Sunday, January 21, 2018

Why I Hate Women's Obsession With Hair Shrinkage

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 I went natural long before there was a community to teach me how to do my hair. I still had Indian hemp hair grease and pink lotion in my hair care rotation, which now would never suffice. I also never did the big chop; I went natural in safer space (meaning away from white people hands trying to touch it), with hair weaves. One day my hair stylist at the time said she was going to stop relaxing my hair because it made no sense to do so since my hair was away all the time. I agreed, she was my hair Goddess and never stirred me wrong. My hair grew, and I would press my leave out if I had any. My naps were never an issue for me, it was always just hair to me, as long as I like it I'm fine.  All of my hair anxiety come from the world's reaction to my hair, never anything birth in my consciousness. 

My hair is nappy, we all know straight hair isn't growing out my scalp, I never understood the big deal.
The obsession people had with my hair grew, even more, when I started wearing my Afro out in the world. Many were surprised I had hair (what did they think I was attaching my weave to all this time?), there were people who would ask me when I was going to do my hair, and as offensive as that question was, what actually offended me the most were the hair stretchers and the other Black women that would say things like, "don't you hate hair shrinkage" or "wait until people react to your hair straight, since they can see your “real" length. I was very taken aback by all this; this idea of proving my hair could grow was something I didn't particularly care for. This contingent of women that insisted I prove my hair had length was a phenom, I'd rather not be apart of. I thought wearing my natural hair would stop the silliness connected to my hair, but it did the opposite. People wanted to know more about my hair, had more questions about the decisions I made for my hair and way more requirements for it. 

Black Opal Beauty

The need to prove that your hair grows is rooted in white supremacy

This need to "prove" my hair grows wasn't something I cared to do. As the natural hair community grew on social media, all the propaganda surrounding hair shrinkage was always negative. I would see statements such as “shrinkage is the devil” or “I hate shrinkage” popping up often. Then the hair stretching pictures of women elongating their curls started popping up also. Who were they proving their hair grows too? Also, what standard are they trying to uphold by giving this proof? 
Its result of women reacting to all the bad ideas tied to Black peoples hair; the white supremacist idea that the texture of Black people’s hair is bad, unmanageable and doesn’t grow. These pictures of “proof” our hair and these conversations about shrinkage and how to stop it feed the very narrative they’re trying to break. With this resistance, the idea that white gaze and standards still need be strategically proven is not my idea of existing naturally as a Black person. I know my hair grows, even when in a shrunken afro.

Source: Naptural85/YouTube

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Shrinkage actually means my hair is healthy, and I welcome it.

But you see, the way our strands (ultimately, our follicles) are set up… usually, the tighter the curl, the more shrinkage it’ll have and the shorter it’ll appear. It’s a beautiful, unique trait of natural hair. You pull it, release it and it goes  That’s hot! Besides all that, the reality is, shrinkage is certainly not your enemy. It’s actually a good thing! 

Shrinkage=Hair Health 
You read correctly! The fact that your natural hair is able to shrink back to its normal state after being stretched by whatever means indicates that there’s a measure of health and strength in those strands. Isn’t that what we want? 

Sure, it doesn’t really help when you’ve spent all night achieving a fierce blow-out and here comes a day of 99% humidity to shrivel up those kinks! I’ve been there. But you’d better be glad your hair snapped back the way it did! 

Consider This Example 
If you straighten your natural hair on occasion, don’t you hold your breath just a lil bit when you dip your head under that water on wash day, hoping your curls come back? You may even clasp your hands together and say a little prayer! Why? Because if it DOESN’T revert back, that means your hair has suffered heat damage (unless you’re “heat-training” and you don’t care, which is another topic for another time) and now you’ll either have to live with stringy ends or cut those jokaz off. 

Bet you’d be wishing for some shrinkage then! 
It’s like a tee shirt. It has a certain shape when it’s new. Once you put it on, it stretches to fit your body. When you wash it, it shrinks back to normal. If it’s made from poor, cheap (unhealthy) material, wear it and wash it enough and it may not shrink back at all. Now it’s fitting all cray and you don’t want it anymore. But a shirt made of good quality (healthy) material will last much longer. 

That’s the best non-hair analogy I could think of but I’m sure you get the point. 

What are your thoughts on shrinkage of natural  hair? Let us know in the comments below! 

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  1. As a kid in the 70's my cousin and I used to put towels on our head and pretend we had "shaky hair" like our white peers. That is so indicative of how acceptable it was to assimilate. Now, the kinkier my hair the better. The more ethnic my style, the better. Because now, as an adult, I have accepted the beauty in my individual curl pattern. It takes time because the images presented really do make us feel some type of way about our hair.

    I'm still teaching my 13 year old to love her natural state. She has virgin hair but prefers it when it's stretched via twist outs. She's a ballet dancer, so we have to regularly flat iron it for the traditional dance bun. But all in all she hates her TWA. I think one day she'll embrace it, as I have my own. But part of her disdain for the afro are images and tips of natural styles. Since natural has exploded as a fad, often the only styles on display are the ones where the curl pattern is a mix of straight and curly/wavy. Not us with the truly tight curls. I find that annoying. It makes me feel like even natural hair has been hijacked by the cliched "good hair" myth.

    1. It’s been a very long journey, our relationship with our hair. It will get better, we’re hopeful! Thanks for commenting


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