Skip to main content

New York Times Mini Documentary Describes Natural Hair Movement as Personal, not Political

Avatar • Jun 3, 2012


Photo Source: Toutes les choses de moi

I am LOVING this mini-documentary by New York Times writer Zina Saro-Wiwa about the natural hair community. In addition to documenting a bit of her own transition, she describes common themes of the natural hair movement; community, health and transitioning for personal (not political!) reasons. I thought this was important since so many people still think that naturals are trying to be “political” (o_0) when most of us were really just tired of the expense and inconvenience of relaxed hair, and believing that our own textures weren’t good enough to ‘show’ publicly.

What do you think of the video ladies? Is it an accurate snapshot of the natural hair community? (Video below.)

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
66 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago

I SO appreciated this Op-Doc, and not just because Zina and I could very well be sisters from the other mother — Africa, that is!
We seriously look a lot alike.

I love the natural hair movement and all of the afro eye candy.
Or should I say afro eye cotton-candy?!

Texture in da house, y’all!!!!!!

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

Then you are beautiful =) Zina looked incredible after that shave!If one can look great bald, then one is a true beauty IMO.

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago
Reply to  anastasia

[smiles, giggles, blushes, and fervently hopes that she is not being delusional about looking like Zina the gorgeous!]

Annie L.
Annie L.
8 years ago

One fascinating, and I believe accurate, assessment by the writer of the NYT piece in regards to the subjects declaring ‘it’s personal, not a movement’ is the quote: ‘black hair and the black body generally have long been a site of POLITICAL contest in American history and in the American imagination. Against this backdrop, the transition movement has a POLITICAL DIMENSION — whether transitioners themselves believe it or not. Demonstrating this level of SELF-ACCEPTANCE represents a powerful evolution in black political expression’ Self-acceptance and resistance in my opinion are political gestures and they have fueled resistance movements worldwide among a range… Read more »

dh
dh
8 years ago
Reply to  Annie L.

Hmmm. That’s an interesting perspective. As much as I swear up and down my choice is personal, I, too, am having difficulty ignoring the political element. I also have to acknowledge that the political element of my choice to accept my hair has absolutely nothing to do with me. It’s interesting that what I do for personal reasons can be perceived by others as political. My self-acceptance can inspire others among us who have been shamed and belittled by the dominant culture (and there are LOADS of us) — and that can be a powerful and transformative cultural force. The… Read more »

Annie L.
Annie L.
8 years ago
Reply to  dh

+1 Really admired the breadth and thoughtfulness of your statement!

Kendra
Kendra
8 years ago
Reply to  dh

+1 I have tried to articulate this notion to a lot of people about the natural movement, that no matter what, because of our history it’s political whether we are trying or not. But I haven’t been able to say it as well. Kudos!

BeautyIAM
BeautyIAM
8 years ago
Reply to  Annie L.

Nice observation Annie L.

I never looked at it this way.

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  Annie L.

Annie L, it would be great to chill over some wine and just chat w/ you!! Not sure if you’re a sociologist, student of sociology, a lawyer, social worker, psychologist, or just well-read; but I know where you are coming from, and I agree, everytime you comment. Blessings to you =) In solidarity my friend!

African Mami
8 years ago

That was a beautiful documentary. It is not a political journey-it is a personal journey. The politics comes in when there is division about nonsense within the community. This is a journey that should foster a sense of self and sisterhood.

JustLeavingaComment
JustLeavingaComment
8 years ago

I think it’s sad that collectively we feel the need to ‘explain ourselves’ to people. SMH — It makes it look like we can’t even grow our hair without seeking the approval of other races. Who cares if people think it’s ‘political’? What are we so afraid of?? I’d argue that going natural IS a movement — whether you want to accept the reality of the situation or not. There is a history here whether it is regarded by said natural or not. That’s why people are so put-off by it and that is why this generation feels the need… Read more »

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago

@BGwLH “But at what point do we just get to be who we are […] without always thinking of the macro impact on millions of black people that we don’t even personally know?” The simultaneously tragic and comic answer to that question is when we all start to live in vacuums — and that is to say, never. There are biographies, memoirs, and personal hair-journey stories, and then there are the Histories and documentaries that will be written about the zeitgeist of the natural hair movement in which those personal stories will be co-opted in the service of fleshing out that… Read more »

Alisha
8 years ago

Wow, BGLH, I think this comment can and should be expanded into a full article. I read it thinking, “Yes! Exactly!”. Very thoughtful.

merry
merry
8 years ago

i agree bglh.

i wrote this down below. i didn’t read this comment.

i’m so over the whole my hair is political stuff.

i’ve been natural for so long, i’m barely impressed with myself anymore.

lol.

