Smoothies and Sun Salutations: Is Natural Hair Intimidating?

April 6, 2014  |  


I guess technically you can say I’ve been natural for over a year. I haven’t had my hair relaxed since last spring, but for the most part I’ve kept it protected under weaves. What I have done is witness all the challenges and triumphs of actually committing to wearing natural hair through my sister’s journey. She made the decision to go natural early last summer. Since then it’s been interesting to see how much women attribute their beauty to what’s going on above their eyebrows.

After her first trip to the natural hair salon she returned with a short curly do that made her resemble an early 90’s Lauryn Hill. I can honestly say it was cute. It was different than anything I had ever seen her in, but she pulled it off. Despite, the compliments from family and friends for about two months it was no secret that she was clearly uncomfortable.  She struggled between covering up the style in beanies and wondering if it ever really looked “done”.  She had me laughing for a whole night when she appeared in my room and simply said, “I feel like I look like D.L. Hughley.”

What was most interesting was the way men reacted to her.  Most men would compliment her and tell her hair was beautiful, but not after telling her how “different” she looked.  But it was as if other men assumed the decision to go natural was a complete lifestyle choice instead of just a beauty one. It was like having kinky twists meant she had committed to a life of kale smoothies, meditation and starting every morning with sun salutations. One day she decided to ask a co-worker how men really felt about natural hair, and here’s what he said:

“Many men are intimidated by natural hair. Women who rock natural hair are empowered and confident and you have to step at them a different kind of way. It’s almost as if they don’t need us and you have to be very clear about what you have to offer before approaching them. The typical, ‘Hey, sweetheart.  Let me holla at you for a minute,’ is not going to get their attention, so you have to come correct. But men don’t always want a challenge. Sometimes we just want a woman who we can make smile without having to try so damn hard.”

So let me get this straight: Because a woman wears a weave or a relaxer, suddenly that makes her more approachable because obviously deep inside she dislikes herself? Yeah…ok. As silly as it sounded, I must say brother had a point on some level. Women aren’t the only ones intimidated by our own hair, it sometimes make men just as uncomfortable. There are so many stereotypes that accompany wearing natural hair. “Naturalistas” are seen as militant and unapproachable, almost as if you’re not talking about uplifting the black community and standing up to “the man” you have nothing to discuss with them. But like India Arie once said, “I am not my hair.”  Wearing a weave doesn’t mean I giggle and smile at every man that approaches me, just like every sista wearing some two strand twists doesn’t want you to come at her with an essay on civil rights.

My sister has the same issues with men before she started styling her hair differently, and it has more to do with her attitude than any process she’s putting that dead protein through. She also drinks grape sodas (not smoothies), watches “Big  Bang Theory” to relax and starts every morning by hitting the snooze button at least twice. It just goes to prove how much we assume based on appearance and how many great people we miss out on because of what we already made up in our minds before actually meeting them.

Do you notice people treat you differently since you went natural?

Toya Sharee is a community health educator and parenting education coordinator who has a  passion for helping  young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health.  She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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  • sasha’mone’

    I used to have a perm with long flowing hair and I kept a man. I’ve been natural for four years but I still have long hair it’s just up in a curly fro. I have not had a man in four years and I do believe it has something to do with my hair. I get compliments from men all day everyday but they will not ask me on a date. Men are sooo shallow.

    • Lisa

      That is strange, I think natural hair makes men think they won’t be able to bs you. Not having a man is not a bad thing

  • Who’s that lady

    There are two types. Once you start going natural and are in twa phase or it’s just not very long, yes I feel men are intimidated. But when I had a half wig that looked like Kelly Rowland I had zero problems. Men like longer hair no matter the state.

    • Lisa

      I agree. Though I think most black men would prefer if it were curly or wavy. If your hair is like a foot or longer, they assume your hair is finer or curly or wavy anyway. Maybe black men are learning but thats the last I heard.

