On Going Natural: Reflecting on my decision

Coming out of my hiatus to post on my neglected blog.

This is a subject that’s deeply personal for many African American women.  For others, not so much.

Note:  This post isn’t an attack on black women who choose to straighten their hair or wear extensions.  This is about my journey and why I made my choice.

So what does it mean to go natural? I’m specifically speaking about the decision to no longer chemically process my hair.  Going natural is kind of an umbrella term, for some it simply means no longer getting relaxers, for others it can mean no longer straightening it with a flat iron, etc. For me, it’s simply no relaxers and I very rarely flat iron it.  I went natural back in the fall of 2008.  My reasons for doing so were economical.  I was still in college and I just couldn’t afford to do it anymore.  But at this point I have no intention of putting chemicals in my hair anymore.

When I was little, I used to hate getting my relaxed.  My mother would use those kits, I remember my first time.  I didn’t like it, for some reason the whole process is like a right of passage for many black girls.  But my mother and other relatives used to lament on how thick and “wild” my hair was.  Even then, I knew that my was hair was viewed as something that needed to be “fixed.” I also recall my second grade pictures where I could the sores on the edges of my forehead.

When I made my decision, I wondered why I subjected myself (and I’m sure many natrualistsas can understand this) to such pain.  Even if you leave it on your head for a few minutes, it doesn’t change the fact that your hair is burning.  But throughout, I continued to get my hair chemically processed because I didn’t know how to care for natural hair.  Though, when I was getting to the point where I no longer wanted relaxers, visiting salons was somewhat of a hassle. Many that specialize in blacks women’s hair, mostly focus on hair extensions straightening or treating it chemically.  Focusing on hair in it’s natural state was and still is alien.

But in November of 2008, officially decided I had enough and stopped putting chemicals in my hair.  Choosing to flat iron instead.  Back then, I didn’t realize my decision also carried political implications.  One reason (whether we want to admit it or not) why many African American women straighten their hair (be it chemically, hair extensions  or flat ironing) is because we live in a culture that constantly bombards us with images that our natural hair is ugly.  It’s not difficult to hear stories about how our natural hair is bothersome to people in the workplace, or how even our family members are turned off by it.

Even though my decision was economically, my decision to remain natural is political.  My hair says “no I don’t think my natural is ugly.”  In sum, my decision to remain natural is political.

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Why the long hiatus?

As it seems my blog is back to normal, and went over to socialpapers.   My blog was temporarily suspended and now it’s back up and (to my surprise) running.   I’m trying to decide whether I want to blog here or over at my other blog.  Anywho, I’m trying to work up the nerve to blog again.

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Okay let’s talk single motherhood

Here’s another piece from the New York Times by Katie Roiphe titled In Defense of Single Motherhood.  I suppose the reason why this stood out to me is while I’m not a single mother I am the product of the single mother household.  I agreed with some of the points
Katie has made, basically that single mothers aren’t all the same.  I’m sure most of us can agree on that.  However, I think it’s important to look at the reality that many single mothers face.  According to the United States Census single mothers are more likely to be in poverty.  Single mothers are also more likely to work in low wage jobs.  Again, this isn’t to say there aren’t exceptions to the rule.  This is just merely pointing out the reality.

*I’m specifically talking about never married single mothers, just FYI.*

Why is this the case?

Well for starters, it doesn’t a social scientist to see that duel income house-holds (especially if they’re married, but we’ll get to that) provide greater financial stability.  Especially if both parents are high earners.

On the issue of marriage, well again, marriage provides a certain set of financial benefits (which proves how marriage is also an economic institution). Of course single mothers don’t have access to these benefits, thus must rely on social safety nets.

So does this mean marriage is the solution? No it doesn’t, especially considering how complex the issue is.  Social conservatives and liberals alike have asked why do these women have children when they know they can’t support?  Let’s begin by examining several issues.

On the surface, it’s very easy to fall into the “these women are just irresponsible sluts who can’t keep their legs closed” trap. Or for women of color (particularly African American women) the mythical “welfare queen” who just keeps having children so she can milk the system.  This view is mostly held by social conservatives.  However, with many liberals they’re quick to take the view that these women just need better access to birth control, abortion services and just have better safety nets.  While I tend to lean toward the liberal view, it’s also doesn’t really consider the reality of the situation.

Okay so why are low income women choosing to have children instead of getting married? Even though many them are aware of their economic circumstances?

There’s no question that many cultures hold motherhood to the highest esteem.  The United States is no different in this regard.  Consider this, you’re a poor single woman who lives in a low income neighborhood.  High paying jobs are beyond reach and as far as romantic partners go, you’re probably going to have to take what you can get.  There’s no hope for pursuing higher education, you feel it’s something you won’t be able to pursue.  Essentially, you feel you’re future is bleak.  But around you, you see women your age having babies.  They’re respected in your community.  They’re looked upon as being mature women, they’re highly respected and thus are viewed as “real women.”

It starts to make sense why these women choose to have children.  They find redemption in motherhood.  It’s what gives them purpose.  Growing up in neighborhoods where teen girls were having babies (though it didn’t make any sense to me at the time) their justifications for it was “I want someone to love me.  I want someone to depend on me, etc.” Now, it makes sense. The book titled Promises I Can Keep goes more into depth with this issue.