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  merry

i’ve been natural for so long, i’m barely impressed with myself anymore.” LOL!!!!

BeautyIAM
BeautyIAM
8 years ago

Great response BGLH 😀 I completely agree. JustLeavingaCommen, I get what you’re saying put I think you have to look at it from a different angle. I thinking that some of us have to explain ourselves because if we don’t people will continue to assume things about women that wear their natural hair. There are still black women that worry about how they can wear their natural hair in the work place. Explaining our hair to other does not mean we are trying to seek acceptance from other races. Rather, this conversation allows us to help them understand our hair for… Read more »

trackback

[…] natural hair movement. In the clip entitled ‘Transition’ which I spotted on the website Black Girl With Long Hair  the writer is shown getting her braids chopped off as she embarks on her transition journey. […]

tobes
tobes
8 years ago

I CRIED!!!! just saying xxx loved it

Shannon
Shannon
8 years ago
Reply to  tobes

Now I don’t feel bad,:-) There was something about this that made me emotional.

NoirCerise
NoirCerise
8 years ago

I love this…very valid points were made in this clip…this is a great clip to start a conversation with!

Afrochelle
Afrochelle
8 years ago

The personal is political.

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  Afrochelle

YES! I agree =)

BeautyIAM
BeautyIAM
8 years ago

I really liked this. Its was honest. She did a great job of capturing the essence of natural hair.

LA
LA
8 years ago

Interesting clip. I have to say though, the last thing we need is for this shift in our hairstyle is for it to get political. It’s the fastest way to turn it into a fad and then go back to what happened in the past with the decline in afros. The best is to make it about self acceptance and love, care and honesty with oneself. It should not be a debate/fight between natural and chemically treated, or natural vs weaves. I think the best thing we can do is keep it positive, concentrate on the variety and beauty of natural… Read more »

jasmine
jasmine
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

@LA “It’s the fastest way to turn it into a fad and then go back to what happened in the past with the decline in afros” here is the thing though, i don’t think it would shift into a political fad because ppl are realizing they CAN go natural, not that they SHOULD go natural. realizing that your natural hair can be beautiful & healthy, at least for me was what inspired me to go natural. I wasn’t inspired by the statement it made; I was inspired by the fact that it was beautiful! I had never really experienced my hair… Read more »

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  LA

The decline in afros coincided with the proliferation of perms on the market, white backlash from the civil rights movement (which resulted in employment and housing discrimination if hair was thought of as politcal by potential bankers, employers, etc, and resulted in the election of one of the worst President’s in recent history-Reagan; his political team created the “welfare” queen stereotype and nasty policies that harmed black socioeconomic mobility),black folks not wanting to rock the boat, increased beauty marketing to woman, and the often unspoken generational self-hatred that many blacks still shackle both themselves and their offspring.

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago

Something should also be said about how objectionable our generation seems to find the “p” word (political) and the “f” word (feminist).

I wonder why we — aged early 20s to early 30s — are so opposed to claiming these identities in the first place?

We’re the “me” generation it seems.
The YOUtube generation.
God forbid that thing was called WeTube!
(But, ironically enough, at the end of the day, that’s what it really is: a barometer of the changes in OUR times.)

Individuality is wonderful & amazing, but I want to have my cake and SHARE it too.

dh
dh
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

+1 very well-said.

Li
Li
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

+1 Definitely nothing wrong with being a feminist, many patriarchal pesrpectives have completely rtied to redine the word itself.

elle
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

I agree. As a 19 year old female, I feel confused about how my generation wants everything separate, everything individualized.
As if what theyre currently doing has never been done before.
They think the defining thing about themselves is far apart they can be from everything and everyone else.
God forbid collectively standing up for something that is good for everyone.
It’s just too “mainstream.”

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

Yes, yes, yes!!!

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago
Reply to  anastasia

one love, y’all.

Barbara
Barbara
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

OMG, this statement is the absolute truth, sine when did “political” become a bad word? Don’t call me, political, feminist, strong or God forbid independent woman but call me a b*, h*, or the “N word” w/ an a at the end, and that’s fine. *Sigh* I don’t get my generation at all.

