Texturism. I feel like it’s one of those things that everyone knows what it is, but people get salty about the fact that we have a word for it.
So what is it?
As the name implies, it’s the idea that your hair texture is an inherent indicator of your overall superiority. The looser the curl, the smarter, more attractive, and feminine you are. The tighter the curl...well, maybe you’re athletic.
The song ‘Good and Bad Hair’ from Spike Lee’s School Daze sums up the phenomenon excellently.
These lines aren’t in order, and the emphasis is mine.
Don't you wish you had hair like this
Then the boys would give you a kiss
Talk about nothin' but bliss
Then you gonna see what you missed
Don't you ever worry 'bout that
Cause I don't mind being black
Oh, with your old mixed up head
I ain't ever gonna be your friend
Now of course, both lines contain wrongs.
Questioning someone’s blackness is a huge pet peeve of mine. But it’s worth noting that both in the film (AND behind the scenes, quite on purpose) the darker skinned, natural haired women are treated as a lower form of person. So their firing back, while morally incorrect, is very rooted in speaking truth to power.
Why power? Because despite us all being black women, the looser textured sisters with lighter complexions had a definite edge because of their aesthetic proximity to whiteness.
Much like colorism, texturism in the African diaspora is based in beauty standards being set by white supremacy. The closer you can appear to fitting white standards, the more likely you are to be elevated above your peers. And unfortunately, we’re not 100% outside of that viewpoint yet.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this phenomenon isn’t isolated to the historically colonized Americas, and definitely can be enforced by a non-white majority. But having lived in the states my whole life, I can’t speak to that. All I’ve got for you is this brief aside, and maybe a request for an interview from those of you who do have this experience in the future.
How does it affect us exactly?
We’ve been pressed to press! If you have “naturally undesirable hair”, you’re driven to spend a lot of time and money to chemically and mechanically burn it straight. Otherwise, you’re assumed doomed to be in last place romantically, financially, and socially.
And it’s not just an assumption.
Black femininity AND masculinity is punished for having visibly highly textured hair. Remember how Colin Kaepernick “needed a haircut” the second he started speaking out? Remember how Brittany Noble-Jones lost her job this year because her hair was considered “unprofessional”?
Both instances are examples of how texturism can be seen inside and outside the black community. It’s a highly ignorant stance that’s as irritating as it is actively harmful.
Does retexturizing your hair contribute to texturism?
Am I on record as supporting the choice to wear wigs, weaves, and blowouts? Very much so, yes. And if someone wants to relax their hair, I’d certainly tell them I think they shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t break my back to keep them out of the salon.
I firmly believe that while we all need to be supportive and kind to each other, breaking up institutions is never the sole responsibility of any individual.
Think of it like school dress codes.
If you face punishment for wearing anything EXCEPT a tucked shirt in khaki pants, you’re being compelled to do so. But if your school doesn’t have standardized dress, taking your style cues from Urkel is a fashion STATEMENT.
Of course there are still those of us that can’t choose freely. The repercussions are REAL. But much like I wouldn’t blame any one child for stifling their sense of personal aesthetics to get an education, I can’t look down on any one person that put on a silky weave to make sure their lights stay on.
Is there any hope?
I’m optimistic because, well, look at all of you here reading this! You’re here because you’re embracing your texture, because you want to nurture it, style it, and keep it healthy, and you’re far from alone!
The level of community here gives me so much strength! And there’s more.
I can turn on a TV and see natural hair. I can see it in advertisements. I can see it when I’m out and about and a fellow naturalista hits me with that “OKAY, twistout!”
Our natural texture is very visibly on the rise! Look at everyone trying and failing to copy it if you don’t believe me. But when their edges fall out and the trends die, we’ll still be here.
We’re at a very weird point in history right now. Our community is embracing its natural texture more and more internally, while others attempt to capitalize on our looks as a trend and tear them down at the same time.
We’re reading news on children forcibly having their hair chopped off in public AND news about anti-discriminatory laws being passed within weeks of each other. You could get emotional whiplash...
Anti-blackness, colorism, and texturism aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. But the number of us embracing ourselves as we are despite the hate is growing!
It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m happy that I get to bear witness to it.
We hope to continue to use our platform to shine a light on all textures, especially women with tighter curl patterns because they don't always feel seen or celebrated in society. Here's a lil' love note to keep on embracing you texture.
"Although we, black and natural haired women, do not fit society's standard of beauty, please be assured that their failure to realize the diverse beauty of hair does not and should not affect the way that you view your hair. Love yourself and if anyone cannot accept and embrace you at your most natural state then maybe they don't deserve you, sis. Their loss." - Lynda
What’s your experience with texturism, curlfriend? Tell us about it in the comments!