Nappy is Still an Insult To Some

by Clutch

Natural hair is arguably more prevalent in our social imagination than it’s ever been but not everyone subscribes to the meme that kinky textures are beautiful. In some corners, ‘nappy’ hair is still considered ugly, inferior and shameful.

Such was the case on VH1′s “Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta” when on the reunion episode, Rasheeda told K. Michelle (above) to “do something with [her] nappy ass hair.”

Though negative behavior is a staple on the show and both ladies were trading insults, Rasheeda’s words stung a bit deeper. They carry with them the belief that straight, looser textures are better and nappy hair is to be ridiculed and made fun of.

We see nappy used as an insult time and time again. Don Imus famously called the Rutgers Womens Basketball Team “nappy-headed hoes.” Rihanna boldly responded to a fan who questioned why her hair looked so nappy with the retort “because I’m black, b*tch.” Nicki Minaj released an unfortunately titled song “Stupid Hoe” which featured the line “dem nappy headed hoes but my kitchen good.”

I look forward to a time when we can move beyond the mentality that nappy hair is innately ugly.

What are your thoughts, Clutchettes? Will “nappy” always carry a negative connotation? Do you perceive it as an insult?

  • C

    It will always be an insult, and I am not one to use derogatory words and ‘make them’ positive because there are always better words to use. Also, I’m tired of the good hair, bad hair mentality. Can people progress past that? (I guess that is too much to ask because too many can’t progress, period).

  • Sasha

    The little amount of like I had for Rasheeda completely went out the window…she came across as very condescending and ghetto as soon as she made that comment to K Michelle, I cringed. I actually found myself hitting the rewind button like “no she really didn’t say that” but alas she did.

  • SANDRA (@sabadaga)

    That’s unfortunate but as long as the Europan beauty standard prevails, people will still think that if you don’t fit into this type of beauty, you are ugly.

  • ndv

    I had a supervisor years ago (white) use the term “nappy” to refer to black women’s hair. She said something like “I love how nappy her hair is”. She was referring to a convo she had w her supervisor (black) . All I know is I felt lightening shoot through my body. Even the Latina that was with us said to me later that day “I didn’t think that came out right”. I later took my supervisor aside and explained that “nappy” was negative, even among us black folk and that “natural” or “textured” or “curly ” was a better choice of words. I will never forget that lightening bolt that shot through my body that day…

  • rkahendi

    There will always be people who think “nappy hair” is inferior. But let’s not forget that there have always been and will always be people who love natural African hair.

  • Maria

    I didn’t know “nappy” was supposed to be an insult until I went to college and started saying it around white people and black suburbans. In my home, we just say “nappy” to describe the texture of our hair. What else is it? “Kinky” doesn’t quite describe it, “curly” doesn’t go far enough, and “afro-textured” just sounds weird.

  • ChillyRoad

    For starters, Erika is beyond beautiful. Secondly, Rasheeda may or will have a daughter with nappy hair…even a son. She should keep her own hatred to herself.

  • Stephanie

    The connotation on the word nappy is the problem. If you have naps, you have “undesirable” hair. However, nappy is just a term to define a texture of hair. Nappy should just equal tightly wound coils. And what’s wrong with having tightly wound coils? Answer: absolutely nothing! Have we been told that we should not want to wear our “naps”? Answer: Yes? And why? Answer: Because it doesn’t meet the Euro standard of beauty. Is this reinforced everyday? Answer: Yes, I am actually looking at an add of luxury hair on this site right now… I don’t see any afro wigs for sale… Anywho… bottom line: where you hair anyway you feel like it. Don’t let someone push self hate as the norm… Just because your hair is one way doesn’t mean you don’t like other styles and textures. Nap haters perpetuate the idea that we all need our hair combed out and pressed or hidden and thats sad. Its freeing to be able to just BE without all the maintenance or manipulation.

  • African Mami

    K.Mitchell-wow! Yo, this chic needs to stop the madness, and get back on that singing grind.

  • C

    Hm, I forgot that some people really don’t see it as a negative word. I understand that the dictionary definition is not negative, but the way it has been widely used to denote ‘bad hair’ has left a really bad taste in my mouth.

  • tish

    i think my head exploded.