  • Laide Lawal

    You self-hating idiots make me sick. Natural hair is NOT intimidating. It is your REAL HAIR so, what sort of stupid question is this? You’re dumbing down your people by focusing on stupid issues!

  • Alex

    I’ve noticed that I’ve been approached by a lot of West Indian & Caribbean men since going natural. Mostly Haitian. I don’t have a problem with it at all! They usually end up telling me that it reminds them of home. And now, since I’ve been natural, it has given me the opportunity to meet my current boyfriend and the man I plan on marrying someday. Yes, Haitian and wonderful. So thank you natural hair for allowing someone to take me seriously!

    • Lisa

      I love that Caribbean men love natural hair. When I cut my hair and it was no more than an inch, I got a bunch of love from guys from New York. It was like they were progressive in their own way. African and Caribbean too. There is a confidence that I have when I wear my hair natural that I don’t have when I am wearing braids, weave or wigs. I just feel soo free.

  • Gert

    I have worn my hair natural for aprox 20 years. I cut my hair off in High School, I will say that even though I have been married for 15, I still get hit on and it there has not been too much of a difference. So I don’t know…

  • D.Free

    I have natural hair. Never had a problem dating or with men. Funny because even men who claim to dislike natural hair somehow always end up loving my hair

  • bianca

    i like think now and will think again. you have to stop asking for permission to go natural. It is something you invest ” FOR YOURSELF TO DO”. I am just sick and tired of this intimidation thing, I do not feel intimidated, I speak and go on. But really, I tried to go natural, and my grandmother suggested to tell me to get permed, that I looked better permed, and I tried going natural 3 times and it did not work. i am going to invest on going natural again, I believe to fight for what I want, and i will get it.

  • Aunjella Hogue

    I’ve been natural for about 18 months and my husband hates it. I don’t care because it’s all about how I feel about myself. I didn’t like when he decided to grow his hair about 10 years ago and I refused to braid it for him. However, I get a lot of compliments from other women about my natural. I find it funny that natural hair is only a considered problem for some people if they do have “good hair”. I am a person who loves to switch hair styles and I think that being natural will let me pull off any style I want whether kinky, straight, or curly.

    • bianca

      yep, that is how i feel about myself too, and what i will be doing. If he is black he should be embracing his black side, and loving you , not the appearance of a black woman with a white woman’s hair. you need to embrace yourself and love yourself. If your black husband cant love you for what you are, you really need to talk with him about it, that this is your expression and he should be promoting you. He should love you for how you want to be.

  • p.

    she sounds like she is apologizing for her choice. Do what you want wit ya damn hair and live your life.Natural hair is just as beautiful as any other style, and healthier if you ask me.

  • I can honestly say that the concept of natural hair as intimidating has never crossed my mind. If anyone treated me differently in their mind, it was unknown to me, perhaps because I didn’t act differently or give people who thought that way any real estate in my mind.

  • Dollie Jackson Davis

    Been natural for 10 years. Not caring what anyone thinks, I’m loving it!

  • Dee Full

    Hmmm interesting. I have been natural for the better part of 18 years now, and I can honestly say that the same issues I had with men thinking I was/am aggressive have not changed. I think it has more to deal with my personality, but I am just one woman. Very interesting and thought provoking to say the least. I will say this however, the way I wear my natural seems to dictate the attention I get from men. In my experience men are more fascinated with my big fro as opposed to my short fade. I will assume because many men like women with longer hair. Just my opinion…

  • CJ

    I committed to wearing my hair natural 27 yrs ago when my daughter was born. As I considered the things I wanted to teach her, I could not in good conscious tell her that God is great and His creation is perfect and then take her to “get her hair fixed”. We are the only culture on the planet that penalizes within the culture for wearing your hair the way it grows out of your head. Other cultures use chemicals by choice, we do it by cultural mandate. I am not comfortable with the idea that to be accepted I have to be something other than what I am. I’m happy about this new “natural” trend and I hope that it is more than that. I hope it means that we are coming to a time when we appreciate the gifts God has given us Those that are ours alone.
    I am back on the dating scene now and its true some men do react to you differently because of your choice to stay natural. At times this is disappointing but I have found it has also saved me much grief. I have learned that the man I want, the man I really want is the one who wants me. As I am. In the way I am most comfortable and confidant. If my hair stands in the way of him appreciating all I am he has done me a favor by not approaching me. He is not the one I want.

