Monday, October 8, 2012

Why Black Women Straighten Their Hair.

Photo Source: MoptopMaven

I recently googled "Why Black Women Straighten Their Hair". The results of my search were somewhat expected and shocking. Many said because of self hatred, they want to look like white women, to make their hair more manageable, etc. Although, these maybe reasons behind why some black women straighten their hair, I wanted to get to the root cause of the issue at hand.

I found this study called "Why African American Women Try to Obtain "Good Hair"" conducted by Whitney Bellinger of the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford. Although, this is a small study of 15 African American women, I think it provides great insight into the reasoning of why African American women straighten their hair.

I will provide you with a brief history into the psyche of why hair is a deep rooted issue among our race. In early African nations hair was considered a symbol of status, ancestry and identity. Nothing has changed from hundreds of years the most followed and celebrated natural hair vloggers and bloggers are those with big and long hair. Am I right? Or am I right? In the celebrity world, the most popular celebrities set hair-fashion trends and some women even follow their every move...Rihanna for example. Let's face it, in our culture hair is a BIG DEAL. This is not something that we picked up over the years. It has been ingrained in our DNA.

When slaves were sold and packed on the ships to sail to America. The slave owners shaved the heads of the slaves for sanitary purposes. They looked at the texture of black hair as being like wool and unsanitary. The shaving of the head in the mind of the slaves, stripped them of their identity and status. To further complicate matters, slave masters referred to the hair of their slaves as wool and would encourage slaves to groom their hair. Out of this formed the tradition of constant grooming. Sunday's were the days when slaves were free from work and would have time to groom their hair. Women that were adept at braiding would be encouraged in the trade and were praised in the community.  (Does this sound familiar to you? Was Saturday's/Sunday's the day you would spend all day at the hair salon with your mom? Did everyone fight to get an appointment with the best hairstylist in town?) As the saying goes, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." As technology and education advanced and we become more creative, the relaxer was invented. The relaxer allowed women with kinky curly hair to straighten their locs and become more like Europeans.

Fast forward to the future, one hundred years later, we see that most women do not know why they have a relaxer at all. In the study, most of the women interviewed admitted that they never knew their hair texture because it was relaxed at such a young age and they continued to get relaxer because that's what their mother did. Like mother, like daughter? For generations, we have been relaxing our hair and had no idea why were doing it in the first place. Crazy right?

The great thing about the Natural Hair Movement is the fact that tons of women are embracing their natural beauty in turn changing the image of African beauty. This is seen through many mediums, for instance, Oprah sporting her semi-natural hair on the cover of O Magazine, Viola Davis wearing her TWA (tweeny weena afro) at the Oscars and Vogue Italia featuring natural hair models in their campaigns. Although, natural hair is being embraced in the media there are still many women struggling to tame their hair into a looser or less coarse texture. Self acceptance is the first step on the road to happiness. If you idolize a natural hair blogger or vlogger, please keep in mind that your hair will never look like theirs. In fact, your hair may not achieve the longer length that you want but be thankful that you have hair and try to make the most of your texture. My hair is not perfect and has a mind of it's own but it is my hair and I love it! It may not reach down the middle of my back but I love every inch of it.

Embrace your natural beauty and do not let anyone tell you that the way God created you is unacceptable! 


  1. Flat ironing my hair because I want a different look for maybe a day or two does not necessarily translate to me hating my hair. I just want a different look. No self hatred, nothing. I think that sometimes we take this natural hair "thing" to levels it does not always have to be taken to.

    Yes, some persons straighten their hair out of hatred for their natural texture, but not all do. Like you said, "Self acceptance is the first step on the road to happiness." Once you accept your hair for what it is, I don't see anything wrong with changing it up now and then.

    1. Hello Anonymous, This post was created to provide knowledge on why black women started straightening their hair. I am not against hair straightening just wanted to find out why we started to straighten our hair.


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