Nowadays, became a symbol of identity for women

Nowadays, the term “nappy” is more and more
heard in the environment of feminine beauty. Contraction of “natural”
and “happy”, a nappy is a person who decided to wear its frizzy hair in
its natural state – and stop to relax its hair if they we’re used to that. The
nappy hair is then what we usually assimilate to an afro. The origin of straightening
goes back to the period of the slave trade, when masters of African enslaved,
assimilated their hair to “mop”, “foam”, “wool”, “horsehair”. According to
Juliette Sméralda, a sociologist from Martinique in her book, Black Skin frizzy
hair, story of an alienation: « A cultural drama took place. They put white
gloves to Black people, they flattened their hair, and women put wigs then straightened
their hair. The West denied them physically, to assimilate them to canons of
white beauty. »

For some years now, the Nappy movement creates a
sensation in the community of women of color in several regions of the globe,
but it is a trend anchored for numerous years in the United States. Indeed,
more than a movement of esthetic expression, the movement Nappy became a symbol
of identity for women of color and constitutes the contemporary continuation of
the current Black is Beautiful thrown in 1962 in Harlem. At that time, the
group is embodied by the philosopher Angela Davis who represents the esthetic
and political revolt of the Afro-Americans (she militates for their civil
rights and wears baggy frizzy hair). These years, a vast movement in favor of
the rehabilitation of African and Afro-American culture is developing in United
States, whereas Africa decolonizes and reggae and dreadlocks prosper in the
Caribbean. Being nappy is thus an instrument of identity claim. In the 1970s,
with the emergence of Black Panthers, it was one of the signs showing that we
refused to comply with the Whites’ rules. But, the afro doesn’t resist for a
long time to the social tensions and straightening, vestige of the slavery,
resurfaces. It’s for black people a way to get physically closer to white
people by erasing this physical difference, and so to see their social
condition rise.

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But, nowadays, can the Nappy Movement really promote
the emancipation of women of color?





Western society imposed to women codes of feminine
beauty as a slim line, a fair skin and a smooth hair. Codes broadcasted through
the press for example, all around the world and very present in the daily lives
of women, who did not correspond to women of color. Barbie dolls or Princesses
of Disney films as the Sleeping Beauty represent quite the same type of
heroines (brunettes, blondes or red-haired, with long and smoother hair) with whom
grew up little girls. All this urged these women to resort to certain methods
to answer the standards governed by this ideal Westerner.

So, in
daily life, these women of color wanted to look good, comply with the standards
and be accepted by society. In order to hide their difference, to look more
like friends, colleagues, those around them, models of the time, western canons
of beauty and society herself, they used to relax their hair. Thus, straightening
was a way used to fit in a society which did not want these bodies.

In the
world of work, most of Nappies find jobs with difficulty because of their hair,
often perceived as neat, ugly, unkempt. As examples: in 2013, the direction of
a school expel a 7-year-old girl to have refused to cut her dreadlocks, judged
” not nice ” and supposed ” to distract the serious atmosphere
which reigns in the establishment “. In 2014, the American army announced
the ban of Afro hairstyles for women (but cancelled it because of a petition
against this prohibition which gathered more than 17 000 signatures). So, people
of color cannot totally thrive in their active life. They cannot wear all the
hairstyles they want or even their natural hair, on risk of losing or not
having a job. In 2012, Air France laid off one of its stewards because he
refused to wear longer the wig imposed by the company to hide his frizzy hair.
The fashion industry is all the more demanding because the models that she
highlights are her most important faces. Therefore, if a model of color wanted
to work, she was obliged to submit herself to the rules of beauty of the
environment. As Ebonee Davis said, “that idea of needing to change was only
perpetuated further once I got into the Industry. Agents saying to me -you’re
not going to work if you don’t straighten your hair-“.

the social life, the active life also turns out to be one of the pillars of the
integration. Then, we change who we are to succeed socially and climb up the

The persistence of injustices around the frizzy hair
urges to wonder what a good hair is. The American humorist Chris Rock, in his
documentary Good Hair (2009) moves in Afro-American hairdressing salons and
institutes of beauty care to understand the relations between black women and
their hair.


The Nappy Movement doesn’t make unanimity in female
population. Some women tend to think that mixed women do not have the right to feel/be
nappy, a fortiori, to be representatives of the movement because of their
hair’s texture, which did not change throughout their life and has always been
approved by the society. It only concerns afro-americans women, those who used
to relax their hair and decided later not to be “slaves” of hair
relaxing any more, those who suffered and win the battle against “the norm”,
stereotypes and intolerance. Thus, Métis women distorted the movement by
putting themselves forward, while they’ve never known real problems with their
hair (whether in order to gain acceptance or to find their capillary balance),
to the detriment of women of color. The real nappy is the Afro hair, the black


I think that biracial women haven’t hijacked the
natural hair movement. All natural hair (which hasn’t been altered by chemical
straighteners, relaxers and texturizers) is beautiful.  It must not have a kind of competition, of
division between women of color. Also, wear its natural hair shouldn’t be a
problem in our societies. Black people live in a world where they didn’t fix
the rules admittedly but things have to change. Everyone is free and has the
right to feel comfortable with its body and should be accepted as he is.   I hate that something common to all women
(hair) has become hided because of being different or more preferable.




