Curls and race/ethnicity

I know some people have already alluded to this in their other posts, but do you guys think there is a correlation between curls and warped ideas about race/ethnicity? As in, straight hair coincides with a white, mainstream concept of beauty, whereas curly hair is aligned with more marginalized groups and is therefore "ugly" or, at the extreme, animalistic. Of course, I know that's a simplistic correlation, 'specially since tons of women actually have curly hair, but I feel that among people I know, there is a certain disdain for curly hair that is definitely associated with racially prejudiced ideas about what is beautiful. I feel like I see the concept of "good hair/bad hair" played out a lot among minority groups, even in my own family, where it's considered an aberration to have curls, even though the majority of us do.
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Personally I think you are pretty right! Or at least I think those reasons are at the base of the whole thing.
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I feel there's definitely an "acceptability" issue; like there's a stereotype that you can't be completely attractive or appealing without straight hair. Which drives me bonkers.
definitly im black and if your not mixed and your hair isn't a 3c then its nappy and needs to be "dealt" with
i think its bad as a black person but i have dominacian and white friends that have been harassed repeatedly for 2a/b hair so curly hatred runs the gamut
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Last edited by ChallahBack; 04-25-2009 at 02:29 PM.
The thing that drives me crazy is when both South Asian people and non-South Asian people alike tell me, "Wow, you're Indian but you have curly hair? That's really rare, isn't it?" There's this ridiculous idea that all of us have waist-length, silky straight hair, but the majority of Indian women I know flat-iron their hair to oblivion and many of them aren't even AWARE they have curls or waves because of this. There are more curlies out there than they like to admit...
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yeah, i think that might do make sence, tho as you say there are many caucasions (sp?) with curls. also, jews tend to be curly and have been oppressed throughout history!
The thing that drives me crazy is when both South Asian people and non-South Asian people alike tell me, "Wow, you're Indian but you have curly hair? That's really rare, isn't it?" There's this ridiculous idea that all of us have waist-length, silky straight hair, but the majority of Indian women I know flat-iron their hair to oblivion and many of them aren't even AWARE they have curls or waves because of this. There are more curlies out there than they like to admit...
Originally Posted by PrettyMedusa
The only thing i can say to that is to try to educate the people you know. I had never met an Indian person with curly hair, and there were tons of Indians in my school. Not until i started working at my current job when an Indian lady came up to me and said her hair was curly like mine. i thought she was crazy! She does the Japonese Technique on her hair so it's pin straight. And i was like, your hair is curly like mine?! IMPOSSIBLE! But surely enough, her hair just as curly, if not more! Now i know. But i will say that more usual than not, hair is associated with race whether we care to admit it or not. It was very common growing up AND STILL NOW to say 'she has that Dominican hair' or 'she has white girl hair'. the most any of us can do is correct people who speak like this.
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i has no hair type? (medium, f-iii), normal porosity, LOW elasticity.
CG journey began 2/8/09 - 4-08-09.. and then mod cg 4/14/09 -... 03/02/10- Barely CG but I like CG products
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What's interesting is that right after I read this post, I was browsing through a Victoria's Secret catalog. Most of the women in there did not have straight hair. A lot had wavy and curly hair and even the ones who may have had naturally straight hair had waves put into it...and we know that that catalog is sexy!

I definitely think there is a racial element to it that has dominated beauty ideals but I think the issue is more about women dealing with the body and hair they were given.

If you look at the number of White women who have spent years perming their hair, dealing with anorexia and bulimia, getting collagen in their lips...and on an even sadder note, the number who have skin cancer because they couldn't accept their pale skin and fried it in the sun, then it seems like beauty ideals are an attack on women, in general.

I am not taking away from the fact that racial ideas of beauty affect women of different races differently but I think the gender issue is more dominant here.
What's interesting is that right after I read this post, I was browsing through a Victoria's Secret catalog. Most of the women in there did not have straight hair. A lot had wavy and curly hair and even the ones who may have had naturally straight hair had waves put into it...and we know that that catalog is sexy!

