The Contradiction of Male Entitlement and Natural Hair

Dammit. I should be playing Zumba. My shoes are on and my hair is up – I’m ready to shimmy and shake on the Zumba party yacht (virtually). But instead, I’m sitting here and pondering the thought process several males have when commenting on natural hair. For some reason, I see a lot of strong opinions on our hair, whether it’s love or hate. If you don’t believe me, you can do a simple Google search or check out the #naturalhair hashtag on Twitter. Men (especially black men) seem to love to spit vitriol at us for wearing our hair nappy like neanderthals or call us queens because we have embraced our crowns. The compliments get positive reactions all over the internet, while the negative comments are met with, “Who asked you?!?!” But can we really be upset at the insults when so many women place such a high emphasis on a man’s opinion of our hair?

While I understand the mantra “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” the extreme focus that is often placed on men complimenting natural hair forms an obvious alter ego – the “villain,” the man who is going to tell you how it REALLY is. And why not? We go as far as to have conversations with spouses before big chopping and every single time a man posts a blog or video about natural hair, it goes viral. What about the villain? He just wants some attention too. We fed this villain, we made him, and we keep him alive.

A few weeks ago, I was tardy to the party and read a post on Curly Nikki about a woman whose husband threatened to divorce her while she was pregnant – all because of her hair and her lack of consultation with him regarding how she chose to wear her natural locks. To be completely honest, it was one of the most concerning things I have ever read in my life. The fact that it seemed okay for a man to be so hurt about his wife not discussing her hair with him that he would threaten to separate from her (apparently, he wasn’t actually going to “really” do it) while she is carrying his child shows me that the natural hair version of Harvey Dent’s evil counterpart is not going to exit stage left anytime soon.

In a similar sense, there is also the notion that women are blaming black men for more of us not wearing our hair natural. Because we fear the backlash from men, we choose weaves and relaxers to stay appealing to the masses. But of course, this is really our fault, because we blame black men for everything, right? As I stated in the beginning, take the time and look up some of the things that have been said about natural hair. Not everyone can take that kind of criticism, and I don’t blame them. Perhaps, instead of seeing the natural hair controversy as a woman’s excuse to belittle black men’s support of them, look to your fellow-man and ask why his lack of support (or heck, even his support) needs to be so vocal.

Remember, for every hero, there is a villain. If Harvey Dent hadn’t been placed on such a high pedestal, Two Face really wouldn’t have been a huge deal. And now…my appointment with a computerized man shaking his butt and giving me several thumbs up is overdue.

What are your thoughts? Do you think men’s voices are too loud regarding natural hair, whether it’s positive or negative? Please leave your comments below!


15 thoughts on “The Contradiction of Male Entitlement and Natural Hair

  1. Sagine Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ (@AutumnDazeSage) says:

    Its so frustrating because at times, especially when i first did my big chop, I was very insecure about what men would think about me. As if my esteem depended upon their opinions. One day I looked in the mirror and saw pure beauty looking back at and that’s when I knew I made the right decision. That’s not to say at times I won’t throw in some curly clip ins for a job interview, but this is a movement. I’m just really happy that so many people are doing this now so it makes it easier to move as a group. I went over my mom’s house and she was less than pleased with it. We got into a screaming match that ended up with me in tears. And she will still bother me about saying I should go get a perm. Its so frustrating and shows just how closed minded people still are. Its your decision ladies and you don’t need a man, a job, or a family member to tell you’re beautiful in order to feel that way. You are making a better decision not only for your hair but your health overall.

  2. auntcurly says:

    What I learned very early when I first bc’d before there was ever a term for cutting your relaxed hair into a twa, is to not care what men think. I’ve alternated between relaxed and natural hair for decades. I’m wearing it natural, 2 years, now, for the first time since all of these natural hair products, haircare and styling techniques entered the picture. Throughout the many years that I would chop my hair off, I found that I met a better quality of men when I wore my hair natural. That whenever my hair was relaxed and long, I met a lot of frogs who would never ever transform into princes. Men who like you, only because you have long hair (or any other physical attribute), do not like the real you. They are in love with a beauty ideal. They are, in short, objectifying you. The problem with that is that objects have no real value and are always easily replaced when a new object of desire catches one’s eye. Black men do not have a monopoly on this attitude. Hair is important in most cultures with regard to female beauty. But hair could also be substituted for breasts, weight, youth, etc. It’s understandable that young women want and are used to a certain kind of attention from men as they go about their everyday lives. But eventually, that attention disappears. Women over a certain age do not get ogled the same way a young woman does. It doesn’t matter how ‘hot’ you look or think you look. That’s just the way it is. It’s better to get used to this concept while you are still being ogled and go for you. If you really want to wear your hair natural, then do so and screw what some men are saying. Some men are a-holes so why care what they think? The women who want them deserve them and can have them, so nothing is really lost. Wear your hair the way you want. It’s your hair and that’s that.

  3. Kay (@nappyheadblkgrl) says:

    I have to agree with Derby City Naturals on this one. Giving up the relaxer is a big change. To me, this doens’t equate at all to a man getting a haircut…more like him coming home with a Jherri Curl.

    Should your partner be able to dictate how you wear your hair? Of course not. But I do feel he should have a say and that his voice should be taken into consideration.

    Call me old school, but I thought a relationship was about give-and-take, with a bit of compromise thrown in for good measure. I don’t think it’s so much about not giving a crap about others’ opinions, but moreso about working as a team and respecting each other’s opinions.

