The Disrespectful (and Ridiculous) Preference for Natural Beauty

“I prefer a naturally beautiful woman with natural hair, no make-up, and no surgical enhancements.” With all due respect to the men who think this way, no one gives a shit.

Three years ago, I published a piece on Huffington Post called, On the Cultural Appropriation of Natural Hair. While researching the piece, I was given insight into the importance of hair to women, especially black women. I discovered that there is a litany of emotions that accompany a woman’s decision about how she wears her hair. It was eye opening, to say the least.

Since writing the piece, I had to check my own misogyny and paternalism of adding and removing value from a woman based on my preferences. In all honesty, I thought that I was complimenting women who had the courage to embrace their natural, organic beauty. I was supporting yet another unrealistic expectation of perfectionism that causes so many women to question their own worth. I was also buying into the notion that “natural beauty” could only be achieved by certain woman. I was very wrong and worse, incredibly naïve and disrespectful.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any issue with both men and women having preferences when choosing whether or not to engage or entertain members of the opposite sex. We all like what we like and no one has the right to redefine or challenge our preferences. However, as a man, implying that real beauty is unassisted just speaks volumes to my ignorance of the challenges that women face attempting to survive and thrive in their own skin. Possessing the unmitigated gall to think that I have the right or ability to define a woman’s beauty further illustrated my willingness to embrace a culture that repeatedly tells women, “you’re not good enough.”

The preference for natural hair provides no empathy for the woman who suffers from stress-induced alopecia. It belittles the woman whose natural hair texture makes her a target for prejudice in certain work environments. It mocks and ridicules women who take pleasure in using their hair as a means to communicate their creativity and individuality. Most of all, a preference for natural hair reinforces the notion that women do not have full and complete ownership of their bodies.

A woman’s decision to wear or not wear makeup, wigs, weaves, waist trainers, body shapers or any other accessory she uses to embrace the image in her mirror belongs solely to that woman. She doesn’t require (and most cases doesn’t want) input, permission, or validation from a man. Telling a woman, “you look better with no make-up on” may sound like a compliment, but in all actuality the man who says this is consciously or subconsciously challenging her personal definition of beauty. That is not to say that a woman wouldn’t consult a particular man about his preference, but that is up to her to develop enough trust to share the responsibility of creating her presentation to the world.

At the end of the day, most men are regurgitating the erroneous definitions of beauty force fed to us by society. Men are using digitally manipulated photographs of women who have been pieced together by technology to judge who is or isn’t beautiful. That sun-kissed model with perfect hair and even more perfect body lounging carelessly on the beach doesn’t exist. God didn’t create her; she was carefully crafted by a talent graphics designer. A better approach is to embrace the woman who has embraced herself. Confidence is sexy, because everyone likes the way they feel when they like the way they look. The subjective nature of beauty means that there is no singular definition. So ridiculing women who choose to wear weaves isn’t about the weave, it’s demeaning the woman’s choice to ornament herself in a way that suits her.

I’m attracted to women who first find themselves attractive. There is nothing more endearing and enticing the woman who owns her beauty and the choices that she feels are necessary to create that beauty. That incredible feeling I have about myself after I get a fresh haircut has less to do with my barber’s haircutting skill than it does my barber’s ability to give me the exact haircut that I chose. You see, I know what looks good on me and I don’t need anyone to cosign.