Recently, in yet another attempt to claim something that Black people had all to themselves, white women have taken it upon themselves to use “nappy” to describe their own hair. Just search Instagram or Twitter for yourself — you’ll find mixed in between the thousands of pictures of fly black women with natural hair of all lengths, textures, and colors a spattering of photos from white women with straight hair. Click on a few and you’ll find that #nappyhair is used synonymously with fresh out of bed hair, frizzy hair, lazy hair days, or bad hair days.
This trend was originally brought to light by Buzzfeed’s recent “17 People Who Totally Have Afros” and it’s followup on Tea and Breakfast, “13 People Who Totally Have Nappy Hair,” which both spotlight — you guessed it — people with neither afros nor natural hair. While I’m more or less in favor of people of all shades embracing the natural hair movement and learning from the wealth of knowledge we generate, I think a fundamental requirement should be that you at least have curly hair with either shrinkage or detangling woes to be a true member of the natural hair community. I am not at all here for nappy hair becoming the new twerk, used inappropriately, done incorrectly, and said so often that both it’s meaning and significance are diluted.
Moreover, I’m especially not down to share the term nappy hair with people who do not know what it means to have had to collectively reclaim the term from it’s derogatory meaning dating back to the slave-era. Many naturals, in what is nothing short of an ideological counter-revolution, have embraced the term nappy and used it to refer to their curls, coils, and kinks with pride.
My main issue is that white women with #nappyhair are really trying to say that their hair is ugly, dirty, unruly, and unkempt. This not only implies that they still think that’s what the word nappy means too, but also that they think that’s how we mean it when we use it to talk about our natural hair.
Here’s what some of my fellow BGLH contributors had to say on the topic:
“I find it kind of annoying, but funny at the same time. They can’t possibly understand what ‘nappy’ means and apply it to a little frizz or wavy hair. The annoying part is that they don’t even mind being ignorant enough to not figure out the real meaning of the word. They don’t even realize how silly they look to a lot of people.”
“Using #naturalhair didn’t work, so now this. It’s a classic case of an insult wrapped in a desperate attempt to be a part of something. The term “nappy” has been thrown our way for years to devalue our natural beauty. But now that we Black women are proud of our highly textured hair and declare to be “nappy and proud”, it doesn’t sit well. Even on their worst humidity or tongue-in-socket hair days, the aesthetic is far from nappy. Nappy is supposed to mean bad, and their bad hair day being labeled as #nappy hair is supposed to be an insult, I get it. But at the same time, they want to be like us. Nappy hair is cool. Kinks and coils are on trend. So are big butts, brown skin, and thick lips. This is nothing new — tear us down, only to turn around and try to get what we have.”
“Another day, another instance of AAVE (African American Vernacular English)/BVE (Black Vernacular English) being appropriated for the sake of seeming on trend. From large chain restaurants tweeting their meals are “on fleek” to traditional bubblegum pop-stars capitalizing off the idea of “bae” and “cuffing season,” the black vernacular aesthetic is seen as nothing more than a mask that can be put on and removed at ease without any negative association. The photos tagged as “#nappyhair” without any regard of the meaning and cultural notions behind the term are just a small part of a larger issue.
“I’m torn between annoyance and indifference. Annoyance because the ‘mainstream’ is perpetually ripping things off from popular black culture, while simultaneously trying to devalue its influence. Also annoying that the term ‘nappy’ is being used in the negative, when there has been a sustained movement within the natural hair community to re-define the term as a positive. Still, at the end of the day, I won’t lose sleep at night over this. But, Lord, please don’t let ‘nappy’ make it to the mainstream media circuit. If ‘nappy’ becomes the new ‘twerk’ I will be so unamused.”
Do you think white women should be able to use natural hair lingo to describe their hair? Are you bothered or is this just a sign of the natural hair movement being embraced by other races?