  • Taneesha Culture Clash Thomas

    I wear my hair natural most of the time when i do decide to switch it up with a straight style or a wig i do get a different reaction from men…idk if i agree that they’re intimidated by natural hair but the comments & compliments are more respectful & dignified when i’m natural as opposed to when i’m not

    • B.

      That is just so interesting that you say the tone of the comments are different. How absurd. Who knew natural hair would garner more respect?

      • Taneesha Culture Clash Thomas

        Absolutely… it’s u look beautiful sista i love ur hair have a nice day vs. U got a man?

  • Shelley Fain

    I don’t get this whole going natural foolishness. You were born natural it’s the hair God gave you; you don’t go natural you return natural. If men are intimidated by natural hair then their either stupid or weak!!

    • hollyw

      I like that…”return natural” 🙂

  • BabyBlue

    What frustrates me the most is that natural hair always has to correlate with what men think or how comfortable they should feel. So, everything that we do to our bodies or for our bodies is to get approval from men? I’m not understanding. I’ve retired that mentality in high school. I do what I do because I feel comfortable doing it. I’m not pressured by men, women or child to do anything. My journey is different. The first year was difficult. Change tends to be difficult. If anything I have more men approaching me now than when I would get my hair flat ironed. For the past week all of the articles I’ve read were about natural hair and why men don’t like it.

  • me

    Ughhhhhhh, leave black menm alone! They make things to complicated when it Coker to our hair. European mrn love it and care less how it looks. leave those small minded men alone!

  • Natural since 2000

    I did the big chop and haven’t looked back since. I loved my natural hair from the start and wore it with confidence. Also, the freedom of walking around in a light drizzle or on a humid daddy without fear when my hair was short was amazing. I have had my nae sayers over the years, but I simply don’t value their opinion over my own. I love my natural hair. My hair doesn’t define me. I define me. With regard to men, I find that some men love natural hair and just want to touch it and some men seem to prefer weaves. To each his own. I remember a time in the 90’s when wearing a wig or weave would have made you less appealing to men; especially when their fingers went bumpity bump over the tracks. Lol. Trends come and go. Woman are not their hair. Hair is just a decoration on top of a person’s head. Each of us needs to decide what we like at a given moment in our lives and have confidence in that decision. To allow someone to pull you down about your personal style choices is just silly. You choose your jewelry, purses, shoesvand clothes without a thought to what others might think, so why not your hair?

  • hollyw

    This whole article hit the nail on the head. I do feel like it could’ve gone deeper into how skin color, hair texture (tight curls vs. relaxed curls), and length regardless of texture play almost as much a part of the perception as one’s hair being natural.

    I’m a medium- lightskinned chick with a medium -curl texture who went natural 3yrs ago. I did so simply b/c of this; I got cheap and lazy. Das it. I used to be ashamed out of giving this honest reason for stopping the creamy crack early on b/c I felt like there should’ve been some higher calling lol… but now I’m too quick to state how my process started for not only the rent being “too d@mn high” in NYC, but b/c so were the salons!

    All that to say, what that co-worker said was totally true about men, despite how ridiculous they come across. I mean, when I lived in Harlem, literally the SAME mofos who had ‘complimented’, “You looking right in dem jeans, ma!” began with the,”Beautiful! Goddess! God bless you, Miss!” Oh really..? NOW you want God to bless me and my natural hair?! Nothing about my azz, now… –_____– Gtfoh.

    • Lisa

      Got the same response with locks. Men so fickle lol.

  • Elaictra

    I’m African and I was often told even before by BC that I looked “different.” But it went to a whole new level when my hair was shaved and I rocked a young alek wek bald look.

