The selfie is undoubtedly one of pop culture’s most loved and hated pastimes. Selfies are everywhere and The Oxford Dictionary even declared the word “selfie” as word of the year. Most of us have indulged in the occasional selfie, even the President, the Pope, and just about every celebrity you can name.
As popular as they are, selfies have gotten much criticism. Some say selfies represent our heightened need to be connected to social media at all times and are posted by people labeled as vain narcissists who constantly indulge in self-promotion.
Naturals are not immune to this scrutiny. Even though your topknot is huge and your twist-out is super defined, does not mean that everyone will welcome your post. Even though you went from collarbone to waist length in just two months, does not mean people will understand why you need to document your strong hair game.
Much of the scrutiny comes in the form of microagressions. The term microagressions were first coined in the 70’s by Dr. Chester Pierce.
Microagressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.
Microagressions happen all the time and are often done with little awareness of the damage they cause. For people of color, who experience microagressions on a weekly, daily, hourly basis they begin to define our experience as “other.” They are a constant reminder that we are somehow different, and our differences are not welcome. Microaggression literature has primarily covered microaggressions related to culture and race, offering examples such as “You are so articulate.” or “When I look at you, I dont see color.”
Microaggressions related to appearance or ‘racial markers’ are clearly relevant. As naturals who are not afraid to be online and share photos of our natural hair, which some see as “other,” it can be an uncomfortable experience. Some naturals have faced multiple forms of microagressions after posting pictures online from people who do not quite understand the appeal of going natural. Some of those take the form of (microaggressive) comments like these:
“That’s a cute style…for natural hair”
“Why don’t you want hair that looks neat?”
“How did you get your nappy hair to look like that?”
“Girl, why haven’t you combed your hair!”
“I can’t go natural because I don’t have that “good hair.”
I have heard all of these comments myself after going natural. You can pass them off as just people throwing shade, but their comments can be devastating. I believe they are a combination of not completely understanding the natural hair movement and a lashing out against women who proudly display their beauty for the world to see without being concerned how others might take it. Typically, as women we are taught to be modest and not be a show off or be conceited. When women are confident enough to share photos of themselves proudly displaying their beauty, it makes people uncomfortable because it represents a change in the status quo. Likewise, even though we are in the beginnings of a natural hair revolution, not everyone is convinced. Many people still do not get why you would want anything other than relaxed hair. So when women are showing off their long, thick curls, some can get confused and downright hostile.
Instead of defining selfies by all the negative associations, I see them as radical statements of self-love. Never before have we seen so many naturals publicly displaying themselves as beautiful in multiple areas of social discourse and gatherings. Women of color have mainly been relegated to the sidelines of what society defines as beautiful. The beauty of online spaces is that you get to choose how and when to celebrate yourself without waiting for other people to notice. Taking selfies is our way of saying, “I am here, I am comfortable in my own skin, and I love my hair!”
Sharing selfies are a way to promote a positive image for the natural hair movement as well. Many people have started Facebook pages, blogs, and YouTube channels showing the glory in our natural tresses. We can like and follow each other online, share tips, and grow the movement even more when people see us showing love to each other. Our natural hair photos are defining our movement as a place where everyone is accepted no matter what your texture or length. We are not only taking photos of ourselves, but we are sharing them with the world in the hopes that others will see what we see – true beauty.
So, take out your camera phone and snap away!