I get mad when people use "coarse" to describe black hair

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  • 1 Post By Oats22
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  • 1 Post By gardencurls
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  • 1 Post By Oats22

I get irked every time I read someone describing black hair as "coarse." Maybe it's because I'm not getting something. "Coarse" to me describes one of two things:
  1. The thickness of the hair strand (i.e. fine, medium, thick/coarse), or
  2. How the hair feels to the touch (i.e. soft, silky, smooth, cottony, wooly, hard, rough, coarse, etc)
And whenever I read someone saying it's "coarse" ("...typical, coarse, african american hair..." and they're not trying to be offensive at all, they're just describing their hair!) I read it as "hard" and "rough," especially because--from my limited knowledge--a lot (maybe most) black people have fine hair strands, not thick/coarse. (My hair isn't fine, it's medium...I think) So, when I read someone say coarse, I'm like "Wtf? Black people's hair is NOT hard and rough?! Maybe some, but not all! It's soft, maybe it feels differently if not moisturized" etc etc etc.

Is there something I'm not understanding?

And, I mean, I don't have much experience with natural hair. My hair has been permed longer than I can remember, I'm just now transitioning. All the ladies in my family had perms (my mom and I are transitioning now, and my aunts have locs. My grammy is natural and her hair is straightened. It's very soft. Female cousins have perms or weaves or are mixed.) I don't remember what my brother's hair felt like.

Does anyone else feel like I do? Or am I just misinterpreting/misunderstanding?
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Last Relaxer: July 6th, 2012, approx 1:30pm.
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You're not the only one who feels that way. I used to feel the same as well, because to me coarse used to be another word for "nappy" and that word was used constantly to describe my hair growing up as a child. I've been the only girl in my class not to have a perm and the other girls would call my hair "nappy" as a means to insult my hair.

Anyway, now that I'm older and been reintroduced to natural hair for a couple of years now, I've learned that the word coarse isn't so bad. Coarse describes the texture of the hair "fine, medium, coarse" and is used to describe someone's hair regardless of their race. Coarse isn't just linked to describe African American hair so I've learned.
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It never made sense to me either. As far as I know, you are absolutely right. I think the confusion about "coarse" results from remnants of an out-dated hair classification system that was completely inaccurate in the first place. The only possible explanation I can think of for that system is that, to some people, the appearance of tightly coiled hair can look rough in comparison to straight, shiny hair, so "curly" was equated with "coarse" and "fine" was equated with "straight". A lot of marketers stick with this classification probably because they think changing it would be too confusing for consumers. (And reality is the opposite, surprise surprise). It's no wonder our curly hair has been such a source of stress our whole lives. I was teased terribly over my hair when I was growing up, so it seemed like it was something defective I had to fix.

The words "coarse" and "ethnic" drive me nuts the way they're often used in marketing, I see phrases like, "Coarse, ethnic hair" (i.e. Wen Fig says this on the Wen website), as if "coarse" and "ethnic" automatically go together, and people automatically know if this description fits their hair. I have Eastern European and Algerian ancestry, and dark red hair, and when I was growing up, and even into my 20's, I could confuse the heck out of hair stylists and makeup consultants, because I didn't fit into any of the boiler-plates of the grossly limited, faulty standards they'd been taught. I think these old standards are still used in a lot of mainstream marketing, and they're the reasons why those of us with any sense find ourselves at places like Naturallycurly!

I read on CurlyNikki (I think that's where it was) that hair that has the largest circumference on individual strands, and feels slightly rough when you pull your fingers upward on it, is the real definition of "coarse". My kids' and I have all been told our hair feels like horse's manes and tails, and I agree.People with very tight curl patterns or loose waves can have fine or medium or coarse hair. I'm not a hair stylist, and it's not like I go around touching people's hair, but based on experiences with my friends over the years, and my children's friends, etc. some African American, hair is much softer, and silkier, and way more delicate feeling than my hair, (and my kids' hair.) If your hair is medium, and soft, and silky, then it's not coarse.
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I honestly get more irked when people say they have "black hair" or "bi-racial hair" - what does that even mean?? Hair is hair. It's the properties (fine/coarse, porous/non-porous, 2a/4c, s-curl/spiral, etc...) that matter, and perhaps some properties are more common to certain "races", it's by no means even CLOSE to being absolute.

