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Is natural hair a political statement?

NATURAL BEAUTY: Solange Knowles (PA)

HOW BLACK women choose to wear their hair has been a topic of debate for decades. But is deciding to forgo straighteners and weaves to sport natural hair simply a matter of choice or does it make a political statement?

YES - Emma Dabiri

IS AFRO hair a political statement? Well it shouldn’t be. I certainly don’t want it to be, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to be.

The way that anyone chooses to wear their hair says something, and people make judgements based on our hair. These judgements are often inaccurate, but they are made nonetheless.

However, hairstyles do convey meaning. When I reject a global beauty standard that denigrates my hair, when I actively love the hair I’ve been conditioned to hate, when I choose to simply look like me even though I’m told that looking like me isn’t good enough, well, that’s a political statement whether I like it or not.

Those of us blessed with afro hair possess something incredibly beautiful. No other people on earth have hair like ours. However, whereas usually that which is unique, or rare, is regarded as precious and beautiful - as enviable - we have been taught that our hair is something to be embarrassed by.

The issue is not whether or not women choose to wear weaves, but whether or not we feel comfortable letting our own God given texture see the light of day.

If not, then why not? Might it be because we are constantly communicated a message that our hair is somehow ugly or inadequate?

By all means Beyoncé can rock a long blonde platinum ‘do. But all things being equal, we might then expect to see Taylor Swift sporting a kinky afro. And, no, I don’t mean that as a joke, or as some sort of comedy caricature, but as a legitimate expression of simply looking attractive, of femininity.

On the real though, that ain’t happening anytime soon. But until it does, until it is no longer even worthy of note if our hair is natural or not (like it is for everybody else), until afro hair is seen as no less acceptable, attractive, or appropriate than the hair of our straight-haired sisters, it will remain a political statement.

NO - Damilola Odelola

THE RECENT natural hair wave has revolutionised the way we view black hair.
Black women everywhere are falling deeper in love with their hair and themselves; more black celebrities are rocking their natural locks to award shows and on magazine covers.

This is a direct contrast to the Euro-centric mould we’ve been forced to fit into, so it’s easy to understand why black hair is political and a symbol of empowerment.

However, at the same time, it is just hair.

My going natural wasn’t an act of defiance or resistance, it wasn’t done to counter the more popular images we see of women in the media. It was done because I was bored and I felt like it.

I am not denying that black hair does carry with it a lot of weight, but intention is important.

There are black women who wear straight weaves to protect their natural hair; there are black women who straighten their hair because it’s easier for them to manage that way.

There are black women who dye their hair blonde because they genuinely do like the way blonde hair looks against black skin.

These women do not necessarily hate their hair, or think of themselves or other black women as inferior.

I’m not ignorant to the fact that others around me may view my hair as a threat, and there have been recent cases of black people being discriminated against because of their hair, but I think the overarching issue is racism, not hair.

Our community speaks with many voices. Each week we bring you opposing views on a topical issue affecting black people. The arguments are crafted by the talented pool of writers from Media Diversified (www.mediadiversified.org), which aims to encourage greater diversity in the British media. What do you think? Join the debate.

Compiled by Maurice Mcleod

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