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reading tiger

[profile] voyeurprincess asked me this question:

"I thought you might be the best-suited of my acquaintances to explain about the intersection of gender politics and black hair politics. It matters to me because we're in the pre-planning stages of adoption, and it's likely that we'll be matched with children who have African heritage. I will need to learn to do hair, but I see expectations of little girls and their mothers that far exceed my idea of "clean, healthy, and tidy"... and differ wildly from expectations for boys' haircare. I don't want to play into unreasonable gendered norms, and will defend my kids' freedom of self-expression here as in other areas, but I'm just not confident about where to draw the line.

Do you (still) get questions/comments/advice about your kids' hair? Do people express opinions about your styling/lack of styling? Did grandma's concerns about Simone's gender presentation mention hair? How do you feel about the subject? And could you recommend (or repeat -- I recall that you mentioned some in the toddler years) resources that have been helpful for you as a white mom of black kids?"

I asked if I could answer this here because I actually get variations on these questions a lot, so why not take the opportunity to make a big post about it?

First of all, I cannot recommend highly enough Our Family Coalition's three-part black hair care class. It's a deliberate and well-thought-out mix of black hair history and cultural context, and practical hands-on advice on both care and styling. It was absolutely invaluable.

I do consult with Shayna off and on about their hair, too. She tends to their hair slightly differently than I do, which is fine. G. also has a routine that's slightly different than mine.

I don't get a lot of unsolicited advice on my kids' hair. I do get a lot of comments and compliments, mostly but not entirely from white people. In fact, I've met several white parents of black kids this way. And a lot of white parents of white kids with curly hair ask me for advice.

My advice to them is pretty simple: moisturize and detangle every day, don't wash it more than once a week. After that, it depends I think on the style and type of hair. I'm still learning about types of curly hair and all that. I still don't know how to french-braid.

Day-to-day, I concentrate my efforts on keeping their hair moisturized and combed through. When they were younger I spent more time on styling -- partly as practice -- but nowadays I consult with them about what they want and they tend to favor little to no intervention. I might make different decisions if their hair was a different texture.

Online resources I have found to be helpful:

Beads, Braids and Beyond
Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care
Naturally Curly

Actual products I use:

Mixed Chicks
I also used Carol's Daughter stuff for a while and it was fine, I just liked the above products more.

For shampoo, I rotate through a bunch of "shampoo and body wash" products for kids that are free of Sodium Lauryl or Laureth Sulfate (SLS) or other detergents.

Finally, I would say that my basic philosophy when it comes to the intersectional issues of gender and race and such is to defer to black folks' perception of the issues, since I'm the newbie here as it were. I do seek out people, like Shayna, who will have a deeper perspective from several angles and listen to them carefully. So, for example, it's on Shayna's advice that we're only trimming April and Simone's hair for the first few years since it takes so long to grow (but we do trim and shape regularly). In the meantime, we try to find styles for Simone's hair that help her feel like her gender is being honored, and we point out all the long-haired boys we see.

P.S. Grandy -- who I should mention here has eased up on the gender issue -- did not make any comments about Simone's hair.


Thanks for answering the nosy questions. Great resources to bookmark!

I'd found CHVC on my own, and it was actually the catalyst for "Is that really necessary? I don't wear as much makeup as that woman, or spend as much time on my own hair as she does. Is her idea of femininity informing her hairstyling? How much does a kid need for everyday care?" (Depends on the kid and the hair, I know.)

It amuses me that *I'm* the one interested in learning to do hair. It's not like I spend any time on my own. boyastridgirl has loooooong, thick, coarse, very curly hair, and has siblings with curls, so you'd think she'd have a thing or two to teach -- but she doesn't do stuff with it. Regular shampoo and conditioner and a wet brush, no product, air-dry -- more or less how I handle my own low-maintenance waves. And my sister flat-irons hers... while teasing me about my lack of curliness.

boyastridgirl's might get a lot shorter in a couple of months, and I will see if I can coax her into letting me practice on it. (She does like it when I play with her hair, but that generally involves only deep-conditioning, detangling, and plaiting it enough to let the moisturizer sink in. I don't know if either of us has the patience for more.)
We're a very wash-and-wear household ourselves, but after taking the OFC class I really did more or less resolve to suck it up and learn, because this wasn't about me any more. I certainly haven't done anything to the extent of styling found in CHVC, but it's nice to learn about the possibilities.

The OFC instructors encouraged us to get really friendly with a good stylist if we weren't up to doing that kind of work ourselves.
A stylist! That would be new territory for me, too. (I get my hair trimmed once every couple of years.) We're a couple blocks away from multiple salons that specialize in braids & twists... worth a visit sometime.

And now everyone's commenting on my FB post! I guess I know a lot of curlyheads after all. :)
I don't mind, it just has to be with enough time for me to be able to take it out of the style if it doesn't work for me...

Yay! Play with my hair!!!
have you found any of these products (ones that work and aren't made of crap) which are also fragrance-free? crosses fingers and toes...
The Mixed Chicks kid's conditioner does not advertise itself as fragrance-free, but it has no scent and when I looked at the label I couldn't find any natural or artificial fragrances added. So you might check that one out.
great, thanks! do you use the Oyin whipped shea butter? comes in unscented, but no ingredient list...
I do! I don't have a tub right now, though. But I think the only ingredients are shea butter and air.