NATURAL PEER PRESSURE…DOES IT EXIST?
The phenomenon of peer pressure does not only exist in childhood and adolescence and we are all aware of the influence that our peer group and individuals within it can have on us to confirm to the ‘normal’ attitudes, values and behaviors of the group. This pressure can also extend to style and increasingly with black women the way you choose to wear your hair; relaxed or natural.
There has been a massive movement in the black hair world over the past five years which has seen large numbers of black women choosing to ‘go natural’ and leave the use of relaxers behind. Young girls are deciding never to begin relaxing at all. This can be largely attributed to the wealth of information that is now available online in the form of video sharing websites, hair blogs, forums and social media websites. These mediums allow black women to research and share information worldwide on haircare in ways that were never possible before. We are learning that there are easy ways to care for our natural hair so it can look and feel fabulous, we are seeing sisters with long, healthy and thriving natural hair, we are learning the ways that the black haircare industry has failed us and does not always have the good health of our hair as their main concern.
Relaxing hair is no longer seen as the only option for ease of styling or beautiful looking hair. Indeed, in some circles, relaxing hair is seen as an inferior option and some militant natural hair advocates even go as far as to suggest that those who relax their hair do not love themselves or their racial makeup and are ‘trying to be white’ or conform to the white man’s standard of beauty. All it takes is for one member of a circle of friends to decide to go natural and do a big chop of her relaxed hair or to transition from relaxed hair to natural to make the rest of that group see the possibilities and maybe begin to question their own relationship with their hair. If the friend has a positive experience with natural hair they may of course inspire the other ladies girls they know to give it a try.
A more political, passionate or dominant natural sister may even go as far as to make her relaxed friends and acquaintances feel bad for being relaxed and either overtly or subtly begin to pressure them to ‘do the right thing’ and go natural too. I would say that natural peer pressure definitely exists in my experience. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
As black people, our hair type is unique to our race. Although relaxers were a great invention in that they provided us with the option to wear our hair permanently straight, they involve the application of chemicals to alter what we are born with. Natural peer pressure for both young and older people can send the positive message of loving ourselves the way we naturally are and finding ways to enhance our natural beauty that doesn’t involve potentially dangerous and toxic chemicals.
I myself have noticed that in my place of work there are many natural haired black women whose style of wearing their hair I admire and sometimes envy. I was confident of my decision to relax in the past and my long, bouncy relaxed hair has been openly admired all my adult life. Yet for the past few years, as I learned more about hair, I can admit to feeling a slight twinge when I am around natural sisters. I somehow feel I am not courageous or confident enough to wear my hair natural or that I am being frivolous or even somehow fraudulent for relaxing. I always planned in my mind and say out loud to some of these women that I will go natural sometime far ahead in the future, in my late forties or early fifties.
In some of my friendship circles a few of my oldest friends have now gone natural and seeing them so beautiful and happy with their healthier hair has made me more at ease with the idea of transitioning to natural sooner than I had planned to.
Natural peer pressure is real and does exist but the decision to go natural is such a personal one that in my opinion no woman can really make this decision regarding their hair purely due to the influence of peers. Afro, or relaxed straight, a woman’s crowning glory, her personal beauty is a matter for her alone.