Last week, I decided to do an impromptu, non-sponsored, let me see if my hair is long enough to style Get Ready with Me YouTube video. As I posted some teaser images, proud of my little version of the roll, tuck, and pin style that I frequently did before I cut my hair in February, something became clear – not everyone was impressed with my hairstyle. When I compared the back of my hairstyle to some other photos that featured women with wavy or blown out hair, as evidence of texture discrimination, a number of people responded that it was not a texture issue, but simply that my hairstyle was ugly.
For the record, I personally don’t care that people called my hairstyle ugly. After all, having an online presence subjects you to public scrutiny, and I’ve fielded many comments about my hair, life plans, and brand, that at this point I’m pretty immune to
fake constructive criticism shade. However, I’m a lot more resilient – and used to comments about my hair – than the average woman with kinky natural hair, especially if they are a recent convert.
Here’s why it’s dangerous to call another woman’s natural hair “ugly”:
[Tweet “You risk undoing someone’s entire natural hair journey when you call their hair ugly”]
Based on the number of emails I get each day, I can tell you for a fact that there are thousands of women around the world who do NOT think their natural hair is attractive. Many of these women have very kinky hair, like my own, which is undoubtedly the least desired hair texture (except that now white women want our hair more than we do, smh). By telling someone in person, online, under your breath, or even just in your mind, that their hair is ugly, you risk undoing the journey towards self-acceptance that often accompanies one’s natural hair journey.
Now you may be thinking, well I’m not saying that the person is ugly, but that their hairstyle is. It’s not neat, defined, shiny, polished, etc enough.
This language of neat/polish/maintained hair SCREAMS respectability politics. The desire to have polished hair in America originated centuries ago during and after slavery as African-Americans wanted to appear more equal to whites. That’s why we started relaxing our hair in the first place! It’s a shame that people within the natural hair community have co-opted prejudices and language that the natural hair movement was created to resist. Natural hair comes in all shapes and sizes, colors and patterns. Whether or not it is neatly parted, has slicked edges, or an untamed kitchen, natural hairstyles should never be criticized as ugly, especially by fellow naturals.
[Tweet “Everyone’s natural hair journey is a personal excursion towards learning and loving their hair”]
The next time you don’t like someone’s hairstyle, mine included, here are a few things you can say instead of calling it ugly:
- That’s not my favorite hairstyle of yours.
- I like your hair better when it’s xyz.
- That’s an interesting look.
- I would never be able to do that style with my hair.
- Have you heard of (insert blogger/hair guru here)? You should check out her videos.
These are still pretty shady things to say, but at least they don’t compromise the fundamental personhood of someone who is probably trying, just like you, to understand, maintain, and embrace their natural hair. Next time you fix your mouth to tell someone that their natural hair or hairstyle is ugly, just