by Erickka Sy Savané
Are natural women more evolved?
It’s a tricky question. When you consider that evolution is a gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form, you want to say “yes” all day. Because women who choose to wear their hair natural are changing into a more complex and better form.
Just think about our history and how far we’ve come. We all know the negative perception of black hair started during slavery. The idea that our hair was bad, nappy, ugly and any other negative adjective that comes to mind permeated our culture. Those with hair that emulates the European standard has always been viewed as better. Black women have lived with that through generations. For many, it was a belief passed down from our grandmothers and our great grandmothers.
Although we can’t say that it’s been the belief of every black woman, it has been the dominant one that we see perpetuated everywhere. Even with black men. Some actually run from girlfriends who go natural during the relationship because they didn’t sign up for it. Additionally, let’s not forget white folks. You were talking to a friend the other day that recently started wearing her hair in a big fro and a white co-worker told her point blank that she looks better with straight hair. Your friend told her that she’s entitled to her opinion, but this is her hair and it’s better this way. Furthermore, the co-worker laments the reason she likes it straight is because that’s what she’s used to seeing.
There’s also the banning of natural hairstyles— twists, dreadlocks and large cornrows — in the United States Army. What is even more intriguing besides the fact that they attempted to ban these hairstyles is according to an Army spokesperson, the individual leading the discussion on what should be banned was an African American female. So the struggle is real from within and without.
Yet still, you have black women stepping up to the front line. When looking at what’s happening within the natural hair community, one might be in awe at the sisterhood that’s developing. Black women are sharing information and supporting each other in ways that never existed before. If you’re interested in going natural, a sister will hold your hand through the process. She will talk you through the tears and be there for the triumph. She will share every last piece of information she has.
Ganohon, a Los Angeles hair braider from a long history of braiders, stemming all the way back to the Ivory Coast,(in fact, she did some of Solange’s early box braids) believes that women with who have gone natural are more evolved.
The way she sees it, “Natural haired women have had a light bulb moment that can be described as spiritual. They’re doing more research. They’re more curious. They wanna know why they relaxed their hair in the first place. They’re more selective about their products. They’re breaking it down.”
Okay. However, can we say that because these women are up on everything hair related they’re more evolved than the rest of the pack?
Ganohon says, “Yes, because it’s a lifestyle. Once you find that light, you start asking questions in the other areas of your life.”
She gives an example of a client who came to her with relaxed hair and went natural at her encouragement. Four years later, this woman has blossomed from a shy woman who barely talked to a confident person who researches everything. She’s now vegetarian, and according to Ganohon, has changed for the better in many ways.
It’s a story you can relate to because you’re clearly not the same person you were back when you were relaxing your hair. And while your journey has taken you to locks and then to a fro that you wore mostly in two-stranded twist, it wasn’t until you chopped your hair off short and kept it down to a manageable length that your real confidence began to shine through. Because with hair no longer the center of attention, you’ve been able to develop other areas of your life. You’re writing more than ever and you’re more present for your husband and kids. Not to mention you really don’t give a toss what anyone thinks about your hair. Sometimes you have to remember to oil and condition it because you simply forget it’s on your head. All this is from a girl, who in elementary school refused to go on her front porch to get the mail without her hair fully combed. This is the same girl who rocked an asymmetrical cut all through high school because she refused to cut the damaged side and the same woman whose husband threatened to throw her in a psych ward for obsessive hair touching syndrome. You want talk about evolution?
So getting back to it… Can anyone deny that natural haired women are more evolved?
According to Felicia Leatherwood, a celebrity stylist and natural hair expert who’s been educating and inspiring women on how to care for natural hair from here all the way back to the Motherland, they are not.
“When you say evolved, there are so many levels. A woman can be evolved as far as how she sees herself without a relaxer, but we still have a lot of issues with how we judge and treat each other.”
She goes on to recall the way women in the natural hair community talked negatively about Beyonce’s daughter, Blu Ivy’s hair, even though she sports the same afro as they do.
“It goes to show that we still have a lot of work to do.”
She has a point. There is a lot of judgment in this community. Women get real high on that horse. Even you were accused of wig shaming in a recent article right here on this site. Perhaps we naturals get overzealous like Christians who find Jesus and want the world to get saved too. But when you think about it, can we dismiss the contributions of women like Michelle Obama and Oprah just because they choose to wear their hair in a European style? Was Jada Pinkett Smith more of a role model when she was rocking her hair in a short natural? Can we naturals say that we’re putting ourselves up on a pedestal 24/7 just because our hair has kink?
Stacy who has been relaxing her hair for about 20 years had something interesting to say.
“You got women with TWA’s going around mouthing off and it’s just not right. I’ve seen some women with weaves that have way more self-love and balance than some women with naturals. Just like I’ve seen dudes in kufis that I thought would be deep but were a mess.”
Okay, perhaps you need to slow down. To say that women with natural hair are more evolved may be pushing it. However, you can’t front on what’s happening within this group and how powerful we’ve become. Imagine that hair is just the beginning and next we could tackle some of our other major issues like obesity. According to the American Psychological Association, 60 percent of black women are obese compared to 32 percent white women and 41 percent Latino women. Then there’s depression. Did you know that black women have an estimated 50 percent higher depression rate than white women? We may not be there yet, but if we continue on this path we could walk each other through those doors as well. There’s really no telling what we could do.
Share your thoughts! Do you think transitioning to natural hair changes how you perceive the world and others?
Currently, she writes a social commentary blog called THE BREW and when she’s not doing that, she loves writing about the psychology of hair! Find her in Jersey City where she resides with her husband and two girls. Follow her on twitter and instagram