DOES OUR HAIR DEFINE US AS FEMINISTS?

For the entirety of my life I’ve struggled with my hair and it’s intricacies. It started at a young age where I was given the quintessential bob just below the ears paired with uneven bangs. This look wouldn’t have been as much of an issue (considering Anna Wintour has sported the same look for years) if it hadn’t been for how naturally curly my hair is. With these somewhat embarrassing hairstyles it encouraged me at a young age to dislike not only the length of my hair, but also it’s natural texture, deeming it as not pretty enough. I would use a nightgown and strap it around my head to mimic the long, straight hair I’d seen in childhood movies and television shows. No one had curly hair without it being acknowledged as something rebellious and combating the status quo.

Flash forward to my 20’s and I still carry this innate fear to wear my natural hair around like the proverbial monkey on my back. I’d already formed my personality around having unnaturally wavy hair; so changing that now would completely redirect my life, right? These are the thoughts that led to the title of today’s post. I’m sure many women feel the same way I do, and not necessarily even about having curly hair. There were many girls in my school who when they saw my natural hair (on the rare occasions I wore it) were in awe and envy that it was so easy for me to get ringlets. My perspective is dealing with unruly, uneven curls, but there are so many other experiences like mine or different that it’s made me want to question whether our hair as females is considered vital in our understanding of feminism.

As I mentioned above, anyone in media I ever saw wearing curly hair was usually a rebellious character. Someone who was cool and edgy, who didn’t care about what other’s thought and did her own thing. That’s very admirable, but as a self-conscious middle school student, the last thing I wanted to do was make myself stand out more and wearing my curly hair made me feel like I was. Of course, there is nothing wrong with standing out, but I don’t think that representation should be perpetuated solely based on how someone looks because sometimes we just can’t help it.

Luckily, there have been more and more celebrities and public figures who are breaking down this mentality and presenting their natural state as infinitely them and not part of some rebellious regime. Alicia Keys was openly criticized for not wearing makeup during a performance—for essentially showing her natural face—and we are supposed to accept that as understandable. “Well, it was a performance. She should have put in more effort.” I'll argue that being who we are is effort enough considering the backlash we see these public figures take on.

The typical image of a feminist has been categorized time and again as someone with hair dyed a crazy colour. As freeing as it must be to walk around with a plume of pink atop our heads, what about the small victories that many women accomplish by simply taking the notion of ‘good hair’ and disregarding it to feel more comfortable with their own?

My goal for the spring/summer months is to embrace my natural curls a little bit more. Hopefully I’ll get to the point where I can just shower and head out the door without worrying how my hair will dry and if the front layers will look strange.

Have you struggled accepting your natural hair? How did you work through it?