Friday, May 23, 2014

Manufactured Self Loathing: How It Connects To You

I often find myself on what I like to call, "Google tangents."  Google tangents are when I sit at my computer or laptop and Google anything of interest or that makes me curious.  I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person that does this in today's world of free WiFi and smart phones, so I'm pretty sure you all know how starting one Google search leads to another and another and another, which is why they become "tangents" in my book.  By the end of any one of these, I almost always feel like I've gained a couple bachelor's degrees from learning so much on one subject.  It was on one of these Google tangents that I was recently exposed to the phrase, "manufactured self-loathing."

Pretty self-explanatory, manufactured self-loathing refers to the feelings of inadequacy consumers are often faced with when exposed to advertising.  This can be associated with any product, but the beauty industry is the biggest source of these toxic emotions in my opinion.  If there was no such thing as eye liner, how many women do you honestly think would feel like their eyes were lacking "depth" or weren't "interesting" enough?  If the hair relaxer or flat iron had never been invented, would the majority of women of color still feel that the only "acceptable" way to wear their hair is stick straight?  Without advertisements for skin bleaching creams, how many dark skinned people would actively seek a way to remove layers and layers of pigment?

So how does this concept of manufactured self loathing - advertisers and product manufacturers convincing people they genuinely need their products or services when they don't - have anything to do with the natural hair movement?  Well, I would argue that there would be no need for a natural hair movement in the first place if we had never been convinced to dislike our natural feature of Afro textured hair.  So many of us have been conditioned to automatically dislike or even despise many of our natural features, we don't even question it.  "What are you going to do with that mess on your head?"  "Did you mean for your hair to look like that?"  "Why would you want to have nappy hair?"  We have these hurtful, disrespectful, and thoughtless comments hurled our way so often, all it takes is a quick Google search for "How to deal with natural hair haters," for lists of tips from women who are forced to endure it on a regular basis.  How long are we going to put up with this?  How long are we going bite our tongues when our friends, mothers, sisters, doctors, and television ads tell us we are less than, or not as beautiful as our non black counterparts?

I was inspired to write this post because I'd like to give my readers some food for thought in the hope that a simple message will resonate and be shared so we might see some change in the way we see ourselves.  YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, NATURALLY!  ONLY YOU NEED TO BELIEVE IT TO MAKE IT TRUE!  It doesn't matter what some TV ad said about that new straightening system.  Why do you need to straighten your hair in the first place?  Is there something wrong with how Mother Nature made your curls and kinks?  Personally, I believe every person on the planet was divinely made, so to say there is something wrong with our construction is blasphemous and I'm not even a Christian.  Appreciate your beauty.  Don't fall into the trap of believing there is anything wrong with you that can be fixed with a purchase off a store shelf.  Love ALL of yourself.

With that being said, what do you all think about this topic.  Is manufactured self loathing real, or not something to be concerned about?  Have you realized anything you believe about yourself is a result of this phenomenon?  Leave your thoughts below. :)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Texture Discrimination?? Or Defeatist Mindset??

Okay y'all.  If you follow any of the popular natural hair blogs, I'm sure you've heard by now about the video titled, "So Over The Natural Community & Texture Discrimination," by popular YouTuber Jouelzy.  Essentially, Jouelzy is arguing that YouTube content creators with a kinkier hair texture will never be as popular as YouTubers with looser textures because that is what the majority of those in the natural hair community prefer to look to for information and inspiration.  From what I was able to gather, Jouelzy feels like she should be more of a household name in the community because of the size of her subscriber base and the quality of the content she produces.  On one hand, I can understand that.

I am a YouTube content creator myself, so I understand how frustrating it can be when you spend three and half hours shooting and reshooting footage for a video, then another three sitting in front of your computer or laptop cutting and rearranging tracks, adding background music, voice overs, picture in picture effects, captions, and not to mention creating custom thumbnail images in an entirely different program, just to watch it sit on the internet and get an average of 20 views a month.  That can be seriously disheartening.  And one can't help but to wonder what the reason for the seemingly disinterested audience might be.

But there is a fundamental part of her argument that I can't help but take issue with.  By arguing that she isn't as popular as she feels she deserves to be because of her hair texture, Jouelzy comes off a bit defeatist to me.  There seems to be an underlying assumption that people are intentionally avoiding videos that feature kinky-haired or 4c naturals.  I just don't think that's true.  It is up to the YouTuber to create content engaging and eye catching enough, and on trend with what people are searching for to be successful.  If the hot style of the month is a 3-strand-twisted-bantu-knot-out and you're posting "How To Do a Two Strand Twist" tutorials, the vast majority of natural hair-related traffic will not be seeing your video.  There is quite a bit that goes into optimizing a video for maximum views.