This is the reality for many low income single women, if you feel careers and higher education are unattainable, but motherhood isn’t it, you’re going to choose the attainable goal.  Many will argue and dismiss this as low income women making stupid decisions, because having children when you’re in poverty will more likely keep you there.  This criticism misses the point, these women aren’t expecting to get out of poverty.  These women believe (most likely even before they choose to have children) their socioeconomic situation won’t change.  So there you have it.

Some recommended links.

Poor women find redemption in motherhood.

Unmarried Mothers

Single Mother Poverty

Posted in American culture, culture, family, gender, gender issues, marriage, motherhood, poverty, single motherhood, women, women's issues | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

RenKiss:

Oh I gotta reblog this. This is just so on point.

Originally posted on Muslim Reverie:

Only 16 days after the horrific shooting in Colorado, an ex-army white supremacist male opened fire in a Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin and killed six people. Aside from having another “and they call me barbarian” moment, my deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. I pray that God gives them all the strength needed to heal through this difficult time. Ameen.

I don’t wish to appropriate the pain felt by the Sikh victims and families of Sunday’s shooting, but the attack on their house of worship angers and saddens me. On the same day of the attack, I was volunteering at my Mosque for iftari (Ramadan dinner) and it was quite troubling and upsetting that my father had to explain safety procedures to me in case a racist Islamophobe decided to open fire on us. We knew there was no doubt that the white man…

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RenKiss:

This post is spot on!!

Originally posted on Muslim Reverie:


Remember this scene from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” (1991)*? After witnessing Robin deliberately lie to his own English folk about the number of enemies approaching them, the North African Muslim character Azeem reflects to himself and says, “And they call me barbarian.”  Here’s the clip for those who haven’t seen it or need their memories refreshed:

Yeah, that’s my reaction whenever white non-Muslims like James Holmes go around shooting and killing innocent people. “And they call us (Muslims) terrorists,” I say.

Of course James Holmes, who indiscriminately opened fire on moviegoers at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado,  is not called a “terrorist” because that term is reserved for Muslims only. Instead, Holmes is pronounced “mentally ill,” an ableist and inaccurate narrative since most people struggling with mental illnesses do not act out violently. Dismissed in the stereotyping of disabled bodies are…

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More men entering jobs dominated by women

I’m finally able to post something interesting, especially since I have more free time now.  :)

The NYT came out with an article recently (yes I know I’m late on this) about how men are now entering female dominated fields. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise, with the way the American economy is, many male dominated fields (i.e. IT, construction, etc.) are much more difficult to come by.  One thing I’ve always learned from my mother (who is a Certified Nursing Assistant) is that people will always get sick and there will always be jobs in healthcare.  Anyways, I’m going highlight some interesting points in the article.

It begins with a young 21 high school graduate who found a job as a dental assistant.

“The way I look at it,” Mr. Alquicira explained, without a hint of awareness that he was turning the tables on a time-honored feminist creed, “is that anything, basically, that a woman can do, a guy can do.”

This part raised a couple of questions for me. Are men entering these purely because jobs in male dominated areas are lacking or do younger men feel comfortable enough to enter into female dominated areas, because our culture has finally recognized that men can also do these jobs?

I have to admit, I was walking around campus at my former university recently and notice around the nursing school there was a significant amount of male students. Although this is purely anecdotal,  I also remember speaking to a young man on the bus one day as he discussed entering into nursing, but later on went into restaurant management. His reasoning however was that the nursing was too depressing.  I remember his words “I like taking of people, but I like seeing people smile.”

To the extent that the shift to “women’s work” has been accelerated by recession, the change may reverse when the economy recovers. “Are boys today saying, ‘I want to grow up and be a nurse?’ ” asked Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. “Or are they saying, ‘I want a job that’s stable and recession proof?’ ”

This is a very good question.  As I pointed above, do some men feel comfortable enough enter into these fields because of changing gender roles?  The article points out that this could very well be the case.

In interviews, however, about two dozen men played down the economic considerations, saying that the stigma associated with choosing such jobs had faded, and that the jobs were appealing not just because they offered stable employment, but because they were more satisfying.

Hmmmmm…..

“I.T. is just killing viruses and clearing paper jams all day,” said Scott Kearney, 43, who tried information technology and other fields before becoming a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston.

So not only are some men entering these fields because they offer stable employment and don’t feel constrained by traditional gender roles, they’re actually finding the work fulfilling.

But now it’s time to ask more difficult questions, the article goes on to discuss that men earn more in these fields and they move up a lot quicker.

“Simply because higher-educated men are entering these jobs does not mean that it will result in equality in our workplaces,” said Ms. Gatta of Wider Opportunities for Women.

This qoute raises more questions, since men are entering these fields more often, will they be held in high esteem? Will men on average still make more than women, even in jobs traditionally held by women?  These are just questions one can mull over.

What I found most interesting is another reason why these men are entering into these fields is because it allows them more flexibility so they’re able to spend time with their families.

Overall, I think it’s good there are more men feel comfortable enough to enter these fields because they find the work fulfilling, but I don’t want to celebrate just yet.

Full article.

Posted in American culture, culture, economy, equality, gender, gender roles, masculinity, news links, United States | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sporadic posting

For those of you who read my blog, I haven’t posted much because of my new job. The hours are the typical 9-5 but between my new job and volunteer work, I haven’t found much time to do any research for posts. Since working, I’ve come to see how much I miss the academic world. But I do need the break from it.

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