Is Natural Hair a Fetish to the Public Eye? One Woman Explains

We’re in the middle of a beautiful time of glorification of natural hair. The media and pop culture have collectively shifted to celebrate curls in every form. In turn, this has put the representation of hair on a pedestal in some people’s eyes. This is ironic, considering the fact that women of color have been fighting for an equal playing field when it comes to hair since the beginning of time. Not that I’m saying the work is done when it comes to the overall acceptance of natural hair. The harsh reality is that women are still being subjected to microaggressions and discrimination in the workplace in school systems on a daily basis because of the way they choose to wear their hair.

Just a few decades ago, the ideology America held in high regard was that straight hair was the single most beautiful hairstyle. This false notion contributed to the overuse of chemical relaxers and perms, which are treatments used to physically alter natural hair to become straight for long periods of time. It also flooded the minds of women of color with the belief that we needed to straighten our hair so we could have the same opportunities and be praised under the limiting societal standards of beauty the same way our white counterparts were. It was incredibly damaging to my self-esteem, and it was the reason I didn’t learn to love my natural hair until a few years ago.

During this transformational time, the outlook on natural hair has manifested into a fascination. Textured curls have always been an anomaly, but the fetishism associated with natural has turned into another form of discrimination. Whether it’s warranting unwanted attention from the opposite sex, tokenism in white spaces, or superficiality, the overarching obsession with naturally curly hair has objectified women even further. Kristen White, a 25-year-old living in New York City, decided to embrace her big, fluffy curls a few years ago. Her experience since she began wearing her curls has been a complex one. She loves her natural hair, yet she takes advantage of the freedom of switching up her styles when she feels compelled to because she can.

During this time, she’s been in situations where she’s felt like men in particular are attracted to her primarily because of her hair. She’s also felt like the opportunities she gets are because of the strange fetishism with natural hair. Below, she talks about how her natural hair is not anyone’s access to black hair or meant to fulfill anyone’s curl fetish.