  • silkynaps

    k. michelle can kick rocks. she was my least favorite of all the women. she was combative, sarcastic, ignorant, condescending…I could go on and on, but that would be boring.

    nevertheless, i don’t find the term “nappy” to be derogatory.

    as long as i can remember, we’ve referred to traditional black hair as afro hair. however, by definition, a nap is just a curl. i’m cool with either term, but some people try to turn “nap” into the n-word part ii.

    unlike the n-word part i, i think it’s a funny word and if someone wants to embrace it, more power. if you want to denounce or be offended by a word as it applies to hair, try “kink”.

  • Egypt

    Smh. People are still resorting to nappy insults? How can we expect everyone else to accept our hair, if we don’t even accept it ourselves.

  • LemonNLime

    Considering it was the “Real On and Off Lovers/ Baby Mamas of Some No Name Rapper or D Grade Athlete: The Atlanta Edition”, I would not be using them as any kind of measure of the connotation, positive or negative, of anything in the English language.

  • Marlo

    Rasheeda came across as thinking she was better. It took me back to School Daze when they sang – Talk about Good or Bad Hair. They need to quit putting stupid people on tv. Oh yea – it’s called Entertainment.

  • Dee

    I call my hair nappy all the time, honestly. For me, its not an insult; however its inappropriate for someone not from the Black experience to call my hair nappy.

  • mommaused2say

    I don’t find anything cute about it and when I heard Rasheeda go there, I got a little upset. There is talking ish and then there is hitting below the belt and for me that was below the belt.

  • une afropolitaine (@afropolitaine)

    says the has been that never was who is married to a tall dark and handsome chocolate man! i guess that’s why he’s bald cuz we know if his hair grew out it would be of the nappy variety

  • Ms. Information

    We perpetrate a LOT of this mess on ourselves.

  • chanela17

    why are we still giving those heffas attention? SMH

  • binks

    Of course! And it is not the fact that you said it but how you say it! Clearly Rasheeda meant for it to be offensive. But as long as you have people who think that a certain hair type is better than the other than “nappy” will always be offensive. I’ am natural and I don’t even call my own hair nappy.

  • Carin

    That’s pretty dumb. And shows that the word is negative

  • Brooke

    Yes, my hair is nappy, kinky, curly whatever they want to call it… But it’s mine and mine only! I’ve been blesses with texture, volume, and versitality. I’m not white so the white beauty standard doesn’t apply to me. God don’t make mistakes and in my humble opinion, I’m perfect the way I’m made.

    Black is beautiful!

  • Carin

    I’m not down for calling my hair nappy. Ever. A nap is a tangle. No matter what texture you’re dealing with. And while my hair is tightly coiled by no means is it full of naps….. Nappy is an insulted we’ve accepted.

  • Erin

    Obviously Rasheeda used it in the derogatory fashion but I don’t understand why, because K. Michelle’s weave/hair has never been “nappy”…

  • The Comment

    My mouth dropped! I was like….where are the naps ….and….and…deep breath….with all the natural hairstyles worn by black woman…..why would she say that TO BE AN INSULT?

    I was very confused and bewildered.

  • Mzaka

    Funny thing is Rasheeda’s hair is nappy too underneth all that weave. Its amazing how some women think they have arrived because they’re wearing the new silky malaysian wigs. Weaves and the entire fake hair industry have black women really believng its their real hair. So much to the fact that they have the nerve to call natural hair nappy. Rasheed is a nobody and needed to create controversy to stay relevant on the show. Her husband is a well known DL brotha in Decatur and she has decided its better to keep him than send him off to the streets where Bishop Eddie Long could snatch him up. She needs to check herself because on my HD tv her edges were permed out!!!

  • Ms. Information

    I get your point, but that is actually Rasheeda’s hair…I did hear that her husband was gay though…uh oh

  • Marcia

    I had the same reaction! It shocked me because I liked her…it bothered me for a few hours after. I think that when used to describe others it will always be seen as an insult.

  • Jess

    Nappy is, and always has been, an insult. It’s right up there with he old term of pickaninny. Many of us have beautiful natural KINKY, curly, wavy, or other hair types – not nappy. Someof us even wear knotty styles, but not nappy. Sorry, that’s some racist bull right there.

    I wear my hair natural and it is kinky and beautiful!