I definitely think there is a racial element to it that has dominated beauty ideals but I think the issue is more about women dealing with the body and hair they were given.

If you look at the number of White women who have spent years perming their hair, dealing with anorexia and bulimia, getting collagen in their lips...and on an even sadder note, the number who have skin cancer because they couldn't accept their pale skin and fried it in the sun, then it seems like beauty ideals are an attack on women, in general.

I am not taking away from the fact that racial ideas of beauty affect women of different races differently but I think the gender issue is more dominant here.
Originally Posted by desert flower
Well, I think that being a woman of color, I generally tend to find that the issues I face, while definitely being associated with gender, are still very distinct from those that white women may deal with. I also am not clear what you mean by the "not accepting pale skin" statement. Skin cancer that arises from insufficient sun protection isn't necessarily associated with women wanting to voluntarily darken their skin. I don't have any statistics, however, on the effect of tanning salons on skin cancer, so that might be an interesting thing to check out. I do know that skin lightening creams are rampant across the world and can be harmful due to the presence of the bleaching agent hydroquinone. And I would probably go so far as to say that the women who spring for skin lightening creams outnumber the women who tan. But that is a different topic altogether.

Certainly, beauty ideals across the board are oppressive towards women, no matter what their race/ethnicity--and the situation is much more complex and nuanced than I can imagine. But given some of the insults I've heard aimed at curly hair that are very racially charged (and that even go so far as to define what good curly vs. bad curly hair is) and that also target men (my husband's a curly who's heard it all before), I can't help but think the negative attitude towards curlies stems from a very racially specific, mainstream model of beauty.

I'll give you an instance of being the target of racialist attitudes about my curly hair. A family member (not close), upon seeing my hair, exclaimed, "Oh, you must get your hair from your father, not your mother. He's much darker than she is." On the contrary--even though my mother is much lighter skinned than my father, she's the one with the curly hair. Humph! (Note--you can't tell from the context, but this was an insult, not an observation.)
Fine, porous 3a with some 3b...
Co-wash: Suave Tropicals Coconut Conditioner (with shampoo bars 2x a month) Rinse-out: L'oreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss Leave-in: Lustrasilk Styling: CK, Pink Boots, KCCC, AOMM, HESMU, BRHG, CJ Aloe Fix Gel Post-Styling: Apply product to wet hair, scrunch out water with Curls Like Us, diffuse for 5-7 minutes Treatments: Vatika coconut oil, Kama Brahmi oil

Last edited by PrettyMedusa; 04-29-2009 at 01:43 PM. Reason: typos
What's interesting is that right after I read this post, I was browsing through a Victoria's Secret catalog. Most of the women in there did not have straight hair. A lot had wavy and curly hair and even the ones who may have had naturally straight hair had waves put into it...and we know that that catalog is sexy!

I definitely think there is a racial element to it that has dominated beauty ideals but I think the issue is more about women dealing with the body and hair they were given.

If you look at the number of White women who have spent years perming their hair, dealing with anorexia and bulimia, getting collagen in their lips...and on an even sadder note, the number who have skin cancer because they couldn't accept their pale skin and fried it in the sun, then it seems like beauty ideals are an attack on women, in general.

I am not taking away from the fact that racial ideas of beauty affect women of different races differently but I think the gender issue is more dominant here.
Originally Posted by desert flower
Well, I think that being a woman of color, I generally tend to find that the issues I face, while definitely being associated with gender, are still very distinct from those that white women may deal with. I also am not clear what you mean by the "not accepting pale skin" statement. Skin cancer that arises from insufficient sun protection isn't necessarily associated with women wanting to voluntarily darken their skin. I don't have any statistics, however, on the effect of tanning salons on skin cancer, so that might be an interesting thing to check out. I do know that skin lightening creams are rampant across the world and can be harmful due to the presence of the bleaching agent hydroquinone. And I would probably go so far as to say that the women who spring for skin lightening creams outnumber the women who tan. But that is a different topic altogether.

