white women nappy hair

Recently, in yet another attempt to claim something that Black people had all to themselves, white women have taken it upon themselves to use “nappy” to describe their own hair. Just search Instagram or Twitter for yourself – you’ll find mixed in between the thousands of pictures of fly black women with natural hair of all lengths, textures, and colors a spattering of photos from white women with straight hair. Click on a few and you’ll find that #nappyhair is used synonymously with fresh out of bed hair, frizzy hair, lazy hair days, or bad hair days.

This trend was originally brought to light by Buzzfeed’s recent “17 People Who Totally Have Afros” and it’s followup on Tea and Breakfast, “13 People Who Totally Have Nappy Hair,” which both spotlight – you guessed it – people with neither afros nor natural hair. While I’m more or less in favor of people of all shades embracing the natural hair movement and learning from the wealth of knowledge we generate, I think a fundamental requirement should be that you at least have curly hair with either shrinkage or detangling woes to be a true member of the natural hair community. I am not at all here for nappy hair becoming the new twerk, used inappropriately, done incorrectly, and said so often that both it’s meaning and significance are diluted.

Moreover, I’m especially not down to share the term nappy hair with people who do not know what it means to have had to collectively reclaim the term from it’s derogatory meaning dating back to the slave-era. Many naturals, in what is nothing short of an ideological counter-revolution, have embraced the term nappy and used it to refer to their curls, coils, and kinks with pride.

Proud wearing my Global Couture Nappy Tee.
Proudly wearing my Global Couture Nappy Tee.

My main issue is that white women with #nappyhair are really trying to say that their hair is ugly, dirty, unruly, and unkempt. This not only implies that they still think that’s what the word nappy means too, but also that they think that’s how we mean it when we use it to talk about our natural hair.

Here’s what some of my fellow BGLH contributors had to say on the topic:

Elle
Elle Natural Hair

“I find it kind of annoying, but funny at the same time. They can’t possibly understand what ‘nappy’ means and apply it to a little frizz or wavy hair. The annoying part is that they don’t even mind being ignorant enough to not figure out the real meaning of the word. They don’t even realize how silly they look to a lot of people.”

Christina
christinahair

“Using #naturalhair didn’t work, so now this. It’s a classic case of an insult wrapped in a desperate attempt to be a part of something. The term “nappy” has been thrown our way for years to devalue our natural beauty. But now that we Black women are proud of our highly textured hair and declare to be “nappy and proud”, it doesn’t sit well. Even on their worst humidity or tongue-in-socket hair days, the aesthetic is far from nappy. Nappy is supposed to mean bad, and their bad hair day being labeled as #nappy hair is supposed to be an insult, I get it. But at the same time, they want to be like us. Nappy hair is cool. Kinks and coils are on trend. So are big butts, brown skin, and thick lips. This is nothing new — tear us down, only to turn around and try to get what we have.”

Rinny

“Another day, another instance of AAVE (African American Vernacular English)/BVE (Black Vernacular English) being appropriated for the sake of seeming on trend. From large chain restaurants tweeting their meals are “on fleek” to traditional bubblegum pop-stars capitalizing off the idea of  “bae” and “cuffing season,” the black vernacular aesthetic is seen as nothing more than a mask that can be put on and removed at ease without any negative association. The photos tagged as “#nappyhair” without any regard of the meaning and cultural notions behind the term are just a small part of a larger issue. 

Leila
Leila1

“I’m torn between annoyance and indifference. Annoyance because the ‘mainstream’ is perpetually ripping things off from popular black culture, while simultaneously trying to devalue its influence. Also annoying that the term ‘nappy’ is being used in the negative, when there has been a sustained movement within the natural hair community to re-define the term as a positive. Still, at the end of the day, I won’t lose sleep at night over this. But, Lord, please don’t let ‘nappy’ make it to the mainstream media circuit. If ‘nappy’ becomes the new ‘twerk’ I will be so unamused.”

Do you think white women should be able to use natural hair lingo to describe their hair? Are you bothered or is this just a sign of the natural hair movement being embraced by other races?

Klassy Kinks

KlassyKinks.com founder and editor, Ijeoma Eboh, is on a mission to change perceptions of kinky textured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.

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132 Comments on "New Trend? White Women On Instagram Are Using the Hashtag #NappyHair"

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Deshanae
I personally don’t think it’s that serious..to write an article. We need to stop letting race define if someone should be allowed to do something. We always say white peole think they are better or whatever but we do the same thing. I woudn’t let it bother me unless they say something racist. Otherwise move on we can’t always get mad over everything. And I’m sure we do things that white people do lol don’t get offended. If they think their hair is nappy that’s between them and God. Although I would tell them your hair is not nappy. My… Read more »
nahi

Jesus Christ on a bike.
What the hell is wrong with white people?!? Csnt they function without our attention?!?!
I swear more and more the obssession white people have with black people reached another level of disturbing.

Maria

#sometimestheymakeofmetho wtf? Next trend is white men calling each other n****, Lord have mercy. I guess we cannot enjoy owning certain things, they want everything to themselves. Oh well, they will never take our skin color, history and Africa!!!!

growing it alone

If you were beaten and abused as a child… you wouldn’t choose to marry someone who beats and abuses you and say “i’m reclaiming the abuse i experienced as a child and its now possitive abuse”. That word ( the “N” word ) is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Whatever the colour of the man woman or child throwing it around… bad argument!