I mean no offense - it's not like I hear that and am horribly offended. I just don't understand the stereotype. Because everyone's hair is different. Race is really not relevant. (in SO many ways!!!!)
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Some people don't understand the meaning of the words coarse and fine. I have seen people use coarse as in " rough dry feeling" and coarse as in "tightly coiled" and it has nothing to do with either. Coarse is means individual strands are thick. Anyone can have coarse hair. In fact I know some bone straight coarse haired people. My mom went to cosmotogy school went I was like 5 and she had her instructors analyze a strand of my hair and they told her it had no medulla. So I've known all my life I have fine hair. I actually think coarse hair is an advantage because it can hold up better to abuse. We all know those wenches who can bleach their hair and use direct heat most days and their hair does fine. LOL

The misuse of coarse doesn't bother me unless someone is presenting themselves as a hair authority . Then they lose credibility with me.

As far the special snowflakes, i just ignore the posts. Anywhoo.
I think its all in how u view the word for instance i use nappy to describe my hair being in a natural state. I dont think nappy is a bad or offensive word. No where in the dictionary does it say nappy pertain to hair and its texture. As far as im concerned i can make up a random word to describe my hair and it has possitive meaning to it. I hope that makes sense

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I cosign this. My childhood friend is biracial with 4b hair and i met alot of naturals arent mixed with 3 type hair.

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KhloeYeung likes this.
hair type: 4a VERY dense

hair goal
= WL Aug. 23, 2013

My hair LOVES oil

2. "Being natural must be the new crack cus im hooked!!"

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is
perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

www.fotki.com/dee-nature-619

I honestly get more irked when people say they have "black hair" or "bi-racial hair" - what does that even mean?? Hair is hair. It's the properties (fine/coarse, porous/non-porous, 2a/4c, s-curl/spiral, etc...) that matter, and perhaps some properties are more common to certain "races", it's by no means even CLOSE to being absolute.

I mean no offense - it's not like I hear that and am horribly offended. I just don't understand the stereotype. Because everyone's hair is different. Race is really not relevant. (in SO many ways!!!!)
Originally Posted by Jas76
I cosign this. My childhood friend is biracial with 4b hair and i met alot of naturals arent mixed with 3 type hair.

Sent from my MB612 using CurlTalk App




Sent from my MB612 using CurlTalk App
hair type: 4a VERY dense

hair goal
= WL Aug. 23, 2013

My hair LOVES oil

2. "Being natural must be the new crack cus im hooked!!"

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is
perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

www.fotki.com/dee-nature-619

Thanks so much everyone for your responses so far. It's interesting to see how other people think/feel, and also to feel validated in my feelings (i.e. I don't feel crazy or stupid for feeling the way that I do)

@Amazing_Jai, Yours was the first comment to make me feel not alone in my feelings. I never really had the experience of having my hair called "nappy" by people--I've always had perms, and my hair has always looked pretty healthy (even if it wasn't completely, and even if I suffered burns from that stuff). That being said, I still hate the word "nappy." I'm starting to change how I feel about it, because I know some people use it in a positive way, and it makes them feel good. To me, though, "nappy" has always meant "bad, not good looking, knotty, messy," so it's a gut reaction for me, wanting to say "Black hair is gorgeous! It's good hair! Just like everyone's!"

It never made sense to me either. As far as I know, you are absolutely right. I think the confusion about "coarse" results from remnants of an out-dated hair classification system that was completely inaccurate in the first place. The only possible explanation I can think of for that system is that, to some people, the appearance of tightly coiled hair can look rough in comparison to straight, shiny hair, so "curly" was equated with "coarse" and "fine" was equated with "straight"....

The words "coarse" and "ethnic" drive me nuts the way they're often used in marketing, I see phrases like, "Coarse, ethnic hair" (i.e. Wen Fig says this on the Wen website), as if "coarse" and "ethnic" automatically go together, and people automatically know if this description fits their hair....

If your hair is medium, and soft, and silky, then it's not coarse.
Originally Posted by gardencurls
@Gardencurls, you said so much that I agree with, and that makes so much sense to me--but I cut some out of here to make the post shorter and to respond to the main things. What you said about the "appearance" of hair, looking rough in comparison...that makes SO MUCH SENSE to me. I hadn't really thought of it, but it makes sense to me that that would be a reason why the word "coarse" has stuck along so often in describing hair where it doesn't seem to fit at all.

I also agree with you where you say that you hate the term "ethnic" in regards to hair. I hate it too--as if everyone in the world doesn't have an ethnicity? "Ethnic" hair--every person on the planet has "ethnic" hair, truly. And also, like you said, that "coarse" and "ethnic" (as it's culturally understood that "ethnic" means "black" or "people of color") somehow automatically go together. It's ridiculous.