Certainly, beauty ideals across the board are oppressive towards women, no matter what their race/ethnicity--and the situation is much more complex and nuanced than I can imagine. But given some of the insults I've heard aimed at curly hair that are very racially charged (and that even go so far as to define what good curly vs. bad curly hair is) and that also target men (my husband's a curly who's heard it all before), I can't help but think the negative attitude towards curlies stems from a very racially specific, mainstream model of beauty.

I'll give you an instance of being the target of racialist attitudes about my curly hair. A family member (not close), upon seeing my hair, exclaimed, "Oh, you must get your hair from your father, not your mother. He's much darker than she is." On the contrary--even though my mother is much lighter skinned than my father, she's the one with the curly hair. Humph! (Note--you can't tell from the context, but this was an insult, not an observation.)
Originally Posted by PrettyMedusa
I can so relate! I was thinking about this as i wrote my previous post but thought the post was long enough as it was. My dad has curly hair- back in the days, he used to jeri curl it! eeekkee!! LOL. But my mom has jet black straight hair. my brother has straight to wavy hair and i have curlllyy hair. so my fam always jokes about my dad 'ruining the genes' because everyone on my moms side has straight to wavy hair. to them, I get my 'bad hair' from my dad... in my own experience - and i can speak on behalf of my friends since we've all grown up together and have pretty much faced the same adversities, negatively charged hair remarks - whether 'jokingly' or intentionally derive from race. This is why we must all educate each other! and if your friend 'jokingly' makes fun of your curly hair, correct them.
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i has no hair type? (medium, f-iii), normal porosity, LOW elasticity.
CG journey began 2/8/09 - 4-08-09.. and then mod cg 4/14/09 -... 03/02/10- Barely CG but I like CG products
wash with Low Poo or Poo
condition with GVP Conditioning Balm or CJ BC Daily, Loreal Color Vive for Color Treated Hair Thats Normal
Leave ins- Garnier S&S; Marrakesh oil
style with - Ohm SHP; KCCC- BRHG or Boots- KCCC- BRHG; CIAB; CCCC
Protein- GVP Joico K-Pak
Play with ACV
I definitely agree that there are racial tones to beauty issues - how can there not be when race is what defined power for so long?

In most Eastern societies, even before colonialism, dark skin was associated (whether it was true or not) with being outside and working in the fields and light skin was associated with status and wealth and thus staying inside. Add to that colonialism and slavery and we have a disaster on our hands.

I am Middle Eastern and am no stranger to the good hair vs. bad hair, "stay out of the sun so that you don't get any darker", "too bad you didn't get your hair from your mom (obviously straight)", etc...

I just wanted to point out that even those who fit a supposed "ideal of beauty" go to great lengths to change what they look like. I remember when my cousins would come visit from the Middle East and they were horrified that my friends would perm their hair curly and sit in the sun for hours to get darker while they were straightening their hair and hiding from the sun.

It seems insane, doesn't it? Nobody is really happy...well, maybe the men (not all, of course, my husband would kill me if he read this! haha) who find the divide and conquer mentality of pitting women against each other to be pleasing...

Last edited by desert flower; 04-29-2009 at 05:24 PM.
My experience, again, is that is WORST in our home countries- by home countries I mean smaller countries outside of the us/ our parents home countries if your first generation kids (like me!). My whole life my hair has been curly (duh!) and tonnnnss of it. I have home videos where i am 4 yrs old and i have rollers in my head! The rollers are bigger than my head!!!! But my mom was convinced that my hair needed 'treatment'. It's not her fault, she has str8 hair, she didnt know how to deal with my head. So i've always been blow drying my hair and then flat ironing, pretty much my whole life with a couple curly day interval. And now that i am curly, my family just doesnt understand. they dont see how i would want to leave me hair curly when it looks so good str8!

