Why are Black Women obsessed with long hair?

6 Apr

This is a real question.  One I would love the answer to, but fear that there may be many answers, some of which will be a bunch of sugar honey ice tea.  But I’m serious, I would love an answer.

I’m sure that some will tell me its because long hair equates to healthy hair.  That’s just like saying skinny equals healthy. We all know that is not the case, so lets try again.  Some will say that they prefer the way long hair looks on them.  A valid, and honest response, one that I respect but preferance does not explain obsession.  Let me back up a bit.

I was visiting a few hair websites and both of them asked some basic questions to be included as apart of your member profile. One of those questions was “Goal Length”  I put down “whatever happens happens,” I have never been one to be obsessed about hair nor hair length, but it seems that is more the exception than the rule in the Black community.  I’ve seen many transitioners refuse to let go of that last inch or two of relaxed hair on the ends for fear of cutting their hair and losing length.  I’ve seen people hold on to split, and breaking ends just to say they are bra strap length, even when their hair was dry brittle and breaking.  I’ve seen thinning, whispy hair be refused layers because of the fear of losing length. I’ve even had my own sisters hold grudges because after trimming away horribly damaged ends I’ve “given them short hair”.  To be honest it turns my stomach, but for the purpose of trying to get answers rather than hate-filled backlash I’ll keep my opinions to a minumum.

I am truthfully and honestly just baffled.  Is it because we still, to some extent, hold sacred European American ideals of beauty, and that includes long flowing hair?  Is it because biologically men pair long hair with health and health means the ability to procreate?  Is it because social media shows us that long hair is whats acceptable, as there are more with Kim Kardashian weaves than Halle cuts?
To be fair, I’ll say that I have no problem at all with long hair, and have vowed to put down the scissors for awhile myself.  That has more to do with my patience than an obsession with length.  I don’t even think there’s anything wrong with wanting long hair, but it really seems to be deeper than that, and I just can’t figure it out…What do you think?

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27 Responses to “Why are Black Women obsessed with long hair?”

  1. KaNisa April 6, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    Maybe because they want to be attractive to Black men…as many (if not most) prefer long hair over short?

    • jazliyna February 21, 2012 at 1:27 am #

      that is not a good reason !! i know for myself i love long hair, i love the way it looks and feels. i grow my hair long because i want to and i for darn sure would neva grow my hair or do anything so i can b more a attractive to a black man. BE REALISTIC!!!

      • vera October 9, 2012 at 6:02 am #

        Amen !!! to that ! sister !!

  2. GG April 6, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Tough question. The discussion could go many places, as I’m sure that each woman who craves long hair has her own reasons. I think it would be unrealistic to say that it has nothing to do with the deeply ingrained European ideals of beauty. I think that does play a role for many, whether it’s a conscious factor or not.

    I think for many black women, it more so has to do with the desire to achieve something that has been elusive to many women with highly textured hair. Many of us were raised to think that our hair can only grow but so long simply because we are black and our hair is textured. I know I used to think that only people with naturally “silky” hair could grow their hair down their back.

    So, I think that part of the obsession comes from wanting to denounce this myth.

    • Betty May 8, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      So true. It has been stated for years that highly textured hair cannot grow long. I am 57 years old and I have heard this all my life. Well, I started youtubing and hair searching and found out that bad products were the reason, amongst other factors, why our hair seemed to not grow. I have since then started a healthy hair journey and I have made great progress.

    • vera October 9, 2012 at 6:09 am #

      I love my long hair because it fits me, short hair does to but to me it brings my face out more, my husband love my hair and even when it was short he did to,I am with Jazliyna, I am not going to grow my hair long just to attract black men, if they don’t like what they see then move on !! you get what you see !! short or long !!

  3. Brownbelle April 6, 2011 at 8:51 pm #

    Ditto what KaNisa said & cosign to the European beauty standard. That’s what society touts as pretty and even though short hair is getting shine right now, it’s always a trend that goes in and out fashion. Long hair is the default standard of pretty hair. I’ve been trying to break that mindset myself- I’ve had a chin length bob for about a year and a half now, but it took me almost a year to get really comfortable with it. When I had long hair I had a perm, and had the split ends and breakage to go along with. Now that I’m transitioning, my hair is much fuller, softer and shinier than it’s been in a while and I like that.

    I’ll admit that I’m not BCing because I’m just not comfortable with having my hair above ear length. However, I do find the look appealing on other girls whereas before I would instinctively turn up my nose & wonder why she would do that to herself. It’s really something you have to choose to overcome.

