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Writing, learn-ing, jewelry, deconstructing t-shirts and reality - it's what I do. I live to be inspired, and to inspire.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Fixing Women Who Are Not Broken to Appease Men Who Are

I don't really pay attention to Steve Harvey's relationship guru direction, or anything on TV in general, but I found this particularly disturbing and I can't help but wonder why it is acceptable of anyone. In the above clip a husband has extreme negative reactions to his wife's natural hair when she takes a break from wearing weaves. Harvey playfully admonishes the husband for not supporting his wife then brings in a "professional", Nikki Walton to speak with them about natural hair. The "professional" treats it as if it is all about the woman and her confidence and the whole fix is to teach her new hairstyles. This is not okay.

It was disappointing and frankly upsetting how this situation was handled. I don't generally care for conversations that treat natural hair like an anomaly. This sort of conversation stems out of white supremacy, an obvious legacy from this world's history, the consequences of which are still, to this day, damaging and real. The concept that "straight silky" hair is the norm and that other people with other textures of hair are abnormal and ugly is an example. This is why grown white people will ask me how I get my hair the way it is, because surely having hair of my texture and shape is not natural and I must be doing something drastic to make it all stand up like this. I always find it surprising that people can grow to adulthood without the basic understanding that people have all sorts of natural differences and not everyone's hair lies flat or is similar to theirs. Unfortunately the "normalcy" of whiteness is so deeply ingrained in so much of society that, even among the African diaspora, natural African hair is treated with scorn - especially the shorter and more tightly curled its texture. The natural hair of people of African descent comes in various textures and lengths and is extremely versatile. Healthy hair is beautiful, no matter what the texture, color or ethnicity of the person whose head it crowns. It really should be that simple. Instead what we have is a devaluing of hair that seems more "African" or "nappy" or "kinky", and even in natural hair circles, people are encouraged to disguise the texture of such hair to make it more wavy or to "tame" it.

I care passionately about a woman's right to own her natural body, to love herself and be loved as she is without having to change her natural features to suit a shallow and misguided society; which brings me back to the above clip and why I consider it more damaging than helpful. The husband in this story needs to be called out on his shallowness, his mental slavery and overall horrible selfish, childish inconsiderate behavior. If he can't let his lovely wife be herself at every stage of the "growing process" he doesn't deserve her.  Her hair is beautiful AS IS, at the length and texture it is. All the styles offered as solutions are about either hiding her hair or changing the appearance of it. It is not her fault her husband is inconsiderate and ridiculous, though she literally states she feels guilty, and she shouldn't have to "fix" her hair for the situation to improve. This solution reinforces patriarchal ideas that the husband is not responsible for his own behavior toward his wife, but rather she caused him to behave that way towards her. 

We are looking at a grown man here. He ought to have the maturity to accept that he does not own his wife's hair, that she is taking actions for her own true natural health and beauty, and that he needs to move beyond shallow "white-is-right" ideologies to accept his wife for who she is and not just how she looks. When he met her he knew she was a woman of African descent and he had an idea of what her natural hair texture is like because he has the same hair. The fact that he is repulsed by his wife's similar hair texture to his own seems to demonstrate some self-hate. As a grown man he needs to recognize and work on that. His wife also needs to work on her own discomfort with her natural hair. Both need to journey to a place emotionally where they can see each other and themselves in their natural state without the lens of white supremacy, patriarchy or any other ingrained misconceptions and judgments that teach them they are anything less than beautiful and good. Anything else is simply not enough. Harvey and Walton are putting band-aids over bullet holes and I refuse to condone such carelessness.

I have nothing against twist-outs, iron-outs or pin-ups. Hairstyle is not the point (and if you think that is you've definitely missed it). I do have something against people of influence reinforcing damaging concepts or trying to fix women who are not broken to appease men who are. If you know better, do better. If you don't know better, you better learn fast or give voice to those who do know better. Band aids over bullet holes will not produce the type of healing we need. Let's do the surgery necessary, dig deep and find healing for ourselves and by extension our larger society.