14 October 2009

Good Hair: The Psyche

(Note: This is Part 2 of a 3 part series. If you haven't caught the first installment, click here.)

Good Hair: The Psyche

The psyche is maybe the strongest factor in human decision making and perception. It's so strong that it has the tendency/ability to control a person's actions, thoughts and personal theories without notice. Unfortunately, society has the strong ability to do this as well.

As stated in the first part of this series, the psyche behind black hair in conjunction with "Good Hair" is something that has been a big factor and "issue" for MANY years. Before Chris Rock's movie, before the hippie/black power days of the 60s-70s, before the days of the "cunk", later termed the relaxer, before the start of the 1900s even. The history is what has given birth to the definition, which has definitely influened the theory and the theory is, for all intents and purpose, the product of the psyche.

Enter, the Psyche behind Good Hair.

The Psyche that stands amongs many African-Americans in regards to "good hair" and "natural hair" is that "straight is great" and "nappy is unhappy". Before writing this post today, I spoke on this issue with two fellow bloggers, one that has been natural for as long as I've known her (I've known her for three years) and another who is a faithful member of the Relaxed Club. Both shared with me their views on both natural hair as well as relaxed hair, while at the same time not discriminating against the opposing "side" for their choice of hair dress.

"Natural will never be an option for me. Not everyone is meant to be natural" - the relaxed sister stated.

I profusely disagreed. We are all born natural and whether that natural state is wavy like mine or coarse as a brillo pad, everyone is essentially "meant" to be natural. Natural is...well...natural.

However.................just like with relaxed hair and any hair style a person chosen, there is upkeep to be enforced. The very idea that "not everyone is meant to be natural" , in my opinion, is the product of that psyche that has been produced by society throughout the ages that say "you must have straight or relaxed hair, otherwise, you just don't look professional/pulled together/like you belong"

As my relaxed friend continued, however, she expressed her concerns with going natural to be moreso along the lines of the process in itself, rather than the finished look therein. When a person who has had a relaxer for a while opts to go Natural, it is customary that they cut their hair off to very short (cut all the relaxer out as a perm is.....well....permanent) and allow it to grow in that way. I can agree that not everyone has the head for a "near bald" look. At the same time though, there are a TON of options in regards to going Natural. One does not HAVE to cut all the hair off outright. They can allow their hair to grow in and not get a relaxer for a substantial period of time and then after a while and the hair has grown to the point where the relaxed portion of hair is but on the tips or ends, then they can cut it off and TRULY be a Natural. Another option is cutting all the hair off and opting for wigs, weaves, braids, etc while the hair grows underneath. That way the person isn't "outright bald" while trying to rock the Natural.

It's all understood that there is a vanity that comes with hair, especially Black hair in general. However, what is further missed or overlooked is the understanding that that vanity is nine times out of ten based on the views of society and what is generally accepted as "good hair" has done to the individual's psyche in the first place. It all plays a role.

"I try not to judge either way. I just know that relaxed isn't for me anymore" - the natural sister stated.

This opinion is of the "least-accepted" in our country and is also a prime example of how society can affect a person's thoughts and perceptions when it comes to self-worth and self-acceptance. In the directly above quote, she tries not to judge. She isn't condemning anyone that decides to continue with relaxed hair. On the flip, she knows it "isnt for HER". It is by her sole decision that she finds being Natural a better fit for HER. Who cares what society thinks, right? Not everyone carries this belief though and I wish they did.

If society were better accepting to the natural state of African or African-American hair, there wouldn't be any issues of what 'good hair' is, a description to "bad hair" or even weaves, chemical treatments. I'm quite sure that with our technological advancements, these things will still reign our society, BUT they wouldnt be such a means of discussion and there wouldn't be such a "hidden depth" behind such either. They also wouldn't be so important that women would find spending a thousand dollars on "the right kinda hair" something they just "had to do to keep their hair looking right" (aka: keeping up with the standards of society under the unknown guise of "just needing her hair done"). And why? Because if society were more accepting and if society didn't paint such a foul picture of African and African American hair and if "nappy wasnt unhappy" and "straight wasnt the only thing great", then she wouldnt HAVE to go through such lengths to "look good", she'd find that her natural hair is good enough and she'd embrace it and rock on with her bad self and smile while doing it.

But alas, this isn't a perfect society and our society is instead primarily driven on the "visual" versus any other aspects of humanity and our society has provided the invisible "okay" on the Theory of Good Hair for SO long that SO many people can't tell the differene anymore.

And thus, our Psyche is collectively transformed.

The last installment: "Good Hair: The Individual and the Lifestyle" next. Stay tuned.


CurvyGurl ♥ said...

Great insight. I can see both sides of the argument. I've been natural for a few months and I can honestly say I never would've thought about it if I didn't work at home. I've enjoyed learning more about my hair, but it took quite a while to find the regimen that works for me. I won't say I'll never relax again, but I seem to have more flexibility with my natural tresses, I'm loving it :-).

VerbFashion said...

Society (read: the media) does play a huge role in "The Psyche" of this good hair epidemic; however, black women in general whether relaxed or natural have varying definitions of 'hair being done.' Be it braids, dreads, weaves, wigs, relaxed, etc., women FEEL a certain way when their hairstyle is to their/societies liking (whichever happens to fit her). Whether she is getting it done to fit her standards or the public's speak volumes about the person's understanding of her identity in general. (i.e. if Keri Hilson and Rihanna were rocking naturals right now you KNOW the 'stans' would be too)

The Psyche part which we've discussed in detail has much to do with how her "hair being done" makes her feel about herself AND how she expresses herself in a very criticizing black society.

Ultimately, I'm not sure we can posit 'the psyche' as simple binary of relaxed and natural. I do understand your point in terms of what the public says is good hair, but I don't agree with anything that says good hair is relaxed hair ONLY(with implications to natural hair as bad or not 'good'). Plus putting a weave on top of "unhappy nappy" is just styling temporarily, just as rocking natural in any fashion is one's choice of style.

Crystal Belle said...

i love how you addressed the psyche of black women and hair because the psychological aspect is very important. the history of slavery very much affects our sense of self to this very day.

and1grad said...

Seems like the argument always ends up with "b/c of slavery" tho, doesnt it? IMO, this is more than likely deeper/further back than slavery. I dont know that this is an issue of simply wanting to look like/be accepted by a certain aspect of society. We seem to be too often ready to have society explain preference as opposed to allowing that preference may explain society.

Also, I think the statements made by your 2 friends are almost identical, just worded differently. So I think your disagreement with your friend may not be that her mindset is flawed (or however impacted by society) as much as its just the way she framed her statement. Of course, I dont know your friend so I dont know HOW she meant what she said.

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