Friday, January 28, 2011

Flavor of Friday: Curlism & the Natural Hair "Movement"

Nope, you're not the only one who didn't realize 'curlism' was an actual word. I too was in the dark about the bitter controversy over what people are calling the natural hair "movement". Let me first declare that I, for one, didn't decide to let go of my relaxed hair back in 2006 because of any kind of movement going on. I did it because I joined an African dance troupe (shoutout to African Rhythms at UPENN) in college, had rigorous dance practice on a regular basis and couldn't deal with maintaining straight hair at Philly hairstylist prices.

Me, circa 2006 (First time natural since childhood)
 Anyway, fast forward 5 years later and everywhere you turn there are girls chopping off their relaxers and rocking their curls. Hell, even I decided (after regretfully relaxing it last year) to chop mine off again and start from scratch. I think it's great that there are so many resources out there now for people who want to do it. But I didn't realize there were SO many strong viewpoints about who could "rightfully" participate in this movement. Well, one of my fave Youtube vloggers Taren916 decided to make a thought-provoking video about the controversy. After a few followers told Taren she couldn't rightfully be part of the "movement" because she's of mixed race and has loose curls, she sounded off with her opinions:

I thought this was interesting to highlight because I know for a fact that you guys are a mixed audience. I'm grateful to have all of you as faithful blog readers - from dark & curly haired gals to blond bombshells with bone straight hair. And I'm curious to know your opinion on this. Should there be such a thing as CURL-ism? Like racism, it separates people based on a physical feature - the texture, shape and size of their CURLS. Can't we all just get along?
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  1. I really am saddened by this. It's not enough to be looked at negatively by others because of race, but now we're making it interpersonal with HAIR! I really wish we could get a grip, support each other, and fight against the racism and discrimination that people outside of our race, gender,...whatever throw on us. This is really ashame. Besides, it's not a movement for a particular type of curl, it's a healthy hair journey right?

  2. Anything that separates us shouldnt exist but we have to recognize and understand that due to the difference in our hair textures, our experiences are different. It's not rejecting the light and curlies, but it's understanding that if you are one (sorry to use this language and framing) that you mightve not grown up being called an African bush boogie or seen a complete lack of those who look like you w/o the few that due being used as a name for you as an insult. Those who have a kinkier grain, need to understand they aren't the only ones who struggle with self identity and love as Black women. Love and understanding.. yeah

  3. Wow!! Curlism?? I've never heard of this and it is saddening. It's bad enough we have things like racism that aim to divide us that some women in our community would take this divide a step further with curlism. I loved Taryn's viewpoint and can totally relate, especially since I'm in the beginning stages of my own natural hair journey. I am dark skinned and just by looking at me you could never tell that my mother is Afro-Cuban (straight from the island) and my father is half black and half Irish. My hair is fine, resulting in a looser curl, so does that exclude me from this movment because my hair doesn't have enough kink?? Like Taryn said, everyone has a backstory and everyone has struggled in one way or another with self esteem and self worth. Her troubles growing up (or mine even) are no less than one who has the kinkier hair.


  4. Curls are Curls. I have short red wavy/curly hair. Some people may not like that I don't have perfect curls. I say, who cares. I love natural hair. It's so gorgeous. I think curlism sounds ridiculous. People need more productive things to do.
    My Heart Blogged

  5. I never really understand why ppl want to put others in a box and label them. Why does it matter if she is a light skinned mixed raced girl. My mother is a beautician and I have seen fully black girls with crazy beautiful loose curls. I've seen all kinds of different hair textures on all different types of women. I am just waiting for the day when none of this matters and we all build each other up and our differences aren't a concern.

    Editor & Chic

  6. I've hated the whole 'movement' ever since i saw the youtube videos.We need to realise that we arn't the only people with curly/variations of hair.
    Really now?
    We are all the same PEOPLE live with it.
    I swear if anyone pulls that shit on my kids i'ma strangle somebody.

  7. We should all get along, but sadly we don't. To me, you're natural if you don't chemically alter the texture of your hair. Taren is as much as part of the "movement" as someone with 4b hair. She gives tips that could potentially help anyone with curls really. Plus, there are some people who are not biracial and who have her hair texture. What's with all the unnecessary divides!?

  8. I am one of those people who wouldn't be allowed in the movement one because I am mixed and two because I never used many chemicals in my hair. However, I find it all a bit baffling. It all seem's irrelevant, there is always a constant battle to prove whom is more ethnic than the other when it is not even that important! By the way love this blog!

    Twitter: @YvonnaLivianna

  9. The video response by AfricanExport was really good! She broke it all the way down. It is a shame that we still use hair as a means of stratification. I do understand that women with tighter curls want to have something of "their own" but to exclude or separate based on one curl pattern contributes to the problem AND concedes that the looser hair texture is superior. I love my hair texture. I just wish I had more hair. :-)

  10. Let me just say I love your blog. I'm going through and reading the whole thing, so, I hope you don't mind getting a lot of comments, heh.

    I probably shouldn't be in this because I am mostly mixed (I'm mostly black, but my father is mixed himself). However, I feel I should include my two cents, anyway.

