Saturday, October 24, 2009

Acting White: Black Women Series, Hair Length, Quality and Attractiveness

Men and women are biologically pre-disposed to procreate, and to select mates on an innate and objective basis of increasing the odds of continuing the species. Synchronous male female attraction is the manifestation of this genetic programming. We look for the signals of greater health in potential mates, understanding that this comes most readily in youthful displays, including hair length and hair quality.

The association between hair length/quality and better health is a researched finding (exampled here). Regardless of ethnicity, average hair length decreases as age increases. Reproductive health follows overall health, and its correlation to youth, hair length and quality. Hair quality exists on a continuum of states reduced by chemical ‘processing’ straightening, heating, coloring or other visually enhancing, but also structurally distressing, procedures.

The history of American black women and their hair is one of social and biological misdirection. Black women, as varying admixtures of African and European ancestry, alter their hair in the attempt to have it appear longer and in a form similar to non-black (Euro-Asian) women, but in doing so they compromise both their hair’s quality and length. Chemical straightening (perming), frequent heat treatments (pressing), and extensions, over time make hair brittle, discolored, shorter, and less indicative of good health. Damaged hair is signaled as unattractive by our innate, health-seeking, senses.

Ironically, locking black hair into dreadlocks, a popularized multi-dimensioned style found in historical and present-day Africa and Eurasia, is one manner of growing tightly-curled hair into a longer style, while keeping it healthy. Contrary to misinformation, hair that is locked is washable, can be neatly styled, and must be conditioned similar to other more typical western styles, for best results. My own sister began wearing locks nearly ten years ago, after alternating between pressing and ‘perming’ for most of her adult life. Over the following years her hair has continued growing much longer than with previous ‘processed’ styles, making her more physically attractive (in my opinion).

It bears mentioning that the current pressing styles popular with black women increase the barriers to general exercise and weight management, wherein sweating counters the significant invested time and expense of hair-styling. Less exercise, in part, has the result of increasing the percentage of body fat and average weight of black women (a subject to be explored later in the series), in comparison to women without this exercise constraint.

When it comes to hair length, hair quality and attractiveness, black women may inadvertently detract from their overall physical desirability to all men, including black men, by choosing to pursue hair styles that sacrifice long-term hair length and hair quality. Black and non-black men alike seem to care most about length and quality (healthy appearance) within their similarly-wired ‘black-box’ mechanisms of what is attractive, in contrast to the belief that black women, to be more attractive, should have ‘white-looking’ hair, or vice-versa, ala Bo Derek in "10".

Up next in the series: Hair Color.

Link to Introduction.

James C. Collier

READ MOST RECENT POSTS AT ACTING WHITE...

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

19 comments:

ronnie brown said...

i agree with your analysis 100%...but lets not forget that black men were equally warped by white supremacist cultural conditioning...I'm a 51 year-old Black man, Los Angeles born and bred. light skin, long hair was the standard for Black women...and once the Afro became passe, curly and wavy for black men became the rule...it wasn't until i became attracted to the dreadlock style that i finally began to appreciate my wooly hair as God made it...i began to appreciate the beauty and richness of Dark Brown to Black skin, again as God made it...We have a ways to go in purging our psyche from the bonds of loathing our natural selves to embracing and appreciating our natural beauty...but it can be done.

Anonymous said...

It's curious how the earth's original people could be made to feel so bad about their physical attributes. Harkening back to the Garden of Eden, I wonder if this upside down situation was part of the serpent's vindictive plan (unfurled later on in history) to cleverly make a mockery of anyone bearing the image/likeness of the first man or first woman.

Anonymous said...

The Earths original people were cavemen.

Anonymous said...

In case you dont know alot of black men don't like black women who were their hair in it's natural state.And I'm not speaking about dreadlocks.That should be your question to black men, why they hate when we have our hair natural.

James C. Collier said...

Anon@12:56, asking people why they do what they do is the best source of misinformation. I am looking for statistical outcomes that point to actual preference, too often obscured by misinformation. If, when you say 'natural' you are referring to 60's styled afro's, you should consider these hairstyles were quickly known for encouraging damage/breakage to the hair, resulting in shorter versus longer lengths. Inasmuch as women used 'processes' to enhance their afro's, the damage caused to healthy appearance and length outweighed the short-term benefits.

Anonymous said...

Amazing how the readers of this blog run the gamut from afrocentrists ("the earth's original people") and professional victims ("white supremacist cultural conditioning") to white racialists like myself. You're doing something right, James.

Anonymous said...

I'm not talking about 60's styled afro's, I speaking about the natural state of our hair, the texture we were born with. And unless black women are mix with another race our hair will never be that long.And I'm not some afrocentrist, just a Caribbean born black woman who is sick and tired of all this hair talk among black people in this Country.Black men not liking black women hair in its natural state is not misinformation its a fact.Black men telling black women to do something with their hair when its not perm or weave is a fact.