    It’s a fine line, I know 🙂

    • Elle says:

      I understand where you are coming from, but IMO, wearing your natural hair should not be such a big shock that it warrants a discussion. It’s how your hair is naturally. Honestly, I think it’s quite sad that in our society wearing your natural hair is seen as something so extraordinary that we need permission in a way, whether it be from a spouse, job, family, or even society as a whole. I shouldn’t have to explain to someone why I want to wear my hair how it is. I don’t explain to people when I don’t want to wear makeup. I disagree that it’s like him coming home with a jheri curl for a number of reasons – mainly jheri curls inconvenience others (that juice on my couch – no!), they aren’t natural, and they are out of style. I would be much more inclined to ask my spouse’s thoughts if I were going to get a more extreme hairstyle, but my natural hair isn’t extreme to me.

      • teency60 says:

        Amen Elle! We are the only race that seems to have issues with our natural hair. When I decided to go natural 4 years ago, I chopped it all off and told my fiance after the fact. My natural hair is just that, me – natural!

    • Jae says:

      I understand where you are coming from, really. To me though, wearing your hair natural is not an alteration to your appearance. Can you really even compare it to a jheri curl when this (natural) is how your hair grows from your scalp? Why should someone else be able to dictate whether that is good enough?

  4. Derby City Naturals says:

    Let me just speak for myself. It feels good to be complimented. On a job well done, on my intelligence and yes on my looks (gasp!) people are allowed to have preferences. I would think that both my mate and myself would find those preferences in each other. I would think that before making a big change in our physical appearance that we would talk about it. I don’t need random strangers slice me up but a nice compliment will make me smile. I do look for support and encouragement from my friends and loved ones.

    • Elle says:

      I’m not saying that you shouldn’t like to be complimented – everyone likes it. But, if you LIVE for compliments (I know some people who will not do/wear something unless someone ELSE tells them it looks good regardless of what they think), you can’t really be surprised when the opposite is something this way wicked comes. If it’s a BFD one way, it’s going to be a BFD the other.

  5. Showing MyRoots says:

    During the 2011 “Showing My Roots” North American Naturals Cruise, this exact topic was covered. A lovely speaker by the name of Regina Ross, couldn’t have said it better. To condense her speech (in my own words), she stated that “she does not consult her husband when he heads off in the direction of the barber shop in order to get his hair cut.” She does not ask or seek his approval, for matters of HER hair.

    Men that feel the need to become too vocal one way or the other regarding their opinion of a woman’s hair, appear bored. It is very important to understand that people (male & female) have preferences. Just because someone states he prefers to date someone with straightened hair vs. natural hair doesn’t make him a “natural hater”. It simply means, his eye is caught by the flower that fits that mold. That is not to say that he is repulsed by a natural flower, just trained to look at the other flower first.

    On the other hand, the ignorant men (virtually) running wild on the internet hurling insults about “nappy headed, unkept” women are just that; ignorant. They do not know any better. Nor have they taken the time to find out how much time has actually been spent on her hair. How CLEAN her hair is in comparison. How moisturized, and well cared for those “napps” really are. Until, these jokers get out of the clouds and lose the slave mentality, they will never see anyone that does not resemble our European sisters as beautiful. Lucky for them, most natural women do not share that same slave mentality.

  6. Jae says:

    I honestly had no idea what a huge issue this was. I guess that is because I personally could care less what a man (or anyone else, for that matter) has to say about my hair. When all is said and done though, if a man leaves you or won’t date you because of something like hair, then he’s really not the man for you anyway. People will always have their opinions. The more comfortable you become with yourself and the choices you make, the less weight you will put on what someone else thinks…even if it is your man.

  7. CurlyCoily Xai says:

    On my wedding day I allowed my husband to dictate how I was to wear my hair because he was my husband (to be) & had every right…right? Well when I told him I was thinking about cutting my hair short he was livid. This response surprised me even though he’d said he like long hair. Oooo I was so mad, but I kept calm & stated that if he felt so strongly about how I wear my hair that he should then put his money where his mouth is a pay for every hairdresser visit (& trust me they would be at least weekly & expensive), treatments & any thing remotely related to the upkeep of my hair.

    You know what, he never answered me, said anything else about my hair choices & his money never left his pockets! Just because I married him didn’t give him the right to dictate what I do to my hair, just as it didn’t the clothes I wore.

    The way I see it, my hair is just that, my hair. You may suggest how you think I should wear it, but don’t get offended when I wear it how I want to & it differers from your vision. If you don’t like it fine, I may not like how you wear your hair, but ultimately it’s your hair not mine.

  8. Mary Josiah Stokes says:

    Unfortunately we don’t live apart from society and therefore we have to always be aware of what our husbands, work colleagues, and others have to say. We all have to do informal cost/benefits analyses of what our husbands and colleagues think and each perosn has to make a decision based on that. But on the other hand, as black women living in a Western society that has certain prevailing notions about black women’s worth, intelligence, beauty, etc, we’ve always had to do a lot of ignoring of the vitriol and the nonsense, pertaining to us. Why stop now? Basically, I don’t give a flying *&ck what black men or most people who don’t have any effect on my life thinks or says about my hair.

  9. Avionne Prentice says:

    Tbh it makes me sad really that men who compliment or insult our hair are given any notice at all. Negative or positive. The women who praise men who ‘love’ natural hair embarrass me.Yes I said it!!! the fawning..ick!! All I feel is concern that this man thinks he has to RIGHT to make any comment about any part of my body. If a man made a video about breasts we would probably be offended. Why aren’t we offended that mr whoever (whether he likes natural hair or not) thinks he has to comment about our hair/appearance. I’d prefer they just not comment. I don;t need PERMISSION or APPROVAL when it comes to my hair or anything else.All that matters is that I feel good about myself, and approve of myself.

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