We always put an emphasis on instilling a sense of pride in young African American girls where their hair is concerned. It is important that it is done starting very early in life and that it continues throughout their child and teen years. However, no one seems to touch on the subject of the ideas little African American boys harbor about natural hair.
Why’s it even important?
As much as we might not like it, little girls are going to grow up to one day to be women who sometimes change things about themselves to please the opposite sex. If a little boy grows up in a household where his mother, sisters, and grandmother are all rushing out to get a perm on a regular basis and the word “nappy” is tossed around like acid, he’s going to grow up with the same ideas that a lot of the AA community has about natural hair: it’s unmanageable, it’s ugly, it’s not desirable.
This little boy is then going to turn into a young man. This young man will go out and search for his ideal woman. This “ideal” will have come from years of magazines, movies, and television shows that all telling him that straight hairstyles, mostly weaves and wigs, are what he wants on his future mate. And what do you think the young women are going to do?
Some of you may be balking at this and you might argue that girls need to raised to love themselves no matter what a man thinks of them.
I agree…but I have to stay in reality. How many women do you see online who want to go natural or who try to go natural, but their husbands/boyfriends/fiances don’t want them to? Essence recently did a “Word on the Street” interview asking men what they thought of natural hair on a woman. There were some positive responses, but here were the negative:
“I mostly like relaxed hair. I’m not into the whole nappy thing. I think it’s a cool look but I just like the clean look of relaxed hair. It’s a preference.”
“I like straight hair for the most part. I just think it looks better. And I guess I became accustomed to it growing up with my mother and sister—they always wore their hair straight, so that’s all I was used to seeing. I’m not a fan of weaves. They just rub your face and it feels like basketball shorts, it doesn’t feel good.”
“Honestly, I like a permed hair but it has to be yours. I want to be able to stroke my hand through my girl’s hair without any stops. I want to be able to go from the top without catching any speed bumps or a little derailed track, you know.”
“I think long hair is a good look for taller women but shorter women with a small face look nice with short hair. I don’t like that nappy, nappy hair all the time. If she likes long hair, I like it. But if she has short hair and it doesn’t fit her then we might break up.”“I like long hair, the simpler the better. I’ve seen some shorter styles that work like Halle Berry’s cut but I’ve always preferred longer hair. Natural hair is nice on our women but it’s tricky because not all women can wear their hair that way.”
So, we have that natural hair appears unclean, is worse that straight hair, and that it takes special circumstances for some people to wear it (I’m assuming he means it’s ok if the texture is very loose).
With opinions like the above, how can teens and young women not grow up feeling like they have to have straight hair to “catch” a man. What’s really sad is that a lot of the men look toward famous women who have wigs and weaves (unbeknown to these deluded men) and say “There, that’s what I want in a woman!”
Check out this video I saw posted on HappyCurls a few months back. Around the 3:14 mark, they get the opinion of what kind of hair men like. One guy says he hates weaves, doesn’t want a woman with a weave, weaves are the worst thing in the world…when asked what woman has hair that he’d like, who does he mention? Gabrielle Union. I hate to break it to him, but Gabby has a weave a good deal of the time, buddy.
I’m not saying all men are like that. Not at all. But they are out there in droves. And however strong a woman you are, it will hit home when you hear “I just don’t like nappy hair”.
That’s why we have to get these little jokers while they’re young! What can we do about it?
We often marry our parents
I’m sorry for those of you who hate your mother in law, but there is a well researched theory that men grow up to marry women who remind them of their mothers. You will even find this to be true in situations where the mother was uncaring or the relationship was dysfunctional.
All you natural mommies who have sons, you are starting off his little life right by showing him that natural hair is so beautiful, even his mommy wears it. Seriously! There is strong evidence that we search for physical traits of the parent of the opposite sex when choosing a mate. From this CNN.com article:
Berkeley, California, psychotherapist Elayne Savage says familiarity is a big reason people may choose someone like Mom or Dad as a partner.
“When you grow up familiar with a certain type of person, you’re attracted to that same type of person because it feels comfortable, whether you like it or not,” says Savage, author of “Breathing Room: Creating Space to Be a Couple.” “That’s what people mean when they meet a potential partner and say, ‘It ‘feels like I’ve known him my whole life.'”
Anecdotal evidence also suggests that a parent’s physical or intellectual traits may have some influence. A Hungarian researcher studied the facial features of 52 families and found a significant correlation between the appearance of men and their fathers-in-law and those of women and their mothers-in-law.
Therefore, while you’re showing that little girl of yours how much you revel in your twists, braids, locs, and fros, don’t forget to tell that little man in your life how beautiful natural hair is too.
Let him sport it
Shearing young AA boys’ hair down to a fade is the popular (and easiest) thing to do. It’s a fact that in this society, males (both black and white and green) don’t wear longer hair. I understand that. But there is no harm in letting a little boy wear his hair a bit longer and maybe in twists or a little afro. In my opinion, it further enforces that idea that kinky hair is not something we just hide away.
Boys have self esteem issues about their hair as well as girls. How many grown men have I seen rub their head of hair that’s starting to grow back and say “Time for a hair cut, my hair’s getting nappy”….They never say, “My hair’s getting too long”. Again there’s nothing wrong with keeping it short. Just remind your little man that it’s not because his hair is “too nappy”.
Positive Role Models
As with girls, you want to keep a lot of positivity going in your household by providing action figures, books, and movies that include kinky hair.
Dolls like Me has some great toys that resemble all different ethnicities.I know it’s hard to find action figures and dolls for young boys with natual hair (I mean, I think G.I. Joe has a perm!), but I’m convinced that in the coming years, things will get better in that department.