    • Jess J. April 6, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

      I agree with both you and KaNisa. And I think its interesting you whittle it down to choice. A choice to broaden your definition of beautiful.

  4. CC May 8, 2011 at 5:37 am #

    i think that most women want to feel beautiful, and also want others to precieve them as beautiful, and unfortunately, the American standard of beauty dictates that long, flowing hair is it. i also think it has to do with lack of knowledge, self confidence, and acceptance. the black community, from my experience, doesn’t promote natural short kinky hair, which is the case for may women and girls. i remember hearing words like nappy head all the time, not just from cruel children, but from family. i also remember how everyone would make a big deal about the girls who had long hair. not just long, but straight or wavy, and how they were always told they had such good hair. no one ever told me i had bad hair, but it was implied. things like that have been effecting black women for generations, and it’s sad that the cycle continues. and it’s not just black people who keep this up, but other cultures throw in their opinions, like how nature hair makes black women look masculine, blah blah blah. it wasn’t until my early 20s that i started doing research about our hair, and became more accepting of the way it’s suppose to grow out of our scalp. i completely gave up relaxers. my hair isn’t down my back, but i’m okay with that now. i’m old enough and mature enough to know that at the end of the day, others’ opinions of me don’t matter, and that i need to love me, and accept me, and my hair. i feel so much better about myself, more than i did when i was hiding behind wigs and weaves. i think that if the black community did a complete 360 when it comes to hair, and start accepting our God given hair, that more black women will stop the obession with long straight hair, and in turn, others would eventually become accepting. sorry for being so long winded, but that’s what i think.

    • Nubiyah July 25, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

      I definitely agree with you CC. I’m an 18yr old black female and well, my hair is..short. Not only short, but product-less and NATURAL. honestly, i haven’t felt better in my entire life. I feel like i have let go of a bondage that was holding on to me by wanting perms, weaves, etc. I realize that the way I look may not be widely accepted or acknowledged as beautiful but the few people who see me and appreciate who I am are the only ones who matter. Not to mention that it is not my right nor my responsibility to tamper with something God has already made beautiful, and the standards we women are expected to live up to are unrealistic and impossible. As a result, I will wake up every morning and be happy with the way I look, the REAL way I look with short hair and dark skin. Nuff said.

  5. D'borah July 1, 2011 at 1:43 am #

    I dont know about other women but for me i want to grow my hair out long to show that african american hair can grow and that just because my hair is long does not mean that it is a weave

    • vera October 9, 2012 at 6:27 am #

      Thank you !!! D’borah

  6. Koytoy August 1, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    Well…..I want long hair because I had long pretty hair as a child. It was a few inches below my shoulders. I have had some issues with hair stylist, to the point I don’t even deal with them anymore, Some of them have bad attitudes, and don’t follow directions very well. When a person is trying to grow their hair and you expain to them how you need your ends clipped and the cut a inch and a half of when they were only suppose to clip a half off…..no thats a problem and now that person has to grow what the stylist done chopped off…AGAIN. It has nothing to do with “european styles” or nothing like that. Some stylist DON’T follow directions. I don’t even go to an stylist anymore because of the ” you need me more than I need you” attitude. Another reason BW want long hair is because the men likes it.(or women for the bi and lesbian ladies of the world:) ) For many of years, women with long hair has been idolize in America. I personally blame media, when everything you see is NOTHING that looks like you…….it WILL start to affect you on “how” you “should” look. As a BW I had to get away from the world, and go old school. I mean my weight, hair, everything yall. I look at a lot of old school movies. White and Black women were BEAUTIFUL with short AND long hair styles. White and Black women size 12 and UP AND WITH A STOMACH. lmao. When I wear weave, I wear latchhook braiding hair.(which is cheaper, and healthy for my hair) I might do a straight wig every now n then, but I hate the way the straight hair flys in my face….blah. Idk every woman has their issue in why they want long hair. me doe….I just want a pretty afro textured ponytail…. cause I want one damn it (smiles) *peace and love*

  7. Nita February 7, 2012 at 4:34 am #

    I’m assuming you are talking about the Black women born and raised in western culture. In this culture Long hair is one of several symbols of feminitity that is imposed or followed by every race of women within that culture. Black women are no exception.

    I don’t think the problem is why are Black women obsessed with long hair, the question should be why wouldn’t they be interested in having long hair? Long hair is beautiful and if you can achieve it, great! If not except that your feminitity lies elsewhere like gentleness, empathy and sensitivity; which in my opinion a lot of Black women could improve on.