I honestly get more irked when people say they have "black hair" or "bi-racial hair" - what does that even mean?? Hair is hair. It's the properties (fine/coarse, porous/non-porous, 2a/4c, s-curl/spiral, etc...) that matter, and perhaps some properties are more common to certain "races", it's by no means even CLOSE to being absolute.

I mean no offense - it's not like I hear that and am horribly offended. I just don't understand the stereotype. Because everyone's hair is different. Race is really not relevant. (in SO many ways!!!!)
Originally Posted by Jas76
@Jas76, while I hear and respect your opinion, I disagree. I think it's at least somewhat clear what people mean when they say "black hair" (though, "bi-racial hair" is a murkier area). Yeah, I agree that hair across ethnicities have similar properties, it's also true that hair within certain ethnic groups behave/look/respond in similar ways very often. It's a generalization that helps categorize, and I think rightfully so. To me, it'd be like talking about skin care, and not taking into account how--while there are many similarities--people of color and white people have different skin needs and reactions (like hyperpigmentation, keloid scarring, SPF protection needs, moisturization, etc etc etc). There are similarities and differences, and I don't see anything wrong with recognizing them where they are. And I DO believe there are differences.

@adthomas, I think you're right, that most people don't understand the meaning of the word coarse. And what you're saying is exactly what irks me, that ANYONE can have coarse hair, but I so often read "African American hair is coarse." And I'm just like "Wtf does that even mean? That's not even true!" And, yeah--I definitely know those people who can do whatever they want to their hair and it thrives just the same! (No fair -_- )

@Dee-Nature, What you said about it's all about how you perceive the word definitely makes sense to me, especially when you compared it to how you like using the word Nappy. Like I said above, I personally don't like it, but I can see that a whole lot of people use it positively, to mean something good, and I think that could be a good thing.

I was a little confused though at your hair typing comment, since I never mentioned hair typing, or anything about what race or ethnicity has what type (1/2/3/4) of hair--in fact, that's sort of what I was getting at. That I don't understand why people say "african american hair is coarse" when black hair can be so many different things. And it's not like I rarely see that said--I see it often, on hair boards, and articles, and tv. And, most of the time it's not meant to be negative, it's just stated as a fact: "African American hair is coarse." And, I just didn't get it.
KhloeYeung likes this.
Last Relaxer: July 6th, 2012, approx 1:30pm.
12 months/52.2 weeks/365 days transitioning!






"Right now I'm wearing a 'Darn-I-Went-To-Bed-Without-A-Scarf' and later I'm gonna try a 'Salvage-This-And-Try-To-Look-Presentable.'"

Last edited by Oats22; 11-12-2012 at 12:44 AM.
Thanks so much everyone for your responses so far. It's interesting to see how other people think/feel, and also to feel validated in my feelings (i.e. I don't feel crazy or stupid for feeling the way that I do)

@Amazing_Jai, Yours was the first comment to make me feel not alone in my feelings. I never really had the experience of having my hair called "nappy" by people--I've always had perms, and my hair has always looked pretty healthy (even if it wasn't completely, and even if I suffered burns from that stuff). That being said, I still hate the word "nappy." I'm starting to change how I feel about it, because I know some people use it in a positive way, and it makes them feel good. To me, though, "nappy" has always meant "bad, not good looking, knotty, messy," so it's a gut reaction for me, wanting to say "Black hair is gorgeous! It's good hair! Just like everyone's!"

It never made sense to me either. As far as I know, you are absolutely right. I think the confusion about "coarse" results from remnants of an out-dated hair classification system that was completely inaccurate in the first place. The only possible explanation I can think of for that system is that, to some people, the appearance of tightly coiled hair can look rough in comparison to straight, shiny hair, so "curly" was equated with "coarse" and "fine" was equated with "straight"....

The words "coarse" and "ethnic" drive me nuts the way they're often used in marketing, I see phrases like, "Coarse, ethnic hair" (i.e. Wen Fig says this on the Wen website), as if "coarse" and "ethnic" automatically go together, and people automatically know if this description fits their hair....

If your hair is medium, and soft, and silky, then it's not coarse.
Originally Posted by gardencurls
@Gardencurls, you said so much that I agree with, and that makes so much sense to me--but I cut some out of here to make the post shorter and to respond to the main things. What you said about the "appearance" of hair, looking rough in comparison...that makes SO MUCH SENSE to me. I hadn't really thought of it, but it makes sense to me that that would be a reason why the word "coarse" has stuck along so often in describing hair where it doesn't seem to fit at all.