    Men and women alike, black, white, asian wanted to touch my scalp then my little fro when my Hair grew. Surprisingly, i had more success with men approaching me than at any other time in my life!! A lot of them. And they often thought I was older and more confident than true.

    In sum, yes, ppl assume more about you but it attracts a different type of guys too. Though in my case I don’t know how much the exotic factor played a role.

    • hollyw

      That is true, I get carded much less when I wear my natural hair out lol…I think people perceive it much more as a “mature” style.

    • Lisa

      A woman with low to no hair looks very confident and beautiful. To me it is exotic. And natural hair brings out black womens features very well.

      A lot of men want an insecure woman for reason I can’t explain but I know this to be true.

  • SheDevilsRule

    What a stupid question.

  • B.

    Like any change, it takes getting used to. Whether it’s the length, the texture or the maintenance, it’s something that takes time. I’ve always had shoulder length or a little below the shoulder length hair, and whenever I would get a perm, people were so amazed. Some even questioned whether it was really mine. I’ve also always had people go out of their way to tell me how much they liked my newly permed hair. So, yes, people got a bit stupefied when my hair was bone straight, which I always found ridiculous.

    As for my post big chop hair, of course, my friends and family have all been supportive. It was my husband who really encouraged me to do it. So, in terms of those closest to me, everyone has liked it and some wish they had the courage. It took me about 2 months to get comfortable with it, and now I embrace it. I’m still in the phase where I’m finding out which products I like and what things my hair likes. So, for me, it’s just another adventure. As much as you can be warned, it’s not until you do it do you see how much more care your natural hair needs. I won’t lie, a perm was easy for me. I could unwrap and go.

    As for men being intimidated, I think that might be more in the initial stages, or when it’s kept short. I think for a lot of men, it’s about length. I don’t know why a man would have an issue with long, natural, hair. So, for those with issues, it’s usually about the hair being short and their perception that the woman looks less feminine. Of course those notions are ridiculous, and making decisions about one’s appearance should definitely be about more than one a man might think. If you’re confident, you’ll attract a confident man.

    • AmericanRequiem

      I think you hit the nail on the head with your statement about the length making a woman appear less feminine in the eyes of some men. Just like a woman may find an overweight man less attractive, some men prefer their women to have hair. Not necessarily long, flowing, shoulder length but something more akin to the traditional look that society has adopted over the years when it comes to women’s hairstyles regardless of race, ethnicity ect. I myself find the natural hairstyles unappealing because of my own personal preferences, but to each his own I say.

      • guest

        you find unappealing the hair you were born with? brainwashed!

        • AmericanRequiem

          You have no idea who I am or what hair I was born with now do you? Your argument is invalid.

      • hollyw

        I think the reason BEHIND one’s preferences is far more telling then the fact that they have a certain one. Most people are less attracted to overweight persons, to which the reasoning seems mostly evolutionary. However, while hair length signifies fertility in women, that has nothing to do with hair texture. So basically, if one is still turned off by a big, curly afro, that preference seems more embedded in racial brainwashing to me… Ijs.

        • AmericanRequiem

          Speaking from a MALE perspective I can comfortably tell you that it has NOTHING to do with race as much as it has to do with what I personally find attractive. Also, the evolutionary reasoning analysis is entirely speculative. There’s no scientific basis upon which you can prop up that particular strawman you created. Hence the reason you were forced to use the word “seems” on multiple occasions. Again, to each his or her own. Live and let others live and find desire in whatever they see fit.

          • hollyw

            One, there is no speculation in the science of evolution, sir. The assumption came only from my analysis of preferences similar to yours, hence the use of the term “seems”. Please note the difference 🙂

            Two, I have no problem with “letting others live” and could personally care less of your life choices. However, as a member of a forum, I well engage others to gain better understanding of perspectives different from my own, and for that reason, I spoke on yours.