    All through high school, I kept my hair straight. All four years, flat ironed everyday. My junior year, I chopped it all off and I got my first relaxer, (it didn't do much, my hair curled right back up before they finished washing it out) but by graduation, my hair had grown back and I was wearing it natural again. One thing I've noticed with my natural hair as opposed to straight hair, is that I get a lot of black women asking how I do my hair, thinking it's weave or product, and when I tell them I don't do anything to it they seem to look at me with contempt, always ask if I'm mixed and then immediately ask if I ever straighten it, almost as if it's some sort of backhanded compliment. I never really thought of it much, though, until now.

  11. what a great post! i think anything that has to do with sexism, racism, 'curlism', and any type of prejudice is just the stupidest things i've ever heard of...who gives one person or group the right to feel superior over another person or group? personally, i love straight or curly hair and i don't think it should be a matter of what race wears what hairstyle better, it just depends on the individual. i used to want my hair straight all the time only because it looked better on me, not because i'm asian and that's the type of hair most asians have. ive actually started to let my hair air dry and it its become naturally wavy, which i love!
    keep up the great posts girl! :)

    Fashion Bag 411

  12. This was very interesting. I like Taren was teased growing up a black mixed girl (mixed with Indian, polish and black) and because of the constant ridicule I choose to go the route of “looking like everyone else” to fit in. I would go home in tears and not understanding the reasons behind the constant taunting from my peers. I hated my hair, I hated that I looked different. I am brown skin, I am not light but I have curly hair and when I was growing up that was “different” and not acceptable when you’re attending an all black school. Now that I am older and wiser I’ve started, as of last year to go natural. It bothers me because it seems like the taunting kids grew up to be taunting adults not ACCEPTING hair for what it is but with “parameters”. Who has the right to say “you can’t be in the movement”!? First off I think this “hair movement” is silliness, that’s just my opinion, I don’t think women ( black, white, Puerto Rican, mixed) but just women in general are deciding to go nature because of a “movement” they are doing it for their own personal reasons. Calling it a “movement” makes it sound like a fad, and for everyone that has transitioned it’s not easy to go from premed to natural so a fad, trend, or movement should never be used to describe this decision. I think segregating who should be allowed to be a part of this beautiful decision is silliness, we should be applauding one another for wanting to be nature and embracing a beauty that was handed down to us from our ancestors not ridiculed and shunned because once again we don’t “fit the mold” We need to stick together women, that’s really what it comes down to, be happy that were all in this together and together we can help show the little girls of today that nature beauty is beautiful!

    Vogue & Vintage


  13. No, "curlism" is just wrong. I haven't had a perm since 2004, and quite frankly, I think the word "movement" is all wrong. People are making it about something that it's not, and it can be a turn off for someone looking to go without a perm. I don't even like the word "natural" to be completely honest. As Black women, we have gotten so caught up in associating the hair with the level of Blackness, and that's all wrong. At the end of the day, we are all human, and are only as good as our individual experiences allow. Curlism is the other side of "good hair." If your hair ain't nappy, then you ain't really a part of the "movement." It's all nonsense.
    I'm a new reader, by the way... I'm going on to peruse whatever goodies you have to offer!!

  14. I don't think the natural hair movement should be confined to a specific curl type or race. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, and a lot of girls had really curly hair. Not super kinky and stuff, but still "hard to manage" compared to other girls, and everyone started straightening as soon as they hit middle school, because even for white girls, it is not really the beauty ideal to have puffy curls. So why shouldn't they be part of it? A lot of people, regardless of race, have insecurities about their hair and can end up spending a lot of time and money managing it. Why is it more legitimate or justified for some people to embrace their natural hair than others?

  15. I am just as sad, I really am. My daughter is a mixed race child (I am black, my husband is white). Her hair is in loose curls, and the texture is definitely not Afro textured. People will always give me comments like, "Oh! She's got the good hair!" and "Oh her skin is so light, how is that possible?" and the classic, "She's going to get far because of her looks." These comments have come from blacks, whites, and even Asians. Really these people mean no harm, but they don't realize their comments have been because of a cultural grooming that they have undergone all their lives. My child will only get far in life because of her hair and skin??? Will her intelligence mean nothing? Am I not pretty enough to produce a child who might not be mixed? Is it only because she is mixed? My child will NEVER wear a perm. I want to teach her to be proud of herself. One day, if she decides to do so, I will want to know her reasons why and talk to her about it. To each his own, but to purposefully go through painful perming, and extensive expensive hair care just to maintain a socially acceptable look?? I think it's absurd. I have very recently (for about two months now) gone back to natural hair. Chopped off my damaged and distressed permed hair and rocking a mini fro for a little while as I wait for it to grow back fuller and healthier. I'm only 20 about to be 21 and entering the Paralegal field soon. Many have told me I might not be a desirable candidate among other (white???) girls not only b/c of age, but my hair! I say, whatever. I will do with my hair what I want, and I will find work somewhere. I will not be afraid of who I am, and my daughter I hope to raise with strong principles that help her define who she is. Thank you for this blog!

  16. It is pointless to dictate the Curl. No matter what race you are there are Curls. My co-worker is Blonde and curls and because of her dry hair she uses moisturizers that are focused on Black people. No one has a claim on Curls. I for one say LEAVE THE CURLS ALONE!!!

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