Truce

Over the weekend Olympic hurdler Lolo Jones made a faux pas when criticizing a fan’s Halloween costume. Twitter user @TrackChick13_ posted a picture of herself dressed up like Jones, ready to run out of the blocks, but unlike Jones, the user had curly hair. Jones’ hair is straight.

The user wrote: “Lolo jones 4 Halloween. I just need a hurdle.” And Jones replied: “And a relaxer. I haven’t rocked curls since h.s :p.”

Jones’ response was “cheeky” in that she did sign off with an emoticon that symbolizes a mouth with a tongue sticking out, but people didn’t take it in any kind of cheeky way. After all, Jones has a history of putting her foot in her mouth on Twitter, potentially enraging people. This time was no exception.

There was this:

And this:

And even more of this:

As unfortunate as Jones’ tweet was, the costumed fan didn’t take it personal, and Jones tweeted that she felt there was a double “hair” standard in this commentary.

While Jones’ statement about the opposite having a different reaction may be true, she’s forgotten that all things aren’t considered equal when it comes to the unfortunate politics of black hair. A lot of black and biracial women straighten their hair as Jones does and for decades that has been considered the standard. Despite this pressure to straighten, multitudes of black and biracial women have embraced their curly hair, wear it as they see fit and some are outright hostile to the notion of a hair relaxer. Especially if anyone “insists” they need one to be “complete” … even if it’s a by proxy suggestion via Lolo Jones in regards to a Lolo Jones costume. The comment is insensitive and it stings.

But a lot of the responses Jones received seemed to be overkill as they often involved passing judgment on Jones, accusing her of hating herself for straightening her hair. There’s no evidence that Jones vehemently dislikes natural hair, only that she’s kind of rude about people who don’t copy her look exactly when portraying her. But as soon as the offensive tweet went out the usual battle stations were drawn, and the primary insult that is usually flung around in the curly versus straight wars is that black women who straighten their hair (or get long weaves) are full of self-loathing.

I, personally, have natural hair that I sometimes wear curly and other times wear straight. I don’t use a relaxer due to my own issues with the harsh chemicals in relaxers and how my hair responds to them, so I occasionally get my hair straightened with a blow dryer and a flat iron. But as someone who loves how their hair looks both when curly and when straight, I wonder if we’ll ever find a middle ground in this particular debate? Will women who primarily wear their hair straightened ever stop suggesting that I get a perm or gleefully wondering how long it looks if I did straighten it? Will I ever stop feeling like others at times pass judgment on me for wearing my hair straight because I like how it looks and enjoy changing my hair up? Can hair ever be just hair when every part of the black body is constantly politicized?

I know we’re not quite there yet (and definitely not there where statements like Jones can simply be ignored), but is there a way to have this discussion without it going to the old sore spots where curly hair “needs to be fixed” and straight is “self-hate.” Is there another way to have this conversation?

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  • Sean

    I’ll be honest, this article bases its argument on a comment that was a misunderstanding. It’s a bit of a stretch to connect the two. It was a costume. Not to strawman her argument but if you’re being Ronald McDonald for halloween you’re most likely going to have a curly red bush versus say a black bush or even straight hair. It adds to the overall costume. If she did have her hair identical to Ms. Jones, it would “complete” her costume. The costume, not her life. I think we should separate the two.

    Let’s take a step back and stop being so sensitive (despite her “history” of putting her foot in her mouth. I mean don’t we all at some point). Cut her some slack.

    Side note: I do not have a perm and will not get one lol just so that’s one less point to counter in your rebuttal.

  • LN

    “I know we’re not quite there yet (and definitely not there where statements like Jones can simply be ignored), but is there a way to have this discussion without it going to the old sore spots where curly hair “needs to be fixed” and straight is “self-hate.” Is there another way to have this conversation?”

    Answer: When black women stop writing articles, like this one, on the “permed vs natural debate” without providing sufficient or compelling cultural evidence.

    I’ve been natural for 7 years and have yet to witness this permed vs natural “war”.