I Am Not My Hair

I recently had a conversation with some of my friends that I found perplexing.  We were discussing hair.  My friends all thought that long hair was more beautiful and that it could boost a girl’s self-esteem because it could make her feel prettier.  I found this “theory” a little flawed.  Although, I recognize that most of us can feel better and more confident on “good hair days,” I don’t think our self-esteem rests solely on whether our locks fall above or below our shoulders.  But what really made me curious about this conversation was the fact that hair is such a topic of concern for many women.  Isn’t hair just hair?

For many women hair isn’t just hair.  And whether we want it to or not, it can define us.  Much of society has already decided who we are based on the style, the color, or the texture of our hair.  Most of us are familiar with the “dumb blonde” stereotype that still persists even though we know plenty of highly intelligent blonde women.  And we all know lots of girls with cute, cropped hair cuts who are very feminine despite the stereotype that girls with short hair are butch or manly.  Some of these stereotypes may seem like harmless generalizations until it gets hurtful or affects us professionally.  According to an article on DiversityInc, many African American women have felt that they’ve been overlooked for promotions or unfairly treated in the workplace because of their natural hair.  They’ve felt pressured to chemically treat and straighten their hair in order for their employer to consider them professional.  One explanation that the article gives for this negative attitude towards natural hair is that people are more trusting of others who look similar to them.  So in the business world, which is predominantly white male, textured, natural hair, braids, or locks can be seen as a threat to the integrity of the office.  It seems that women in male-dominated business world have it hard, but Black women have it even harder.

As a young African American woman, I have done everything to my hair from getting relaxers, to having dreadlocks, to having extensions, and now I am experimenting with a short, natural look. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different styles, but I realize that my hair doesn’t define who I am; it only enhances who I am. And I never want anyone to define me by the way I wear my hair.  I used to worry about what other people thought of my hair, and honestly, it got to be very tiresome.  India Arie says it best in her song, I am not my hair.  The chorus reads, “I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am the soul that lives within”.  A woman’s worth and her self-esteem, lies way below the surface.  No matter what my friends may think about long hair, I know there’s so much more to a beautiful woman.

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One Comment

  1. Dana
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 11:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    Well said Ms. Jefferson!

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