Lola
Lola
8 years ago

I think that we in a world where political correctness prevails. This era that likes to pretend that everything is peachy and that “we are the world, we are the children”.
Basically we pretend we have reached equality when it is not so. Beacuse of that, it may be more difficult to label the natural movement as political (just so as not to shock or scare people).
But I totally think it is political.

oldowan
oldowan
8 years ago
Reply to  Lola

I definitely agree with this.

Kendra
Kendra
8 years ago
Reply to  Lola

+1 I definately think that the movement is kind of going out of the way not to be political too…like don’t worry white folks LOL

Rachel
Rachel
8 years ago

Beautiful video…I must say my decision to go natural was because my hair was damaged due to all the relaxers I had received from childhood to adulthood. In the process of this journey I found excepting my true beauty.…(hair, skin, personality etc.)I don’t think we start out making a political statement but somehow it ends up that way. The community (society) should not be the one to decide what “Hair Type” is accepted. That’s our right and choice..(the people)…love the documentary keep them coming!!!!!

Jasmine
Jasmine
8 years ago

I must say it is interesting that I did not notice so many naturals around me until I decided to go natural myself. I must agree that going natural is a personal decision for each individual but if others want to make it political then fine by me. If saving money, accepting myself, and wanting versatility is a political statement then oh well.

Kish
8 years ago

lovely hair!

merry
merry
8 years ago

really annie l? you think being natural is about saying no to centuries of tyranny? imo, this is so sad. it’s so depressing to me that anything a black woman does can be construed as “political”. i speak standard english — that’s political. instead of getting pregnant at 16 and going on welfare, i went to college — that’s political. i exercise regularly, eat well and am not fat, defying the statistical data on black women — that’s political. i wear my hair the way it grows out of my hair — that’s political… why does everything i do as a… Read more »

Zenith
Zenith
8 years ago
Reply to  merry

I totally hear you and agree with what you have expressed. I have been natural for twelve yrs and no one was talking about it the way they are now when I went natural. I think it has become politicized ( or viewed that way) partially because of the economics involved. So many people are losing money (relaxer companies and stylists) because of this shift. Society doesn’t expect that black woman would be in such a position to direct economics the way it has with this shift. It’s sad because most of us who have made the decision to go… Read more »

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago
Reply to  Zenith

@ Zenith “Why can’t we just BE??!!” Well, as I’ve already said, we CAN just BE — in our minds, in our homes, & when no one’s watching. But because we ALSO live IN the world, who we are will always be up for interpretation — whether you’re black, white, male, female, etc. If we try to control how our image is deployed (for good and for “evil”) once it’s seen and out there in the world, we’d go crazy and waste a whole lot of our precious energy on folks who will NEVER get it. Just because people will do with… Read more »

dh
dh
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

“If we try to control how our image is deployed (for good and for “evil”) once it’s seen and out there in the world, we’d go crazy and waste a whole lot of our precious energy on folks who will NEVER get it.” +1 I think some people are seriously getting bent out of shape for no reason. Does it really matter whether some anonymous, hypothetical person views your hair choices as political? In all honestly, other people aren’t really thinking about us that much. Try this. The next time there’s some article about black women in a major media outlet,… Read more »

Redseouls
Redseouls
8 years ago
Reply to  dh

+1

Nikki
Nikki
8 years ago
Reply to  dh

+1 Accurate.

Lola
Lola
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

agree Clueful, that is just one of the aspects of that question.

Zenith
Zenith
8 years ago
Reply to  Clueful

Clueful it’s nice for you to express your opinion, but there is no need to denigrate others or attempt to dimish others who feel and think differently than you do. I am sick and tired of being black women being ‘studied’ by various people for a myriad of reasons.(Just like merry stated in her comment). Yes, other groups have been studied, but not to the same degree and with the same vigor over BASIC things/choices (i.e hair, dating/marriage) as black women. This is MY opinion. I am living my life like it’s Golden and am happy with it. Believe me, if… Read more »

Clueful
Clueful
8 years ago
Reply to  Zenith

I didn’t realize that I was “denigrating, diminishing, & minimizing” others.

How did you come to that conclusion, I wonder?

I will try to be more deep and insightful and less denigrating and diminishing next time.

I promise.

PEACE&LOVE.

Lara
Lara
8 years ago

Zina…great daughter of a great man.. I salute you.

