half curly hair girl half straight hair lady

If there is one thing that really irks me about having curly hair it is the perception of it. Perception doesn’t come with an easy definition when put into practice, so in a way, I’ve chosen the most obscure curly girl rant possible, which is fitting for a woman who has curly (albeit wavy) hair herself.

My waves don’t come with easy definition, even when I put so many methods into practice. I can follow the Curly Girl method down to every last detail, I can sleep on satin pillowcases, I can co-wash, I can low-poo, I can do it all, but inevitably, one day, I will have a bad hair day. Frizz will form a halo around my head if the wind blows too hard, and my second day hair won’t always be better than my first. This doesn’t mean that my hair is unruly, however.

In my perception of straight hair, I do not actively determine that an out of place, coily cowlick ruins your ‘do and makes it unappealing to the masses. I would argue, though, that it probably does much more than a few frizzies on my head are bound to do. My perception of straight hair, while biased, is that those women also struggle with their own texture. I know many straight haired women who have desperately and unsuccessfully soaked their strands with curly products and sea salt ridden water to try and get some wave, curl or kink. I know that they also struggle with the hair that grows out of their head.

However, had I not been in the bathroom with them as they struggled, if I hadn’t seen them brush out tangles and try to achieve a sleek pony time and time again, I wouldn’t know that straight hair is also difficult. The perception of straight hair is that it is easy, tame and the starting point for so many beautiful hairstyles. The media pushes this image, the blogosphere often pushes this image and, more often than not, women with straight hair push this image. It is as if all the wavy, curly and kinky haired women of the world weren’t invited to some straight haired meeting in which they decided to forever lie about their struggles with their hair.

In the lack of negative limelight for straight hair, wavy, curly and kinky hair types have had to bear the unruly burden — at least the perception of it. That hasn’t been an easy road for us, but things are changing, and the perception of curly hair is taking on a positive light for women in the community, for products, for brands and even for companies that have long ignored curly clientele.

"It is as if all the wavy, curly and kinky haired women of the world weren’t invited to some straight haired meeting in which they decided to forever lie about their struggles with their hair, or from then on out, the lack there of."

But the game isn’t won yet. On March 1, The New York Times wrote the following: “Even the most self-accepting of curly-haired women continue to nurture one dream: a product that can be shampooed in or applied after showering that will magically straighten.”

The article in question is about formaldehyde straightening treatments and their negative effects. Or it should have been. Perception, however, changed the article, because what the writer wrote told a very different story about straightening treatments. Instead of highlighting their negative affects, she highlighted what she and those companies see as a self-conscious community of women consistently struggling to rid themselves of their unruly hair.

Perception can be the ultimate enemy or the ultimate companion. It is where I believe so many deep-rooted misunderstandings come from concerning wavy, curly and kinky hair. Perception, however, as undefined a word as it is, is privy to these two Oxford dictionary definitions:

  1. the ability to see, hear or become aware of something through the senses
  2. the way in which something is regarded, understood or interpreted

While the second definition has long been the way that this negative perception has revealed itself, as curly haired women, we know full and well that a new method can change the entire game. Why can’t hair perception come from our ability to use our senses to understand one another? Why isn’t hair perception more about touch, sight and communication (aka sound)?

Here is where we change the game ladies. Stop asking the why and start living the how. Perception is annoying, and Herbal Essences commercials make me want to throw my TV out the window (seriously, NO ONE shampoos like that – it isn’t healthy!). I have within me the power to change perception, and so do you.

Ghandi said it best: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It isn’t necessarily easy, but when all of us join together and make perception more about connection and understanding than stereotypes and naming differences as “the other,” we can change the world. Truly this movement has the ability to empower women of all hair types – one curl at a time.

You have to believe in what you do in order to do it well, and I for one wholeheartedly believe in this. And on International Women’s Day, don’t you?