I also agree with you where you say that you hate the term "ethnic" in regards to hair. I hate it too--as if everyone in the world doesn't have an ethnicity? "Ethnic" hair--every person on the planet has "ethnic" hair, truly. And also, like you said, that "coarse" and "ethnic" (as it's culturally understood that "ethnic" means "black" or "people of color") somehow automatically go together. It's ridiculous.

I honestly get more irked when people say they have "black hair" or "bi-racial hair" - what does that even mean?? Hair is hair. It's the properties (fine/coarse, porous/non-porous, 2a/4c, s-curl/spiral, etc...) that matter, and perhaps some properties are more common to certain "races", it's by no means even CLOSE to being absolute.

I mean no offense - it's not like I hear that and am horribly offended. I just don't understand the stereotype. Because everyone's hair is different. Race is really not relevant. (in SO many ways!!!!)
Originally Posted by Jas76
@Jas76, while I hear and respect your opinion, I disagree. I think it's at least somewhat clear what people mean when they say "black hair" (though, "bi-racial hair" is a murkier area). Yeah, I agree that hair across ethnicities have similar properties, it's also true that hair within certain ethnic groups behave/look/respond in similar ways very often. It's a generalization that helps categorize, and I think rightfully so. To me, it'd be like talking about skin care, and not taking into account how--while there are many similarities--people of color and white people have different skin needs and reactions (like hyperpigmentation, keloid scarring, SPF protection needs, moisturization, etc etc etc). There are similarities and differences, and I don't see anything wrong with recognizing them where they are. And I DO believe there are differences.

@adthomas, I think you're right, that most people don't understand the meaning of the word coarse. And what you're saying is exactly what irks me, that ANYONE can have coarse hair, but I so often read "African American hair is coarse." And I'm just like "Wtf does that even mean? That's not even true!" And, yeah--I definitely know those people who can do whatever they want to their hair and it thrives just the same! (No fair -_- )

@Dee-Nature, What you said about it's all about how you perceive the word definitely makes sense to me, especially when you compared it to how you like using the word Nappy. Like I said above, I personally don't like it, but I can see that a whole lot of people use it positively, to mean something good, and I think that could be a good thing.

I was a little confused though at your hair typing comment, since I never mentioned hair typing, or anything about what race or ethnicity has what type (1/2/3/4) of hair--in fact, that's sort of what I was getting at. That I don't understand why people say "african american hair is coarse" when black hair can be so many different things. And it's not like I rarely see that said--I see it often, on hair boards, and articles, and tv. And, most of the time it's not meant to be negative, it's just stated as a fact: "African American hair is coarse." And, I just didn't get it.
Originally Posted by Oats22
I completely understand girl i dont like the wording when the say "biracial hair" and such either. I actually cosigned someone comment about not getting that. Like i said in that comment i have a biracial friend who has 4b hair meaning when people say "biracial" for hair typing they are automatically pertaining to 3 hair type and thats not the case. Not all mixed people have 3 typee hair and not all black people have 4 type hair. im sorry for the confusion. I completely catch your drift though

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Sent from my MB612 using CurlTalk App
hair type: 4a VERY dense

hair goal
= WL Aug. 23, 2013

My hair LOVES oil

2. "Being natural must be the new crack cus im hooked!!"

“Being happy doesn't mean that everything is
perfect. It means that you've decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

www.fotki.com/dee-nature-619

I completely understand girl i dont like the wording when the say "biracial hair" and such either. I actually cosigned someone comment about not getting that. Like i said in that comment i have a biracial friend who has 4b hair meaning when people say "biracial" for hair typing they are automatically pertaining to 3 hair type and thats not the case. Not all mixed people have 3 typee hair and not all black people have 4 type hair. im sorry for the confusion. I completely catch your drift though

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Originally Posted by dee-nature
Oh, I'm sorry, I didn't realize what you were saying before. I get you
Last Relaxer: July 6th, 2012, approx 1:30pm.
12 months/52.2 weeks/365 days transitioning!






"Right now I'm wearing a 'Darn-I-Went-To-Bed-Without-A-Scarf' and later I'm gonna try a 'Salvage-This-And-Try-To-Look-Presentable.'"
The word coarse has multiple meanings and they aren't all negative. One of the meanings is that it refers to something that is the opposite of fine. I don't associate the word negatively. It's a synonym for thick.

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I would say coarse as a description isnt so bad but when people apply it to an entire race of people its wrong. For example not all black people come with a generic hair type. Im 3c, i have cousins and many family members that have straight hair as well. My hsuband is from mexico city and his hair is coarse. Its soft but his hair strand is much bigger than mine if we compare.

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