            Also please note that you still did not provide reasoning BEHIND your attractions. I wasn’t asking you personally to begin with, as you saw I made my own assumption, but for the record, I never said it had to do with the race you were attracted to as much as the racially biased beauty some Black men are brainwashed into accepting as the beauty ideal. I do believe you said that in your own comment, as well.

            • AmericanRequiem

              One,since you used it as an example I have to ask is it your opinion or can you actually cite your scientific source that PROVES that MOST people (yes, you said that) are hardwired to dislike overweight people? My point is scientific theory, evolutionary or otherwise, is borne out of speculation. They run hand in hand mam.

              Also, I never realized I was supposed to provide any reasoning whatsoever in regards to what I find attractive. I mean honestly, why is Johns favorite color blue while Sharon’s is red? There are and will always be things that naturally (no pun intended) repulse some while attracting others. The root cause of which none of us can clearly state because everyone’s an individual with unique tastes and desires.Say what you will about racial brainwashing, self hate, ect, but the fact still remains that people tend to connect with things that appeal to them while giving no regard to the things that do not. Not liking natural hairstyles says absolutely nothing in regards to every element of a persons nature or disposition. Based on that logic a person who dislikes poodles must despise all animals. With that being said, with respect to your opinion, your judgments, observations and assessments are entirely lost on most people at the end of the day because only that individual truly knows what floats their boat, so to speak.

              • hollyw

                American Requiem…I know you’d like yourself to remain an individual who is unlike any other and with no behaviors that can be studied, classified, qualified, or tested, but the fact of the matter is, you are not. Then again, I have a profound respect for science and history, psychology in particular, so I guess if you are a person who is not, there’s really nothing more for us to discuss on that front.

                I’ll just say that, there is no “evidence” that “proves” anything, scientifically, since by is nature, science can only be disproven. That is what a scientific fact is. Again, if I thought you’d actually take it into consideration (and knew this about science already), I’d prob take the 5min to search and link an article for you, but I think you’ve made it clear that’d prefer to remain as enigmatic as possible, so…*shrug* Totally your right! I can also say that in regard to your analogies of colors and dogs, one could also find a cause for those preferences, as well, but my point was your own statement made no sense, I.e. “It has nothing to do with race as much as it does with I personally find attractive.” Now THAT was a strawman, as I explained earlier that I hadn’t been talking about you personally and two, I didn’t say race was the reason why your kind doesn’t like natural hair. If you want to engage in these discussions and prop your opinion up as “the MALE perspective, then be ready to actually support that argument aside frm ‘my opinion is my opinion is my opinion…because it’s me.’ Anyhoo, good luck man.

                • AmericanRequiem

                  “I’ll just say that, there is no “evidence” that “proves” anything, scientifically”

                  So chickens don’t lay eggs? Air does not contain 21% oxygen? Photosynthesis does not convert light into chemical energy? STEL and TWA can be ignored when dealing with hazardous substances? Let me know when any of this is disproven. In fact I’ll wait.

                  Your responses are as convoluted as your logic (or lack thereof). In fact I sense you’re just gish galloping at this point.

                  • hollyw

                    You are the one who used it inaccurately, AmericanRequiem lol! That is all fine, you’re going off into a tangent on some other stuff that you could pay somebody to teach you in Bio 101, or better yet, high school Calculus (which uses the same theory) for free, but you’d rather just (mis)use terms and avoid the most basic logic of all; that preferences stem from something, and race plays a HUGE part in Western society, and just the fact that you said this YOURSELF in your initial comment just makes this all the more comical lol…

                    B/c of that, I can’t believe you are truly this dense, and are therefore just being obtuse, so I’ll leave you to your willful ignorance.

                    • AmericanRequiem

                      And the gish gallop continues.

                      Listen, for the record you’ve already convinced me of your stupidity so you can stop responding now. Trust me when I tell you that no one will ever mistake you for anything even close to being educated.

          • You state that it is what you are personally attracted to as if what you are attracted to came about out of thin air. It has something to do with social norms, history, environment etc that you formed your attraction. So to say it has NOTHING to do with race, culture etc is a gross error. That is not to say that you don’t have right to your preference, but recognize that it is not a preference formed in a bubble.

