International Women’s Day is coming up. On 8 March 2021, women around the world will unite behind this year’s #ChooseToChallenge campaign theme. In this article, we’ll take a look at the synergies between International Women’s Day and the natural hair movement. Will this year be the one that gives you the confidence to finally wear your hair naturally?
What Is International Women’s Day?
International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate all things female, from women’s achievement around the globe to individual efforts to take action for equality. It’s also a chance for women – and men – to raise awareness against conscious and unconscious bias against women and to take steps to challenge that bias. As this year’s theme asserts, a challenged world is an alert world.
Gender bias and inequality exist in myriad different forms from one country to the next – and also within each individual country, within our cities, our workplaces and even our homes. 8 March will see women unite to help create a more inclusive world, just as they have been doing since the first ‘National Woman’s Day’ in New York in 1909.
The first International Women’s Day took place just two years later, on 19 March 1911, with over a million people taking part. Key issues were that women should be given the right to vote, should be allowed to hold public office and should not be subject to employment sex discrimination. We’ve come a long way since then, yet in many ways we still have so, so far to go.
What Is the Natural Hair Movement?
The natural hair movement, by comparison, is much younger. It began in the United States in the 1960s, following a decade when hair straightening increased rapidly in popularity among black men and women of all races. Natural hair was adopted by style icons and prominent figures fighting for racial equality in the US, becoming a symbol of cultural affirmation.
The natural hair movement gained further momentum in the 2000s, with many women gaining the confidence to reject harsh chemical treatments and embrace their natural kinks. Celebrities and activists have showcased their natural hair, creating aspirational new aesthetics and challenging established perceptions of what ‘acceptable’ hair looks like and what we mean by beauty.
Why Are the Natural Hair Movement and International Women’s Day So Intertwined?
The natural hair movement has, at its heart, some very powerful personal motivations. Hair and identity are intrinsically linked. When All Things Hair surveyed women about their hair, 72.8% of those they questioned reported feeling that their hair was a strong part of their identity. As such, the decision to change from chemically relaxed hair to a natural look is often an intensely personal decision. It can be motivated by a desire to better connect with one’s authenticity and identity as part of a journey of personal growth.
Of course, for others, the move to natural hair is simply motivated by a desire to achieve healthier hair and to reject the damaging effects of repeated chemical treatments.
When it comes to the links between understanding one’s identity and standing up to bias, we can see a clear resonance with International Women’s Day. The natural hair movement is deeply connected with challenging racial inequality, while International Women’s Day is focused on addressing gender-based inequality. In both cases, there is still so much that we need to fight for.
There are, at least, encouraging signs of progress in the face of these huge tasks. All Things Hair spoke to women about how often they wear their hair au naturel, seeking to gain a snapshot of women’s own attitudes to their hair. An impressive 77.6% reported always wearing their hair naturally. Consider this against the fact that Wikipedia reports that 98% of black women have had their hair straightened at least once in their lives and it’s fair to deduce that some progress, at least, is being made.
Another huge similarity between International Women’s Day and the natural hair movement is the sheer scope of their ambition. Both movements are working to change values and behaviours across not just one location but around the world. Their actions are making history and inspiring others to go out and do the same. They are showing that change is possible for those who #ChooseToChallenge.
The Pros of Going for Natural Hair
If you’re currently considering embracing your natural hair, there are plenty of plus points to think about. One of the biggest centres around achieving a greater understanding of, and appreciation for, yourself. Your hair is a central part of who you are and how you see yourself. Learning to work with your natural style, instead of constantly altering it in pursuit of a different look, can feel very cathartic. It’s about truly owning your hair and your identity.
It’s possible that doing so may require some courage. We’ve all grown up with plenty of stereotypes in relation to what it means to be a woman, what it means to be black and what it means to be a black woman. Taking the plunge and deciding to celebrate your natural hair can therefore feel like a pretty big deal, particularly if you’re concerned about how those around you will react to the change.
However, one of the pros that many of those who are part of the natural hair movement talk about is having more confidence in your look and what it says about you. And a confidence boost is always good.
The other major pro of going for natural hair is how much healthier your hair can be as a result. Harsh chemical treatments can result in soreness, itching, burns and even alopecia. Weaves, meanwhile, can leave the scalp and hair beneath them incredibly dry – as can chemical treatments. And dry, brittle hair is prone to breakage. Natural hair can, therefore, be a great deal healthier, growing much faster and longer than it otherwise would.
While this International Women’s Day be the time for you to finally take the plunge and embrace your natural, healthy hair?