  • Jess

    black is beautiful and kinky is beautiful bu nappy is not! It’s an insult and means your hair is tangled, unkempt and uncared for.

  • Jess

    cosign 100%, Carin

  • YeahRight2011

    She is a hood chick from the South. How enlightened did we expect her be? Nicki Minaj isn’t from the land of Black is Beautiful either. I said it.

  • Emme

    Personally I don’t get the difference between “kinky” and “nappy.” I think they describe the same texture (my hair is too coiled to be called curly or wavy). In years past, before black folks with nappy/kinky/coiled hair embraced their hair’s beauty, people used the word nappy to describe the same hair we call kinky today. I don’t have a problem calling my hair nappy because I wasn’t raised to hate what “nappy” is supposed to be.

    It’s all a matter of semantics… My dad told me in the 40s and 50s where he grew up, you’d get beat up if you called someone “black.” Thankfully, through the “black is beautiful” movement in the 60s and 70s we embraced the word and gave it positive power.

    Can we have a “nappy is beautiful” movement please???

  • Brooke

    Actually, my nappy hair is beautiful! Please don’t tell me what i should or should not think is beautiful. I’d rather go bald than wear weave and wig!

  • b

    I am from the south and nappy ALWAYS meant your hair was not combed. It refereed to unkempt hair..It had nothing to do with the texture of your hair.
    Now, it seems to have something to do with your hair texture.

  • Nadell

    Etymology of The Word Nappy
    The word nappy began its life innocently enough as the adjectival offspring of the word nap. Nap is a fuzzy surface layer on yarn or cloth. Nap is teased up or raised higher by brushing the cloth against a rough surface. Our common weed teasel is named because it was used long ago to tease up the nap on cloth. Nap on wool was often shaved off and used to fill pillows. A number of words were brought to England during the 14th and 15th centuries by Dutch weavers who came to Britain to ply their trade. One of these words from Middle Dutch was noppich , ‘nappy’ an adjective referring to cloth that had a fiber-thick surface layer that could be trimmed down or teased up and cut even.

    Late in the 18th century or early in the 19th century, Americans in the southern U.S. began to refer to negro slaves as nappy heads, comparing some tightly curled negroid hair to the nap on some cloth or fur. It was not a compliment. Beaver hats were said in early Victorian times to have a ‘fine, black nap.’

    Then, as happened in history with many terms of abuse, those abused, the black slaves, took to using the word among themselves with affection, partly as a method of ‘taking back the hurt’ in the insult and partly out of the sheer exuberant play of language that all people share. There are 19th century letters from black mothers to distant daughters where the mother addresses her girl as “my sweet little nappy head.” What white racists don’t seem to get is the black imprimatur of such language. That usage is permissible among blacks, but when whites say it, it’s racist. That does not seem like rocket science, and yet hundreds of thousands of Americans seem too dense to clue into such circumscribed linguistic parameters. Words freighted with deep emotional import and electrified by taboo are dangerous cargo. Use them and you sink with them.

  • Ashley

    What does being from the south have to do with anything.

  • LuvLife289

    Sorry, accidently hit thumbs down! Agree +1

  • LuvLife289

    I can believe it after seeing what he had on.

  • SS25

    Exactly!! Totally ignorance and stupidity.

  • JN

    I watched up until the point that she called K. Michelle “nappy.” Before I watched it I thought K. Michelle was upset about being called nappy. In the context, I think K Michelle was just generally upset with the whole conversation, since nappy was just one of the horrible terms being tossed her way.

  • Monique

    Totally agree! It makes my blood boil! Any body that doesn’t see it as an insult has slave mentality! I really liked Rasheeda until she opened her mouth! Her feelings must have got really hurt when k michlle talked about her bags under her eyes! # What a Cheap shot Rasheeda!

  • Naps4eva

    Im not sure if anyone has already said this, but the word “nappy” carries a negative connotation much like “red bone” carries a positive one to many. The rejection of “nappy hair” as evidenced in many of your posts is a symptom of colorism, stemming from a european beauty standard. Many of you reject the word nappy and prefer kinky, stating that nappy is “unkempt, tangled, etc”, but fail to recognize that even in making the differentiation, you are validating the notion that having “naps” is somehow bad.

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