            • AmericanRequiem

              Whether or not you realize it, you’re actually agreeing with me. My entire point is based on the fact that it is who we are (which is based on individual identity, which is obviously formed through individual experiences with social norms, history, environment, demographics, upbringing, ect.) that shapes what we define and identify with as “attractive” and race is NOT always a factor when making a determination.

              Your friend hollyw introduced race into the argument when she stated ” that preference seems more embedded in racial brainwashing to me… Ijs.” as if that statement alone could sum up the thought processes of anyone that didn’t want a woman with kinky hair.

              If you only knew the truth when it comes to me and race we’d be having an entirely different conversation.

              • mroe

                All the experiences you mentioned, “social norms, history, environment, demographics, upbringing, etc”, are what I think @disqus_zXVXZx8vLm:disqus was referring to as racial brainwashing. I believe he was trying to explain that you are brainwashed through “social norms”, history, environment and upbringing based on the black demographic. Id like to be corrected if I am wrong.

                • AmericanRequiem

                  Or you could consider the fact that those things may be determining factors and racial brainwashing is but yet another facet of the same spectrum of possibilities and not an “end all” conclusion

                • hollyw

                  No, you are correct! Lol I just don’t think he liked that I framed it in the term of “brainwashing”, as he continues to assert his individuality while reiterating what I am already saying… which is what he originally said lol.

            • hollyw

              Thank you. AmericanRequiem knows this, I’m sure, and knows what it implies, but let him have his circular logic.

          • kale is king

            you don’t speak for all men, so your perspective and preferences are yours alone (however no less valid than the next man’s). it’s somewhat misleading, and as hollyw stated- quite telling, to imply that natural or afro textured hair is radical. the ‘traditional look’ [of relaxed or straightened styles] that many women of color have adopted over the years is rooted in cultural hegemony. i’m not buying your argument that it’s not about race, when natural, highly textured hair is unique to black women and many styles adopted by the masses are based upon straighter hair.

            fyi – it’s just as easy to fashion natural hair into a ‘traditional’ style like a bun as it is straight hair 🙂

      • Yvonne Watkins

        Natural hair unappealing? That is a very broad statement since natural hair comes in many different textures. Personal preferences aren’t formed in a vacuum. A colonized mind is a terrible thing.

        • AmericanRequiem

          “A colonized mind is a terrible thing.”

          The same could be said of those unappealing fat pockets on your neck and face. Stay in your lane angry bird.

          • Lady Catacal


          • melodyB

            Reason #999 why I never use my real picture on these sites…..

    • Hey

      Wow, I really envy the African American women – look at you debating a first world problem – Hair! Wish the black Africans in Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal etc. could join you in discussion of this chronic issue crippling our entire race. . .While we slowly crawl to get there, I know some of us will appreciate you use your platform to please canvass for clean water, food, affordable education, end to teenage pregnancy, domestic abuse and women marginalization in Africa. Afterall we are part of the black race.

      • B.

        I’m glad you were able to get that off your chest. If you could now spare me with the assumption because we are having a discussion on one topic, that is all we ever discuss, I’d appreciate it. Next.

      • hollyw

        Ummm… when’s the last time you been to an African country?! If you think Africans don’t care about hair or have hair issues, somebody lied to you!!

      • This comment is totally misplaced. The logic here is off, it is like saying we can’t address male baldness until every human on earth is housed, clothed, and fed. Issues facing people in the world run concurrently as does the work to address them. Totally pointless to try to understate one for another. If that is the case you should not be on this article or commenting, you should spend every day and minute working on the issues you stated.

      • SisterTruth

        I’m in natural hair groups and pages on facebook with hundreds of thousands of members from all over the world including all the African countries you’ve mentioned plus many more. So, what’s your point?!

      • Yvonne Watkins

        There is a tab labeled “Hair”. When one selects that tab, the topic will be hair.

        There are other tabs for other issues.