Lola
Lola
8 years ago
Reply to  Lara

I guessed as much. She must be Ken Saro-Wiwa’s daughter

Rachel
Rachel
8 years ago

Wow there is so much anger out there and rightly justifiable. Natural hair is POLITICAL.
Natural was not socially excepted in the 1970s it was women and men rebelling. Women
And men could not get certain jobs because of the AFROS. Its still happening today.
Everyone will not be 100% on board with the choices we decide and that’s a part
Of life. As long as we are happy and confident within ourselves that’s all that should
Matter.

Monique
8 years ago

At first in 2000 when I transitioned I got locs and I loved! But then I started seeing women just be completely natrual and know what their hair was like I never ever did my own hair natural I had enough newgrowth to get locs so I did not experience it. I had a perm since I was in the third grade and my Mom did my hair so for me it was meeting myself for the very first time. My locs were beautiful and long but I had to let them go I needed to know who I really… Read more »

pinkgirlfluff
pinkgirlfluff
8 years ago

Our bodies have always and probably will always be political. Sheesh, the bodies of all women are political right now. Just because you may not have made the decision to go natural for some deep profound reason does not mean that who you are in this country is a non political issue. That includes how you style your hair and how you dress.

When people can lose their jobs over having natural hair in 2012 you better believe that natural hair is political. Like it or not.

hyspin
hyspin
8 years ago
Reply to  pinkgirlfluff

Interesting point, then one cans easily say that everything involve the human race in a whole is political but that act change any aspect yourself will always will always seen as political so rather it should be then said it is still personal, it will always be booth. So it neither and booth. I prefer to believe that the decision to go natural is personal but once made public it will be judged, therefore being designated into its perceived (or assumed) “rightful” category (stereotyped).

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago

Ohhhhh how I just looove this op-doc!! We are BEAUTIFUL! Now, to the question: I did not read prior responses yet, but I completely AGREE with the author/filmaker when she states that going natural is “The most POTENT POLITICAL ACT OF ALL”. Many of the readers under 40 may not agree with the author/filmaker’s statement, but the fact of the matter is that the world is dominated by Western culture (ie White supremacy), so much so that we have swallowed the recent propaganda tag-line of a post-racial America when Jim Crow is still alive and well, conformity to “whiteness” be it… Read more »

anastasia
anastasia
8 years ago
Reply to  anastasia

Should have stated: before you are born-We all know wombs are political.

steph
steph
8 years ago

I think that it’s great. I’ve been natural for years and I’ve struggled with aloepica, wearing wigs and weaves to cover it and the vicious cycle that it perpetuates, i.e. the covering it up, making it worse, not looking after my hair properly, etc. But I’ve learned to take better care of my hair and of myself. It’s a journey, an individual one and people make choices that are right for them. I loved this documentary because it touched on a lot of things that some BW have dealt with regarding their hair and their self-image.

Merinofro
Merinofro
8 years ago

I know one thing- Zina ia so BEAUTIFUL ! She knows how to rock that twa!!! Nice clip to mark our journey!

Fatin
Fatin
8 years ago

Consider what pinkgirlfluff said about people losing their jobs over natural hair…and the white guy the other day who told me my look was “wild” (Wtf? No joke!)

Our hair is definitely political, it’s just a matter of whether you want to embrace it, like Annie, or reject it, like Merry. Simple as that. Or maybe you’re somewhere in the middle, like me. Personally, I hardly ever think about the politics of my hair, except when I see something like Zina’s film, read the really thoughtful reactions to it here, or get brilliant comments like from Mr. You Look Wild lol

Kendra
Kendra
8 years ago

It’s interesting to read all the different opinions. I know it does suck to seem like we are always being studied and in this and that analysis black women are the worst at this and the least likely to do that etc…and it’s all negative. I understand that and I feel that way too. However, I think a lot of us have forgotten that we are a collective subgroup of people that has it’s own culture within a larger culture that for it’s entire existence has been in one form or another trying to keep us down and deny us… Read more »

Kendra
Kendra
8 years ago
Reply to  Kendra

i mean dark skin, kinky hair, and afrocentric features…

dana
dana
8 years ago

BRAVO!

Ameerah Pearman
8 years ago

Wow. I didn’t want it to end. Awesome! Watching her get her hair cut made me want to cut mine again… I won’t though, lol

Monzi
Monzi
8 years ago

Wow, the narrator she looks much prettier with natural hair.

LOL, where was I when she was snappin’ pics of naturals?! Jealous! I live in NY!

trackback

[…] Bron […]

66
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Shopping Cart