“An open letter to my hair straightening friends”: On the wonderful experience of accepting our real beauty

Illustration by Marcella Tamayo for Ovelha
Illustration by Marcella Tamayo for Ovelha

Note from BW of Brazil: Anyone who has followed this blog for any amount of time knows that the issue of black hair is one that is frequent topic here. And for good reason. When one lives in a society in which a woman’s beauty is measured and expected to adhere to the European standard, acceptance of self when one doesn’t fit into this standard and is tired of attempting to do so is a big step that takes a certain level of courage and self-esteem; two qualities that Brazilian society has consistently stripped from its black population due to everyday ridicule embedded within the culture against those who don’t or can’t conform. As we’ve expressed in numerous posts, Brazil has one of the most effective forms of racism on the planet even though it continues to deny this. But fortunately, over the past few decades, a growing pride and desire to fight the naturalization of racism is leading more and more Afro-Brazilians to accept themselves, their features and their history. The writer of today’s piece is so proud of her transition that she wants to share her joy with her ‘sisters’, many of whom are still falling prey to the dictatorship of straight hair. 

A letter to my friend who straightens her hair

Dear friends with straightened hair,

I have long wanted to talk to you and I would like to read all this that I finally managed to put into words. I know you must be tired of hearing me talking about my BC (big chop) all the time, and because of this, this letter is not about me, but about you, about our friendship, on both of us.

I am writing to you because I realized that whenever I burst out talking about my experience during and after capillary transition, you become defensive, and immediately begin to explain why you still straighten your hair, and try to justify it as if I were oppressing you.

But am I really?

As you’ve heard a thousand times, to break free of the iron and straightening and accepting our real beauty is a wonderful experience. But what I want you to understand is that this ended up awakening a sense of sisterhood that sometimes becomes uncontrollable. I’m keep wanting that this reaches you also, I want my straightened friends to also have this feeling and learn to love yourself naturally. I want this so much that sometimes I exaggerate.

I exaggerate and insist on the subject, almost forcing you to change along with me when I know that this change must be made from within, with a lot of time, and a lot of courage. I know it’s not easy to go through life believing you are doing right thing in order to feel good and pretty and then suddenly discover that there are other means.

You asked me once about women’s freedom that we fight to win, so we can do whatever we want with our bodies without fear of judgment, and about how much I, as a feminist, support this.

Yes friend, we are free to do whatever we want with our bodies. And who am I going against the idea of ​​beauty of the society with my black power (afro) and tattoos on my body to talk about the chemistry of your hair? Who am I that has already heard jokes about my flat iron to talk about his? How good it is that you’re aware of this, how good it is to know this and open my eyes.

It makes no sense to get out of an oppression of beauty to expose ourselves to society as we really are, and then point the finger at those who do not. So I apologize for my exaggeration, and thank you for your words.

At the same time, I would like to propose a reflection, my dear friend. Close your eyes and try to find out the real reason you straightened your hair for the first time. Today we have many excuses or reasons, I’ve already been in this situation. “É mais prático” (It’s more practical),”é mais fácil de pentear” (it’s easier to comb), “meu cabelo não é bonito igual o seu” (my hair is not pretty as yours), “não saberia lidar com a transição” (I wouldn’t know to handle the transition) are the most heard and drivers of straightening today.

But stop and think about what beautiful hair is, about when you straightened, probably still very young, and what they had taught you about beauty and caring for our hair type. No teaching besides how to straighten the hair, and then how to care for straightened hair, right?

Also in our reflection friend, imagine a world without this kind of imposition. Could it be that there are so many chemicals for us straighten? Could it be that if there were some standard of beauty to be followed we would find our hair ugly and would want to modify it?

Friend, we can do whatever we want with our bodies, with our appearance. But when is it that we do it for us, and not to please the eyes of society? I think deep down I just wanted you to be aware of this because changing your appearance or leaving it natural should depend only on what you like to with it.

For me, if you continue straightening your hair or not, I will understand and support you. I will do my part when it’s necessary, to inhale a little smell of chemicals in the salon on your side if you want my company. And you will never need to justify it again because you know that I understand.

I just need you to understand the real reason for my enthusiasm for natural beauty, that’s what I explained in this letter. That you understand that neither I, nor the other cacheada ou crespa (curly or curly/kinky haired women) are attempting to encourage change are you better than you for having gone through the transition. And that you forgive us for the times that we let this go to our heads and end up thinking this.

We are both equally victims of this system that values ​​so much the aesthetic, friend. You for submitting yourself to the chemical process to be accepted, and me for hearing comments and receiving racist looks for no longer wanting to submit myself to this.

Only when there is equality and real freedom of being who we want to be is it that we will no longer be victims. It’s that hair will only be hair, and we all understand that straightened, natural or even bald, none of this determines our personality, but rather with the feelings about ourselves and how we feel comfortable in our own bodies.

Because of this, rather than debating that experience is more valuable or what is right to do or not to do with our appearance and our body, and especially rather than continuing to point to each other’s hair, we should discuss with the media and the society still demands of us so much, to defend each other, and make sisterhood work as it should.

Count on me for that. Kisses and hugs from your curly friend.

Source: Ovelha Mag

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

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