The Problem with Hair Femininity

Three hours ago I posted a Youtube video about my hair journey and how difficult it has been.

Half an hour ago I stood in the bathroom staring at my straightened hair, crying at how long and healthy it looked.

I realized that this was funny. Not funny "haha" but funny peculiar. Because I was celebrating my journey to getting beautiful ringlet curls on my Facebook and Instagram, but crying over how straight it was. 

I thought about it, and I've realized a few things. In talking about my curls, I talked about how I was picked on, how people confused me for a boy, how much of my identity was held in this one part of me. I've always hated my curls, until recently when it suddenly blossomed into healthy ringlets that I could control, and I found products I could use to manage it. 

See, I've always seen my hair as part of my feminine identity. I always wanted to be like the little girls in my class who had long flowing hair. Why is that? Well, Rapunzel was saved by a prince because of her long hair. How many movies depict women whipping their hair from one side to another and all of the people in the crowd's jaws drop? The most iconic flirtatious girl move is tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, or playing with it, while talking to a guy. Every romantic sex scene seems to finish with the guy playing with the girl's hair after they cuddle (which is BS but that's for another blog post). I had spent so much time hating my curls because I felt they made me unwanted. No one could run their fingers through my hair without getting trapped in knots. I can't whip my hair from side to side, or flirt by playing with it. 

Slowly I started loving my curls, and hard to manage hair, because as I became able to manage it, I felt it was part of my heritage. I was finally embracing who I was as a black woman, finally learning how to treat my hair properly. As soon as I started embracing the curls, it felt like everyone just adored them and preferred them on me as opposed to straight.  And though I loved the love I was getting for rocking my curls, part of me still wanted to feel validated with straight hair. I knew the curls were a hit because it was different, something my white friends didn't have, that many wanted. But I still, desperately, just wanted to be able to have someone play with my hair.

I'm trying to figure out why, as a society, we put so much stock into hair in terms of femininity. As a black person, there's a plethora of issues ranging from cultural appropriation, to braids etc. being viewed as unhygienic, but why did I feel like my curls weren't feminine enough. Why have we attributed long, flowing hair, to sexuality, sensuality and femininity? I'll never know why.

But today I brushed my hair for the first time in 5 years. I cried. My roommate ran her fingers in my hair, and it was the first time anyone had ever done so. I'm a little saddened at how complete this milestone as made me feel, but also so thrilled. I hope that, in places with a bigger ethnic population, girls aren't made to feel that they are less of a girl because of their curls. I was made to feel that way, and I am finally proud of them, but I can't stop running my fingers through my own hair and smiling.


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