the media of the doo-rag wearing, gun toting black man and the wig-wearing, neck snapping, screeching black woman may not represent you or anyone you know personally but the impact they have is powerful. In time, they become less specific, more of a blur and gradually become accepted as fact when replayed over and over again. Obviously not all White people are this short-sighted, even if they don’t have much direct contact with non-whites, but a lot of them are.

Profiling affects us all. People of color are often not given the right to explain or show people who they truly are before they become a victim based on a stereotype- from the black man who works as a mid level executive but who happens to drive a BMW to the black woman who might be seen as a man-hating feminist just because she wears her hair natural. Are people of all races profiled and stereotyped? Sure. But how many of them lose their lives over something someone thought they were?

Dealing with alopecia

Posted in alopecia, curly/kinky hair, Natural hair care with tags , on March 8, 2012 by Confessions of LadyV69

I know it’s been a little while, so before I begin, I’ll update you on a couple of styles that I’ve been doing for the last couple of weeks or so.

I rediscovered a style that I used to do rather frequently, but hadn’t done in months mainly because of time constraints, which is the braidout. It’s easy to do. I prefer to do my twistouts and braidouts on damp hair because the resulting curls are more defined. So while damp, I simply put my hair into 8-12 plaits, let them dry overnight, take them down the next morning, fluff my hair and go. The thing is that it takes a long time for braids to dry and because each braid consists of three strands of hair, the takedown is longer. If braids are taken down before they’re fully dry, they can be a frizzy hot mess, so half the time, braidouts were a miss for me. During the work week, the style was affecting my ability to get to the job on time, so I stopped doing it. Until a couple of weekends ago when I was meeting a friend for dinner and another friend for karoake and I wanted to do something different with my hair. I washed my hair one Friday night, put my hair into 12 plaits and let them dry overnight before taking them down. That time, I was able to let my hair dry for about 18 hours before taking them down, so upon takedown, the plaits were 100%. I don’t remember exactly what products I used, though, since it’s been awhile. I know I either used the Curl Junkie Honey Butta or the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the pink Ecostyler for more hold. My hair looks very voluminous, something that doesn’t happen all the time.

I revisited Kinky Curly Curling Custard (KCCC) today for the first time since Christmas. My hair doesn’t look as full here, but the curls are defined.

If you notice, I often wear my hair out and have the front of it pulled forward. It’s mainly to disguise the alopecia I have along my hairline. I’ve alluded to it in the past but this post will be a more thorough discussion about it. It’s not an easy thing to talk about or deal with, primarily because society doesn’t expect women to go bald. Some forms of alopecia are hormonal or hereditary in nature and the hair loss often appears along the crown. That isn’t the kind I have. Mine is mostly mechanical in nature, due to years of relaxers, tight braid extensions and weaves. Hair loss resulting from hair styles that aggressive rub and pull on the scalp is known as traction alopecia. It’s easy to think that once you stop wearing hairstyles that pull on your scalp that the hair will recover and grow back but that doesn’t always happen. If your hair follicles get scarred, the oxygen and nutrients needed for the hair to grow are cut off, meaning that the hair won’t be able to grow back. If an area along your scalp appears shiny and smooth, chances are that the follicles are scarred and your hair won’t grow back there. That’s the case with me along parts of my hairline. Some my hair has grown back in along that area, but I’ve long known that the hair my edges will never come back in completely and that they’ll be thinner than they should be. Black women in particular are more prone to this type of hair loss because some of our hair practices are extremely harsh. It hasn’t been easy to deal with because frankly, in the past, I’ve felt unattractive and freakish. This picture from about a month ago illustrates what I’m talking about:

This is an updo I recently attempted. If you notice from the lighting and this side angle, my edges appear to have been obliterated. I often slick them down with Ecostyler but by the end of the day, when the gel wears off, my hair appears partly bald.  In a world that often values women more for their appearance than their intelligence, it’s not a great look.

As my edges have grown in some, my feelings of inadequacy and unattractiveness around my hair have dissipated some, but the shadow of those feelings still persist deep down. There are times when it feels hopeless when I know that I’ll have limited success with remedies touted to regrow hair, such as cayenne pepper, castor oil, Biotin vitamins, etc. The last time I saw a dermatologist about the issue was around 10 years ago, when I was still perming my hair. All I was given was a prescription for a special shampoo that I had to use at least twice a week. At that time, I had thinning patches along the back of my hair as well, but they grew back in fully. The doctor also suggested that I stop perming my hair, but I scoffed at the notion because at the time I still felt that my hair needed chemicals in order to look presentable because it was “bad.” These days I wonder if my hair would be longer and my edges would be in better shape than they are if I had taken his advice at the time, instead of seven years later. I am considering going to a different dermatologist to ask about a different treatment to see if I can regrow more hair because the other doctor I saw was kind of up in age and may have retired by now. Years ago at a previous job, a co-worker had gone to a dermatologist regarding a bald spot along his crown. He’d stated that his doctor had given him injections in his scalp. It sounds foreboding, but his hair did grow back some. I have nothing to lose. I just have to find the time. If and when I do go, I intend to update y’all.

What’s kept me going through all this is the belief that I’m more than my hair or lack thereof. It isn’t always strong and I have to work on my self confidence in that area, but it’s better than it was awhile ago. I think the more women that come forward about hair loss, the more likely that the shame and stigma surrounding it will dissipate and possibly, more effective treatment options will be developed.