    • Jasmin February 20, 2012 at 9:45 pm #

      I agree, Nita. I have worked hard to achieve waist length hair and for many reasons, I’ll never go back to wearing my hair shorter.

      Sadly, physical beauty is not a quality that we can confer upon ourselves. If a woman is the only one who thinks that she is beautiful, she’s probably kidding herself.

      Why do we continue to rail against so called “European standards of beauty”? There is nothing we can do to change what is widely perceived as beautiful. Men love long hair. And, while short hair waxes and wanes in popularity, long, healthy hair never goes out of style. That is just a fact! If you want long hair, learn how to grow it. If you want to wear your hair short and natural, fine. But then don’t whine about how nobody loves your natural hair except you. Don’t get me wrong. Short, natural hair can be absolutely gorgeous. Still, I think that an attraction to long hair in females is so deeply ingrained in most cultures that this preference will never change.

    • vera October 9, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Agree !!!!

  8. Sid September 3, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

    I Agree there is absolutely nothing wrong with growing beautiful hair. However, we are making a mockery of this! I have seen some gorgeous women with the bald look actually. All these redundant you-tube vids are out of control. It appears going natural has become a competition and not a lifestyle to be embraced. Have we really accepted our beauty as Nappturals? If so, why are we still caught up in the hair lengths? And my hair is not short;-) I think America has gotten the point, that we can grow long hair. Being natural is not about length. It should be about making a bold statement as an ethnic woman that we dont need chemicals to gain approval in society. With this mentality we may as well go back to chemically treated hair. For example: Angela Davis was also known for her courage and definitely for her gorgeous afro! She was making a statement but at the same time she embraced her state of being natural too. At least thats how I remember it. She was natural and thats what mattered! For the record: i went natural because I got tired of dealing with the salons nonsense and then I gained respect for natural hair.

  9. Ivone September 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I love the fact that nowadays, Black women was realize that they can have long hair, if they take propally care of it…and I also love the fact that now you’ve more channels of research that 15 yrs wasn’t possible..I speak for myself, because I take better care now of my hair,I’m 31, than when I was 15 yrs old……but what I dislike is the obessession black women have for long hair, that they’ll do stupid thimgs to achive it, or they’ll neglecte important things like their health…..some black women will not work out cuz they may sweat and the hair will be ruined, or won’t swim…a lot of videos of so called hair journey, will present you a black woman or girl with beautiful hair, but also a black woman or girl that is over weight..yes we should take ggod care of our hair, but we should also take really good care of our health…….

    • vera October 9, 2012 at 6:20 am #

      Agreed, Ivone !

  10. S. November 5, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    They see all the non black women with long hair on tv ad fashion magazines, showing all the latest hair trend and black women want a part if that even though their hair cannot be long shiny locks naturally without all the chemicals and weaves. Black men have been brainwashed and those that only desire black women with long straight hair are delusional into thinking they can get a natural black girl with long hair when it’s not a common feature in their race.

  11. tina December 2, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Yeah, I’m not going to hound black women because they want traits that they believe and males are beautiful. Long thick hair is gorgeous because it requires patience, overall well being, a good diet, and loving care of ones body. There’s no faking this, and most people don’t respect fakeness, because a thick healthy long mane it’s proof in the pudding. It’s not only lauded only because it is very feminine looking. Short hair can be made into an elegant looking style too, but long thick manes of hair on males and females are undeniably beautiful. I agree, if you don’t have the genetic programming for it, then you can maximize what you have through living healthy. The key is to try to have a healthy body, skin, and hair through living well not products and you will reflect beauty.

  12. Michelle January 1, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    I don’t think all black women are obsessed with long hair. I think it depends on your socio-economic environment as well as many other factors. I live in suburban NJ, and I see black women, with twa(s), short relaxed styles, medium and long relaxed styles, braids (with and without extensions), and a variety of natural styles. I see some good and bad weaves, and some good and bad wigs, and I am sure in the midst of it all there are some women who I would never guess that all the hair I see on their head isn’t theirs.

    But I don’t think that is what is important. I think that what goes on inside the head is more important than what is on the head. A women has the right to adorn her head in a way that is fitting for the image and livesyle that she prefers. There are many reasons a woman chooses a hairstyle. It is negligent for anyone to be so presumptuous to believe that they know what is inside someone else’s mind and heart, simply because of how they have chosen to wear their hair.