P.s. Dominicans that i know that are from the island would walk around with umbrellas so they dont get tanned! Not to protect themselves from UV rays, but not to catch color!!!! BANANAS!!!
para los gustos se hicieron los colores

i has no hair type? (medium, f-iii), normal porosity, LOW elasticity.
CG journey began 2/8/09 - 4-08-09.. and then mod cg 4/14/09 -... 03/02/10- Barely CG but I like CG products
wash with Low Poo or Poo
condition with GVP Conditioning Balm or CJ BC Daily, Loreal Color Vive for Color Treated Hair Thats Normal
Leave ins- Garnier S&S; Marrakesh oil
style with - Ohm SHP; KCCC- BRHG or Boots- KCCC- BRHG; CIAB; CCCC
Protein- GVP Joico K-Pak
Play with ACV
I'm Jewish, and there are definitely lots of stereotypes about Jewish women and curly hair -- it's wild, uncontrolled, uncontrollable, and so on. Look at the show Friends -- Janice, who had all of those stereotypical Jewish traits, had dark curly hair. Monica had straight hair, but in the flashback scenes, she was fat, messy, loud, brash, and had curly hair.
The thing that drives me crazy is when both South Asian people and non-South Asian people alike tell me, "Wow, you're Indian but you have curly hair? That's really rare, isn't it?" There's this ridiculous idea that all of us have waist-length, silky straight hair, but the majority of Indian women I know flat-iron their hair to oblivion and many of them aren't even AWARE they have curls or waves because of this. There are more curlies out there than they like to admit...
Originally Posted by PrettyMedusa
My brother and I are constantly accused of perming our hair. I've seen so many south Asian women with hair that is obviously wavy or curly but they've brushed it so it looks like a big frizzy mass.

When my cousin got married, the hair stylist asked me if I wanted it blow dried. I told her she'd be wasting her time as it would fro-out the minute I went outside (the wedding was in Sri Lanka, on the coast where is was 40 degrees. Conditions not great for straightened wavy hair!)
Great topic, interesting reading! I think all you ladies have some great valid points. I remember I always used to fry my hair to within an inch of its life because of freakin Seventeen Magazine. Article after article about how guys hated poofy, frizzy (to me, my curly) hair. My hair was ALWAYS frizzy because my parents didn't know how to deal with curls. They just blow dried it as "straight" as possible.

And on the side topic of skin...I remember how AMAZED I was when I learned how prevalent skin bleaching cremes were and how desirable that was to so many cultures. And here I was trying to self-tan without streaks LOL
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All you guys have really great points!

Okay, my turn. I've found that caucasian people that style my hair treat it as if it is straight and soft. My hair dresser cuts hairstyles into my hair as if it's already straight and 'I'm trying to encourage some wave into my hair'. If she didn't have her head in the clouds then she would know that my hair is coarse, curly and super thick and it needs extra TLC. I don't want to enhance no wave into my hair!! It's not like their hair, I've seen people with my texture and moisturising it and giving it the care it needs. Def need a new hair dresser pronto (but she gives us a discount uhhhh).

I get my ethnic side from my mother's side but she had wavyish curly fine hair but she straightens it. She used to spend forever when I was younger brushing my hair and telling me to brush it. I remember when it was my birthday and I had already styled my hair really pretty and put clips in it and everything and then my mum took the huge blowdryer and completely blasted my hair into a mess. Then she's like, you can't go to the resturant with damp hair, it has to be blow(fried)dryed!

I'm sick of my family pretending that my hair is 'normal' (straight). It's my hair and it has a texture all of its own! I need to embrace my own type of hair and not follow the straight crowd. Even my dad sees my curly hair and points to a 2a wavy hair and says 'that's just like YOUR hair!'. 3b just aint 2a. He even says 'how do you get your hair so curly?' and whenever I do braids just to wear back as a protective style sometimes he says 'did your hair end up okay? Did the plait make it curly like you want it to?' Braiding and twists aren't always wannabe curly hairstyles, I use them to protect my hair because it's not caucasian hair, it's MY hair and everytime I braid my hair I don't WANT it to come out wavy or curly, I want it to stay protected. Sorry if I went a little off topic, lol, I wanted to get my feelings out and my point across. I'm sure some people can relate to me.
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All you guys have really great points!

