Short Hair Don’t Care: Women Do the ‘Big Chop’ Going Natural

Hair and beauty have always gone hand in hand. Black women have embraced many ways of styling their hair. And with today’s natural hair movement, women are cutting their hair as a form of uplifting themselves. 

Cassandra Drew, an attendance keeper at Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts, a high school in East New York,  believes that black women more women were relaxing their hair before the recent natural hair movement because of what the media portrays what being beautiful looks like. “We tend to buy into that philosophy,” she says.

Drew recently made the big chop — cutting off her permed hair to only her natural roots — for the second time of her life. She has personally struggled with accepting her natural hair. “When you knock someones self-esteem down from a young age, it’s very hard for them to regain that,” says Drew.

Sonia Benegas, 23, program assistant at CORO Exploring Leadership, grew up in a Puerto Rican household. Benegas always had long hair, but wanted hers to be like her classmates’: Long, blonde, and straight.

“Growing up, I went to school where everyone was white and everyone had blond hair — at the time I thought that was pretty,” she said.

Eletra Gilchrist and Courtney Thompson, respectively an assistant professor and a Ph.D student at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, wrote a paper dealing with that topic. In “Media Effects and Black Hair Politics,” the pair sai that white people have long been the ideal of  beauty for all women.

 “U.S.A. have a tendency to privilege Eurocentric standards of beauty, which was inherited from slavery and passed down throughout the generations,” they wrote. 

Sherice Dakers, 17, a student at Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts, is now completely relaxer-free after years of chemically treating her hair. She feels like can finally be herself.

I can finally say I’m Sherice,” she said.

As a young girl, Sherice was conscious of the fact that all the girls in her class had relaxed hair. She got a perm because her parents demanded it.

Some mothers think permed hair makes their daughter’s hair easier to manage.

“Being the parent of a little girl — when you’re combing a child’s hair and they’re constantly crying, no matter how you approach it,” said a mother of a young girl, who wished to remain anonymous. “You just want something that’s easier.” 

Parents make this choice not only because it’s easy to maintain, but also they look at it from a beauty standard. Syann Cox, 17, student at Brooklyn Institute for Liberal Arts, also had the experience of not having a choice to perm her hair. Cox came from a family with long relaxed straight hair.

However, Syann recently decided to do the big chop, because she wanted her hair to be healthier.

“Everyone was like, ‘No, don’t do it, your hair is so long, you would look weird with short hair,'” she said.

But, she was afraid if she kept on chemically treated her hair, she would end up like a family member, whose hair is very thin and has bald spots, a condition she blames on getting perms all her life. Syann is glad she went through with it.

“I feel it’s healthier — when I wash my hair it doesn’t shed,” she said.

Syann feels more liberated with shorter hair, and now she gets compliments from family members that didn’t want her to go natural.

“It seems like I was wrong because you look good with it,” she recalls them telling her,  echoing their changes of heart.