    For those who can grow long,healthy, natural black hair — bless you. Everyone can NOT. I have seen so many blogs and post saying that all black women can grow long hair. This is absolutely ridiculous. It is as ludicrous as saying all white women can grow naturally long thick blonde hair. Preposterous! A great deal of your hair traits are hereditary. If everyone one your mom’s side of the family has short kinky hair, and the same holds true for your father’s, side guess what? You too will probably (not definately — traits can skip generations) have short kinky hair too. It is unlikely that any amount of conditioning and protective styling will change this fact. However, you may be able to grow your hair to its maximum length, and have a healthy head of kinky well conditioned hair.

    Who are these hair Nazis that say you can not change or manipulate your hair? Maybe you feel more like yourself with relaxed hair, maybe you like swimming and working out so a buzz cut, braids, or wigs work best or you. If we all left our hair in its absolute natural state with NO manipulation (this includes combing and brushing). We would all have dread locks. White, Black, Asian, Indian — all races.

    I think we should stop worry about what people have on their heads and concentrate on putting knowledge into our own heads and the heads of our youth.

    I by the way wear my own hair 100 percent natural, no dyes, or heat. I keep my children 100 percent as well. I do wear protective styles that I custom create myself. These are choices — everyone has the right to choose.

    Black women do not all have kinky hair, we do not all have short hair, medium hair, long hair, black hair, brown hair, blonde hair, red hair, wavy hair, straight hair — curly hair. There are black women who are born with every type of hair that I mentioned. Just as there are white women who are born with these hair types naturally as well. With the exception of the amount of kink. There is no other race of women where tightly coiled hair is the most prevelant hair type. This puts Black women in a very different position. They see every race of women with the ability achieve, straight, wave, or curly patterns that appear to be soft and luxurious. It is difficult to fight human nature to be competitive, or to want to fit in not just to western beauty, but to international beauty. We are so different. I am OK with that — but who am I to judge those who are not? It’s what’s inside that counts.

  13. S. March 26, 2013 at 5:45 am #

    You see girls on YouTube talking about how to grow long natural hair but if you have to obsessively use oil and relaxer just to get a straighter texture for it to look like the hair was growing down your back then it ain’t natural. If women are doing it simply because black men are attracted to long hair then they need to question these men who put unrealistic standards on black women when it’s not even naturally a black trait. The same can be said about other races. Maybe not to the same extent but it is still an unrealistic standard like white women obsessed with being blond because white men always say blonds have more fun, Asian women getting double eyelid surgery because Asian men only want asian women with large eyes and brazilians who are so obsessed with cosmetic surgery to have their butts enhanced because that was the standard men have out on brazilian women with their bikinis and beach bodies.

  14. Beverly B. McFadden May 22, 2013 at 11:47 pm #

    Personally, I desire longer hair, because my hair should be long. The reason I say my hair should be long, is based on all the breakage I’ve suffered throughout the years. If I had been taught how to care for my natural, kinkier, than kinky hair, in stead of how to go against it’s texture, my hair would be long and kinkier, than kinky!

    It’s not about what other’s consider beautiful, it’s about the fro that’s larger than life; the fro I fantasize about. I’ve always envisioned myself, turning sideways just to walk through a doorway, and in order to achieve that dream, my hair must be significantly longer than it is now. I want my fro to be visible from the tallest builder, I want my fro to be seen before I’m seen. Wow—- that’s beautiful!

  15. Judith Annl September 15, 2013 at 3:57 pm #

    Well I’ve had it all over my lifetime and I am back to long hair. Oddly I’m older and my hair is longer now than it has ever been in my life. It is waist length and a whole lot of work because I have no chemicals on it. What I have learned is that psychologically I feel more secure with long hair. Strange? Probably but it works for me and that’s all a woman can do.

  16. Edie September 21, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

    As a woman of color with long fine textured hair, I am questioned by women of other races as to “why does your hair look like that?” And even being told I m “lucky” because of it. You see, no matter what, a woman of color is scrutinized and made to think she has no right or is not supposed to b attractive. I live in Hawaii where long hair is normal but everywhere else is treated as a coveted prize. Hair is most genetic it is what you were given, but like Chris rock said, “it’s not what’s on your head, it’s what’s in it”.

  17. Dara August 29, 2016 at 12:20 am #

    I agree with the Eurocentric idea as well. I furthermore believe that Black women use hair to one up each other . We use long hair as if its just as important as being smart or wealthy.

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