Okay, my turn. I've found that caucasian people that style my hair treat it as if it is straight and soft. My hair dresser cuts hairstyles into my hair as if it's already straight and 'I'm trying to encourage some wave into my hair'. If she didn't have her head in the clouds then she would know that my hair is coarse, curly and super thick and it needs extra TLC. I don't want to enhance no wave into my hair!! It's not like their hair, I've seen people with my texture and moisturising it and giving it the care it needs. Def need a new hair dresser pronto (but she gives us a discount uhhhh).

I get my ethnic side from my mother's side but she had wavyish curly fine hair but she straightens it. She used to spend forever when I was younger brushing my hair and telling me to brush it. I remember when it was my birthday and I had already styled my hair really pretty and put clips in it and everything and then my mum took the huge blowdryer and completely blasted my hair into a mess. Then she's like, you can't go to the resturant with damp hair, it has to be blow(fried)dryed!

I'm sick of my family pretending that my hair is 'normal' (straight). It's my hair and it has a texture all of its own! I need to embrace my own type of hair and not follow the straight crowd. Even my dad sees my curly hair and points to a 2a wavy hair and says 'that's just like YOUR hair!'. 3b just aint 2a. He even says 'how do you get your hair so curly?' and whenever I do braids just to wear back as a protective style sometimes he says 'did your hair end up okay? Did the plait make it curly like you want it to?' Braiding and twists aren't always wannabe curly hairstyles, I use them to protect my hair because it's not caucasian hair, it's MY hair and everytime I braid my hair I don't WANT it to come out wavy or curly, I want it to stay protected. Sorry if I went a little off topic, lol, I wanted to get my feelings out and my point across. I'm sure some people can relate to me.
Originally Posted by AlannahAngel
Alannah, the "how did you get your hair to be so curly" comment from relatives always cracks me up and pisses me off simultaneously. My mother, from WHOM I GOT MY CURLY HAIR, still sometimes asks me this, like it's some sort of alien life form sitting on my head. Now I take it to mean, "How did you get your hair to look so nice?" but I'm not one to share my beauty secrets with people who don't take pride in their curls.
Fine, porous 3a with some 3b...
Co-wash: Suave Tropicals Coconut Conditioner (with shampoo bars 2x a month) Rinse-out: L'oreal Vive Pro Nutri Gloss Leave-in: Lustrasilk Styling: CK, Pink Boots, KCCC, AOMM, HESMU, BRHG, CJ Aloe Fix Gel Post-Styling: Apply product to wet hair, scrunch out water with Curls Like Us, diffuse for 5-7 minutes Treatments: Vatika coconut oil, Kama Brahmi oil
Alannah, the "how did you get your hair to be so curly" comment from relatives always cracks me up and pisses me off simultaneously. My mother, from WHOM I GOT MY CURLY HAIR, still sometimes asks me this, like it's some sort of alien life form sitting on my head. Now I take it to mean, "How did you get your hair to look so nice?" but I'm not one to share my beauty secrets with people who don't take pride in their curls.
Originally Posted by PrettyMedusa
Same! My family tends to deny my maori side and thinks I'm just some australian girl trying to 'encourage my hair to get curly' with products. I've told them a gazillion times about the sitch but other times I just let it swing. Most maori ppl I've met have curls and a similar texture to mine. But that isn't always the thing. Thanx for replying =)
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~~~
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~~~


my roommate is "half jewish" but has teh staightest thinnest flimiestt -1a hair you will ever see...i met her paretns and she definetly takes after her father (Czech Catholic bone straight hair) side becuase her mother, aunt, grandmother are like a 3C!!


he hair refuses to hold a curl!
I havent figured out how to add pictures..

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I've been shadowed during my life with people who assume I'm an "airhead," because I am a small-town, curly headed, blonde chick.

I'm not so sure it is racially motivated.

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