Besides all the technical skills it requires for one to make visually appealing videos, there is also a personality element.  To her credit, Jouelzy does address this briefly toward the end of her video.  She states that she understands that her personality may not be compatible with many people, but essentially, it shouldn't matter because of the quality of the content she makes.  To an extent, there is some truth to her statement, but I think it downplays how important it is to be able to connect with a wide range of personality types if you want to appeal to an extremely broad audience.  Jouelzy has what I would describe as an "in your face" personality.  She speaks rapidly and loudly.  Sometimes that makes it difficult for me to understand just what she is saying.  She also has no problem using profanity in her videos.  These characteristics may be why she doesn't appeal to as many people as she thinks she should.  I can't presume to know for sure, but that is my experience.  I enjoy the content she produces, but I simply can't subscribe to her because he personality is way too much for me.  I'm pretty sure there are other natural women out there who feel similarly.

Then there is also the motivation factor to consider.  People like to support YouTubers who they feel genuinely care about connecting with and providing good content for them.  If you say that the only reason you started your channel was to receive free products, people won't feel like you're posting for them, you're posting for companies.  And whether the opinions expressed in the review are honest or not, if the motivations are perceived as being dishonest, you've pretty much already shot yourself in the foot.

There have been a ton of response videos posted on YouTube since Jouelzy originally uploaded her rant, and some of the responses have lead me to think there isn't really a discrimination issue so much as there may be one of a defeatist mindself. Kinksgalore, another YouTuber, stated in her response that people don't want to see "thin, kinky hair" like she has.  I take issue with that because I, myself, have very thin kinky hair.  But I never wear weaves, wigs, or extensions of any kind, and only flat iron my hair a couple times a year.  I'm PROUD of what grows from my head and that radiates from me.  My followers don't seem to have a problem with MY thin hair.  They celebrate it along with me because I see no need to hide it, and would rather learn to work with it to make it thrive.

At the end of the day, I think we can all achieve whatever we desire to.  And if 80k+ followers aren't enough for Jouelzy, she can kindly send them my way!!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Should You Seal The Strand or the Ends??

Lately I've been seeing quite a few blog posts around the internet about sealing the ends of your hair to retain moisture.  This isn't a new idea, but I was just wondering if I'm the only "Natural" that takes this advice a step further.  I always apply my sealant over the entire length of my hair, root to tip.  I may apply the oil a little lighter at the roots, but I never skip that section altogether.  I learned very early on in my Healthy Hair Journey that moisturizing products alone don't do enough for my hair unless that product is extremely thick, or designed to be a rinse out conditioner.  "Regular" leave ins and moisturizers only keep my hair soft and hydrated for a limited amount of time before the water simply evaporates from my strands.

Recently, Ouidad, owner of the Ouidad line of hair care products, stated in a panel discussion that oils do not actually seal the hair, only suffocate it.  Now, honestly I knew better.  I can still remember the physical experiment we did in first grade where we put water in a cup with some oil next to another cup containing only water, and watched for a few days as the oil-covered water stayed at the same level and the other simply evaporated.  That is why the idea of "moisturize and seal" made so much sense to when I initially learned about the method over 3 years ago.  I've had much success following this routine of water+oil, but after hearing Ouidad's remarks, I wanted to see if there was any truth to them.  So, the following wash day I did everything I normally do except seal after moisturizing.  I didn't even seal my ends.  What were the results?

SUPER dry, dull, matted hair!  Without putting that final layer of oil over the length of my hair, it didn't matter what leave in conditioner or moisturizer I used:  the hydration wouldn't stay put and the lack of lubrication from not applying my oil made tangling and matting a breeze for my strands.  Even though I pretty much knew what would happen to my hair, I wanted to experience for myself what leaving oil out of my natural hair regimen would do.  And I can honestly say I'm glad I did it.  It simply reinforced what I've learned thus far.

But, after doing this little experiment, it made me wonder if sealing the entire length of the hair strand is really necessary.  Logically speaking, the ends of the hair need to most tender, loving care because they are the oldest.  The ends of the hair emerged from the scalp longer ago than any other portion of the shaft, and accordingly have been subjected to much more wear and tear.  This is why the hair's porosity (ability to accept and retain moisture and chemicals) increases as we go down the hair shaft.  There simply aren't as many cuticle layers protecting that last inch of hair as there are at that first inch at the roots.

Knowing this, I can understand why many women choose to seal only the last few inches of their hair, but in my personal experience doing this causes two distinct issues:  1) My hair will feel softer on the ends from oil's lubrication than it will higher up on the length of my hair. 2) My hair will begin to tangle and mesh closer to the roots, while the ends stay defined.  I'm sure you can understand why this is a problem.  Who wants to walk around with soft, shiny, defined ends and rough, dull, tangled hair from mid-shaft to roots?  Certainly not I.  But every head of hair is different, so what works for me may be bad for another head and vice versa.

What do you ladies think?  Should we be sealing the entire length of our hair or just the ends?  Or should some of us be foregoing the sealing step altogether?  Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!