James C. Collier said...

Anon@5:59, I cannot argue what you believe black men say to black women, or their response. I can only speak here to the research of attraction related to important signaling factors of hair quality and hair length to reproductive health. I believe our interpretation should be open to improvement, do you not? The woman I pictured is no better testimony that a black woman and naturally long/healthy hair are not mutually exclusive - and can paint a very attractive picture.

Jeff said...

Hello,
White male here who likes women (all races). I find many African-American women attractive with different hair styles. I like long, short (even to the point of having almost no hair on the head, a buzz cut?!). A woman is not attractive because of what she wears or her fashion style. She is attractive because of who she is. It is true that the eyes are the window to the soul. Now I am not going to pretend that I know anything about the woman in the photo with this blog but it is her eyes that draw my attention (and not the color). She is lovely.

Jeff

augusta said...

anon @ 5:59
sorry,i have to disagree with you. black hair, regardless of one's ethnic admixture(s), can attain long hair. unfortunately, many blacks do not know how to maintain their hair in its natural state and employ techniques that damage and impede the growth of one's hair.

chemist said...

Pale skin, blonde hair, and blue eyes developed in the northern parts of Europe, where people need all the sunshine vitamin D they can get.
People want what is scarce. If the streets were paved with gold, gold would have no more value and attraction than sand.
20 % of the world’s population has blue eyes. Blue-eyed natural blondes are 1.8-2.0 % of the world’s population. I seriously doubt many of those running back’s blondes are natural.
The Italian Renaissance painters painted all those blue-eyed blonde Madonnas because blue-eyed blondes were so rare in their world. Italian men are still hung up on blondes. I knew the “Growing Up Gotti” author would have long bottled blonde hair before I ever saw her picture.
Since bottled blondes are now as common as sand, their attraction will fall off once men notice that everyone has a blonde on his arm.

ronnie brown said...

it's funny that a so-called "white racialist" seems reluctant to acknowlege his groups cultural domination of the planet...acknowledging the fact of "white supremacist cultural conditioning" doesn't make one a "professional victim", just someone in touch with reality...

James C. Collier said...

Ronnie, i think there's a truth on both sides. Every leading culture innoculates trailing folks to the 'right' (leading) behaviors, in order (in part) to stay on top. Every trailing group spouts their superiority, or situational unfairness, under whatever terms they think others will swallow, to gain ground. By example, I can neither blame white women for having straight hair, nor can I can blame black women for strainghtening their's, if that's what they want. It's a competitive world and winners are people who are tired of losing.

Siditty said...

I've been natural since 1999, and the most flack I received about my hair came from black people. My husband, who is white was the one who made me question why I relaxed my hair. I do on occasion press my hair, about once a year, and when straightened I have hair that is now two or three inches past my waist. People then ask me how I was able to get my hair so long, and when I tell them I got rid of relaxer, no one believes me. These same people then feel the need to tell me about their beautician who could do wonders with my "good hair".

ogunsiron said...

Augusta :
There are types of black african hair, the peppercorn type for example, that just do not get long at all. Ever seen a khoisan/bushman with long hair ? Me neither. That hair is very characteristic of bushmen (i guess one could argue wether they're black or not) but it's also found in other black africans.

What exactly do you girls mean by natural hair ?
I can't say that i find unadorned, totally natural black hair attractive. Neither did my ancestors since hair braiding and adorning was almost universal among preocolonial black african peoples.

ronnie brown said...

@ogunsiron, i don't think hair braiding or other forms of adornment is an expression of not finding natural hair attractive...rather an indicator of its versatility and beauty.


@Mr. Collier, i'm surprised that you would reduce our self-loathing about our natural hair to nothing more than "competitive advantage"...Black women straighten their hair because they've been told they are less attractive, less professional if they don't. Black men have told them this because WE HAVE BEEN TOLD by a white ruling class that this is so...we are still tied to the mores of our former enslavers...our minds aren't completely free...yet!

augusta said...

@ogunsiron

my hair is that "popcorn" texture you speak of. and to say that our ancestors found their hair to be unattractive just because they adorned it is sounds ignorant. i concur with you ronnie brown.

Alena said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Alena

http://ovarianpain.net

Anonymous said...

I am african american and my hair is to the middle of my back. It is very long. I have been chemical free for 4 years. My hair has been growing like crazy! I agree with this post and I love it. A lot of black women don't know how to take care of their hair.I straighten my hair once every 3-6 months. All of the perms, chemicals, even too much braiding can cause your hair to thin and be brittle. It will break of and it won't grow! Black women can have long hair!