Women all around the world come in all different shapes and sizes. Because of this, there’s no surprise that their hair styles vary as well. Some women flaunt their natural hair while others might have perms. There are even some other women who would rather wear weaves or extensions. Because of all of these mixed signals that I often hear about this topic, I thought that it was high time that I began to explore this for myself and come up with my own opinion on this hot-button topic.
Many women, especially in the black community have always rocked their natural hair. However, in 2009 when Chris Rock’s documentary “Good Hair” came out, the number of women with natural hair made a significant increase as much more women began the process of getting rid of their extensions and going natural. It was as if the documentary started an epidemic. When the documentary, which informed about the processes of weaves/extensions, wigs and perms in the black community premiered, it was like a light bulb lit in the community and reminded women to know that they don’t actually have to do anything crazy in order to have great hair. Perms and extensions, they soon realized, were not the only options that had. Twenty year old Danashia Sweeney is just one of the many women who came to this realization. In an interview with me, she declared “The weave is a distraction from other visible flaws…Now me I can’t do the weave/extensions. I had them. They itch too much, cost too much and if it isn’t the right kind of hair you can’t even use heating products.”
There is often quite a large amount of conflict between black women with these two hair preferences. Whether they are African-American, Caribbean, Afro-European or straight from the motherland of Africa itself, women who have natural hair often disagree with women who wear weaves and vice versa. This is because black women who don’t wear extensions believe that black women who do, are running away from their “blackness” and are trying to fit in with the Euro-centric society that they live in. Black women who do wear weaves however, believe that women who wear their hair natural don’t have manageable hair that can be “tamed.”
Bethany Person, a college junior who does not wear weaves or extensions stated “I feel that for some women being able to purchase long hair or weave/extensions of any length and claim it as their own does boost their self esteem because it make them feel prettier. They see the media portrayal of long hair as one of the main sources of beauty… I feel that the downside to that is that they become so comfortable with it that they become uncomfortable without it, they become uncomfortable in their own skin.”
On the contrary, 21-year-old Antoinette Bates is a young woman who changes her hair style up with her natural hair at times and weave or extensions at others. She declared “Honestly in my opinion…as long as my hair looks good it gives me more confidence, whether it’s extensions, weaves, perm or natural!” Moreover, pre-med student Zuri Dawkins also sees extensions just as accessories. She stated “I agree weave and extensions are like a nice pair of heels or makeup. It boost your self esteem, but that doesn’t mean a woman isn’t beautiful without it.”
With all of the different opinions about hair on the black community, I think we all need to remember one important thing. In the infamous words of India Arie “I am not my hair, I am not my skin, I am the soul that lives within.” There is no need for any type of conflict between women of color who have naturals or perms, weaves or extensions because we should all understand that our hair does not define us. What defines us should not be anything external, but our purely internal traits.