Curl Stigma and Being Jewish

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I had no idea that curly hair was associated with a Jewish stereotype. Huh.

I have one Jewish ancestor from hundreds of years back - is that where I get my curly hair from? (I'm being facetious.) Cuz, let me tell ya, there is NOBODY else I'm related to who has curly hair. There are a few lightly wavies, but even that's rare.

I figured there must have been a milkman...
I, too, have experienced this stigmatising. I'm kind of a redhead with very thick curly hair. I'm biracial: Dutch/African-American. I am not to tall too with a cury figure and have a very pale skin. I have been frequently asked if i'm jewish or not.

I don't understand why people even care if i was ???!!!!
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I think most jewish people straighten their hair not because of their curls connection with judaism, but because of curls connection with unkempt and ugly. i still get much more support for my curls from other jews and used to be more likely to wear my hair curly to a jewish event. also, more jewish orthodox women are getting curly haired wigs instead of straight!! we should be changing society's image of curls not their image of us
I think most jewish people straighten their hair not because of their curls connection with judaism, but because of curls connection with unkempt and ugly.
Originally Posted by curlquest
You are probably right about this. I've known a lot of Jewish people with naturally straight hair; I don't think straightening your hair would make anyone think you weren't Jewish.
When I was growing up, my mom used to straighten my hair for me because that was the only way for it to look "nice." This was about curly hair not looking good, not about any Jewish stereotypes. My mom grew up in the 1950's and 1960's, when the only "nice" way to wear your hair was straight with a flip or supershort.

I didn't go curly until I was 16 because I was caught up in the idea that curly hair looked like you'd stuck your finger in a light socket. Funny, but after I went curly, my hair got compliments that it never got when straightened.
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One of my best friend's boyfriend's in Jewish and incredibly proud of it, and we're both good friends with his sister. He has lovely wavy hair, and she has the tightest prettiest ringlets. She loves her hair: "rocks the jew-fro".. =P
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i didn't know curls were associated with jewish people. it might explain why i have been taken for jewish sometimes.
I've had people ask me if I was Jewish before because my first name is from the Old Testament. (It's also a very common name for Christians and the nonreligious, as many OT names are.)

The way I look is you could pretty much put a picture of me in the dictionary next to "Molly Malone" or something.
so i get my dark curly hair from the wasp side of the family, and the jewish side of the family has straight hair (my dad's is blonde!). so, oddly enough, i look jewish but those traits come from the christian side.
i love it when people say i "look jewish." what's not to like about thick curly hair, full lips, thin and curvy bod? i'm happy i got the "ethnic" looking genes.
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I felt pressure within my family to straighten my hair when I was young, which ironically came from my Jewish father, though I resemble my protestant mother. I think he was conflicted, and passed it on.

And yet....I also remember a day in my childhood when my mother let my hair curl and he loved it.

Go figure.
I hope I don't offend anyone out there who is Jewish (I am Jewish by the way) but my relatives get very upset when I wear my hair natural and curly. It is as if I look more Jewish that way---dark eyes abd curly dark hair. Does this response come from the need to blend into the mainstream---maybe even for safety reasons going back centuries? Has anyone else experienced this???
Originally Posted by Peacewmn
I sympathize. My family is Italian and there's a similar thing going on there, too. One side of the family is from one part of Italy where curls and frizz typify the look and the other is from another part of Italy where straight and sleek is the norm. The side of the family with the straight hair never felt as "ethnic" to me as the curly side. They blended better with Anglos, it seemed to me as a child (I don't know whether that was true, but that's the perception I had).

Fortunately, nobody ever made any outright remarks to me about my hair (it's 3a so not as curly or kinky as it could have been), but at family functions, the Sicilian side (straighties) always looked more glamorous than the other side. And I would often try to straighten mine as much as I could to be like that side of the family.

Looking back, it seemed that the curly side of the family were not in control of their hair. And that made them seem weaker or something. The Sicilian side wasn't self-conscious and constantly tending to errant strands or stubborn frizz. It seemed to give them freedom and power that the other side didn't have.
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Interesting, Jillipoo. The associations we make with hair types begins so early........
Interesting, Jillipoo. The associations we make with hair types begins so early........
Originally Posted by ninja dog
Totally. And families certainly do their best to reinforce those associations (knowingly or unknowingly)!
3a and strictly CG since August 2007. Porous and on the fine side. No to magnesium sulfate and glycerin. Yes to protein! Favorites:
CO-WASHES: Suave Coconut
CONDITIONERS and LEAVE-INS: Mop Top Daily Conditioner, KBB Nectar, Aubrey GPB or Island Naturals, Robert Craig, Any Jessicurl
CURL ENHANCERS/CREMES/MOUSSES: KCCC, JoiWhip
GELS: Fuzzy Duck, B5 Design, MGA Scultping, BRHG


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Oh man, yeah!