As we
saw earlier, women of color are/were enormously depreciated. Therefore,
straightening was the only way to be accepted. Hair relaxers are dangerous
chemical treatments which stiffen hair by modifying the chemical structure of
the keratin. Containing acids as hydroxide of sodium, phosphoric acid or
caustic soda, these products destroy the hair fiber (cause the death of hair)
and are very noxious for the health (links between straightening and fibroids,
cancers, etc.). Nevertheless, these aggressive treatments
which can cause burns and alopecias (destruction of the capillary capital)
dominated the sales of the market of black beauty for years.

care of its natural hair requires time and of motivation. Thus it allows
acquiring some patience. When a woman returns to her natural hair, she learns
to know her hair, but especially herself, which allows her to gain
self-confidence. Then be nappy, it’s also choose the freedom to be yourself.

now on, for Loretta Rucker who went back to natural, it’s not about question of
pains, aggression of the scalp, or hides its hair, its buckles, as she did a
long moment of her life anymore. It’s now question to assume her Nappy’s
attitude (Natural, happy and proud to be) which is not just a cool trend for
her, but a necessary remedy to assume and accept herself as she is.



need to modify the western standards of beauty and change the beauty’s ideals
of women of color woke a rebellion against “the diktat of the smooth hair”
represented by the Nappy Movement. Therefore, women of color decided to wear
their natural hair and to be proud of it. But besides being proud of their
capillarity, it’s also about to find and accept themselves, and to be proud of
their origins. Being nappy, it’s also a way to claim who they are and truly
express their real nature, in our societies which judge more and more. As
Gabrielle Angotti-Jones said “I think a lot of your identity and how women
express themselves, especially for young girls in environments that are very
heteronormative, hair is everything. What you can do with your hair and how you
present yourself is everything, and it really made me question who I was.”

nappies show the will not to want any more to get damaged hair (because of hair
relaxing) and to deny themselves. We could say that they’re adopting an
“bio” attitude, more respectful of their body and their health. They
feel then radically changed: physically, psychologically and ideologically.


In my opinion, it’s better to not straighten its hair.
The only time I relaxed my hair, the stuff burned my scalp. It was very painful
and I can say that that was the first and last time I was doing a hair
straightening. Furthermore, I didn’t see a real change before and after, so it
was useless. But personally, I wasn’t hiding my origins or my identity, just
try something else to have a new face.




keen interest generated by the movement is probably based on the influence of
Afro-American stars. Exemplary and inspiring, they are numerous to appear nappy
and press to stop hair relaxing. To center stage with their frizzy hair, they
pay tribute to the natural beauty, encourage their fans to assume their body
and prove that nappy hair has its place everywhere, even on red carpets. Nappy hair
became an inescapable trend. For them, we do not need to have long hair to be
beautiful, it is just necessary to know how to embellish what the nature
granted us.

We can
quote the TV presenter Oprah Winfrey, the singer Alicia Keys, the actress
Lupita Nyong’ o, the old model Tyra Banks, the singer Solange Knowles (the
media compared her hair with dog hairs or even armpits hair) or the ex-first
Lady of the USA, Michelle Obama. Real model for the women of color, because
being “the example absolute of the Afro-American strong woman” according to the
singer Beyonce, surprised many by raising her nappy hair and made the pride of
women all over the country, who were afraid of wearing their natural hair which
had always been reprimanded.


world of nappy is vast and abounds of characteristics which nappies strictly
follow in order to understand it better.

tend to focus on their type of hair a lot to identify their capillary needs, to
choose the adequate care for their hair and know how to care them well. Hair
types are divided between frizzy, curly, wavy and smoother hair. The
classification (of André Walker, hairdresser of Oprah Winfrey) is made
according to the aspect of hair in four groups going from 1 to 4 (from the most
stiff to the frizziest) with subgroups (from A to C) to characterize every hair

But the truth is that, the nappy hair has nothing
particular. Natural hair is normal, there is nothing extraordinary. However,
numerous women of colors are considered as rarities. Actually, there are times
when hands burrow in their hair without them knowing, a frequent gesture which
obviously raises their anger, because they live it as an aggression. Some
people tend to think that it reports to the slavery, when the black was
considered as an object, an animal.



I believe that it’s very cool that international stars
promote the nappy movement because on the one hand, they don’t highlight all
that is artificial and fake, and on the other hand it can allow several women
not to suffer the bad consequences of hair relaxing. It’s also very important
for the nappies to know well their environment in order to better know their
hair and better know themselves.





In conclusion, we can effectively say that the Nappy movement
promotes the emancipation of women of color. Being more than an emancipator
hairstyle, the nappy hair has ideologically, psychologically and physically
changed them. Today, the Nappy movement always represents the fact of being
proud of its origins and its identity. It’s not just a purely esthetic mere
fashion, it’s a capillary and ideological liberation for women of color. It’s a
claim to assume its natural hair. The times are changing and haircuts too.

As far as I’m concerned, I consider that the issue shouldn’t
be so much about the racial identity of women in the community, but more about
their hair, which shouldn’t be discriminated. We should let people be
themselves and go anywhere they want with their natural curls, coils, and kinks
because all hair is beautiful and there is room for all textures. I think that
the beauty industry favors light skin and looser/shiny curls and still prefer
dark skin women with super long and thick hair. I personally support the nappy
movement because I was nappy since I was born. I relaxed my hair about three
months ago and want to return to natural. But I’m not judging either those who
relaxed their hair. Have natural or relaxed hair is a question of choice. Both
have its advantages and disadvantages, it’s important to learn to appreciate
our hair and take care of it, then that will make us even more beautiful. 
We have to learn to respect other people’s choices, and to realize that after
all there is no such thing
as good hair or bad hair hair… is just hair, nothing more.?































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Yates, J. L. (2017, June 17). The
Big Debate: Have Mixed Women Hijacked the Natural Hair Movement?. Retrieved