(Shudder)
Really interesting thread. I'm Jewish on my dads side and my moms side but I'm also visibly black. My moms mother is a holocaust survivor and always tells me the first time ANYONE every considered her "white" was when she came to America. She's a dark eyed curly haired French Jew. When I was little people asked me what I was so much and I never knew what to say (My mom is half French Sephardi Jew and 1/4 French Catholic and 1/4 East African and my Dad is half Ashkenazi Jew and half East African). She would tell me the story of first going to the Caribbean and then to America and about "white people" in America and how they would call her white too, and how confusing that was to hear. Finally at the end of her stories she'd tell me to just tell the other kids I'm Jewish. Of course I did and probably confused them even more since I'm a medium brown colour with dark curly hair! I think it's natural for immigrant groups to want to associate with the dominate group in a population, and want to not assimilate into a group considered to be at the bottom. So it makes sense to me that very visibly curly hair and dark eyes was something that separated many from dominate culture. I see this with a lot of my Jewish friends.

I have rather dark skin for what people perceive should be the coloring of a mixed person, and even when I wear my hair curly I am often mistaken for Indian (from India). Most people assume I'm Hispanic or Indian or partly here in the states. In Europe 99% of the poeple I meet insist I must be Brasilian (as if they are they only mixed people around!) People tell me straight hair looks more natural for me, and it was even suggested to me by a Rabbis wife no less, that I straighten my hair because it would make me look less black and more Sephardic to increase my chances of finding a nice Jewish boy whose family would mind him marry me! Little did she know I'm looking for a nice Jewish girl!

Ethnicity is too complicated, moreso in American than anywhere I've lived, I just don't concern myself with it.
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I've actually had many people guess that I am Jewish - I guess the Midwestern stereotype that all Jewish people have big curly hair and a larger nose fits me.
And I don't really mind if people make that assumption - why would it be negative to be thought of as a different ethnicity than I am? Maybe I AM part Jewish - who knows?! And even if I'm not, I think Jewish (ethnically-wise, not necessarily religion-wise) are beautiful! So this is actually a compliment to my boring European self.
Really interesting thread. I'm Jewish on my dads side and my moms side but I'm also visibly black. My moms mother is a holocaust survivor and always tells me the first time ANYONE every considered her "white" was when she came to America. She's a dark eyed curly haired French Jew. When I was little people asked me what I was so much and I never knew what to say (My mom is half French Sephardi Jew and 1/4 French Catholic and 1/4 East African and my Dad is half Ashkenazi Jew and half East African). She would tell me the story of first going to the Caribbean and then to America and about "white people" in America and how they would call her white too, and how confusing that was to hear. Finally at the end of her stories she'd tell me to just tell the other kids I'm Jewish. Of course I did and probably confused them even more since I'm a medium brown colour with dark curly hair! I think it's natural for immigrant groups to want to associate with the dominate group in a population, and want to not assimilate into a group considered to be at the bottom. So it makes sense to me that very visibly curly hair and dark eyes was something that separated many from dominate culture. I see this with a lot of my Jewish friends.

I have rather dark skin for what people perceive should be the coloring of a mixed person, and even when I wear my hair curly I am often mistaken for Indian (from India). Most people assume I'm Hispanic or Indian or partly here in the states. In Europe 99% of the poeple I meet insist I must be Brasilian (as if they are they only mixed people around!) People tell me straight hair looks more natural for me, and it was even suggested to me by a Rabbis wife no less, that I straighten my hair because it would make me look less black and more Sephardic to increase my chances of finding a nice Jewish boy whose family would mind him marry me! Little did she know I'm looking for a nice Jewish girl!

Ethnicity is too complicated, moreso in American than anywhere I've lived, I just don't concern myself with it.
Originally Posted by greengirl
What group are you referring to as being at the bottom?



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Wow this is a very interesting thread.
curlyink3b likes this.
I'm hispanic and often get asked if I'm Jewish. I think part of it is when someone thinks of a Jewish person, they're envisioning someone who comes from the Mediterranean, so they picture olive skin, dark hair and eyes, etc. When in reality there are people of the Jewish faith or heritage that come from all over the world.
Growing up in my family, there was always the distinction between "good" hair (those with straight hair) and "bad" hair (curly, frizzy). There was a lot of pressure to always straighten my hair and make it look like "good" hair. Even when I first started wearing my hair curly my mom would always ask when I was going to start wearing it straight again.
Even now that I'm an adult and haven't straigthened in years, she will comment if it happens to be a bit frizzy.
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I have been asked if I'm Jewish before because of my curly hair. I didn't really understand it at the time because a lot of the Jewish girls I know have straight hair.

*Italian btw*

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