Tasmin
Oh man, why so serious though? It’s just an adjective for wild or unruly ect. As explained in the article, Black women are trying to reclaim the word nappy and use it positively meaning that many Black women still use it negively… So basically, both white and black women are probably using it negatively. I don’t see why this article isn’t chastising black women using the #nappyhair hashtag describing a bad hair day their having. Who’s being the racist here? I’m South African and enjoyed learning about how to deal with my curly hair but I always find that the… Read more »
Non ya
But are you black? My old boss is from South Africa and she is not black. She never claimed to be. Her parents aren’t and she isn’t, she’s African. It’s not always the same. I also had a student from South Africa and she is black. I don’t like the term nappy, but it has been associated with black people for years. As the article says, we took the word used to insult us and made it our own. It is insensitive, and culture vulturing for white women to take it and basically make fun. Taking terms that the black… Read more »
Chrissie
I don’t think everyone using the tag necessarily has malicious intent, although some definitely know better. Most are probably completely ignorant of the implications, but sadly probably wouldn’t care anyway. It’s a quick and cheap laugh, the post is a small part of their day, and they move right along with life. I personally find it difficult to know where to draw that appropriation line, I say/do/wear things that white people wouldn’t get away with. Maybe it isn’t fair that they can’t joke in certain ways but you can’t change history, that’s just the way it is. I think the… Read more »
NaturallyNeesh

I heard once that everyone wants to be Black but no one wants to be Black..so irritatingly amusing to me. They want the hips, thighs, butts, boobs, noses, lips, hair etc but when social injustice comes around, they are sleep….smh.

Great post!

Suge

They can kiss my entire Black ***!

brl
omfg–i don’t like this one bit. i am so over the theft and misappropriation of black culture by white people. it is very offensive to me for whites to label wavy or mussed hair “nappy” or something not condoned by their culture “ghetto.” i am sick of them equating terms that in a sense describe Blackness or at least, the Black (in America) experience with an undesirable or negative phenomenon. Some people are so invested in their whiteness as a symbol of superiority and yet they STAY obsessed with everything we do and are. i have a mind to troll… Read more »
KP

I must say that those pics just made me laugh! It kind of looks like some of those ladies just some hair spray or gel. I don’t get it.

#whiteppl”columbused”it

coffeeandfingernails
This isn’t new–I remember my college classmates, 15 years ago, using “nappy” as synonymous with unruly and/or dirty hair. I don’t think this has anything to do with being on trend or the reclaiming of nappy by naturals, I think this is just straight old-fashioned American casual racism, like referring to something broken down as “ghetto”, or using black as a synonym for poor or scary. And for the record, this would not be the same group posting on natural hair sites, or joining the discussion about life with tightly curled/coiled/kinky hair–you can tell because none of them has posted… Read more »
SuZQ
This is just unsettling. They were using afros in a negative sense in reference to bad hair days and I wasn’t cool with that, because afros are beautiful. Nappy has mainly been used negatively, although it refers just to a texture/fibers, as in wool the fibers are napped. Afro textured hair can be napped, hence the use of nappy. However, this is not their hair texture and they are not using the word positively. It disturbs me that they choose to define their beauty by being derogatory to other types of beauty. You take a selfie in full makeup, with… Read more »
rhea

Agreed. I also didn’t like how they made it seem like they had Afros because they didn’t bother to take the time to tame their hair.

AmbiV
I agree as well. This always annoyed me when I was in school and would hear girls with the straightest of straight hair or hair that had a slight wave pattern have the nerve to say that their hair was nappy because they just woke up and walked out, when in all actuality all they had to do was grab a comb, comb through once, maybe twice, and their hair is now “done”. But the only reason why their hair is in the matted state its in is because of all the hair gel or hair spray they used thats… Read more »
leah

I guess it depends on what “nappy” means to the individual. Some have positive definitions for the word. For me, nappy isn’t a good thing; when I say my hair is nappy I feel that my hair is rough, hard to comb through… basically looking a hot mess. So if some White girl’s hair is looking rough or she can’t run a comb through it, I’m not mad at her using the term “nappy” because of what I associate with the word myself.

titu

You come across as someone who’s not very smart.

oh why?

*sigh* always one or according to the story many

Brittany

Nah, this isn’t an individualistic thing. White girls are using the term “nappy” to refer to their hair when it’s TANGLED, DIRTY, and UNKEMPT. If that’s what their hair is, I don’t understand why they just don’t say that. Oh, I know why! Because they’re culturally ignorant enough to think the tangled mass of straight hair they didn’t bother to do or comb is in itself the same thing as having natural hair. Pfft.

Yo

or maybe they just heard the word and used it, not everything has to be a big deal

Longpig

Jesus Christ! WHIITEEE PPEEEOOOPPPLLLLEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!

Ms. Vee

…And yet these are the same group of heifers that want to join the NHM (with their few mammy accomplices in agreement).

I would have more respect if they just came out and admitted “Hey black folks we can’t function without your attention”.

But alas I will ignore these nonentities like they deserve to be…on to the true black beauties that are happy being nappy.

*waiting for whites to start calling themselves Nubians*

-_-

Aly

*waiting for whites to start calling themselves Nubians*………….hahahahaha!

Just Saying

Black people shouldn’t be calling themselves Nubian either, unless they’re actually of Nubian ethnicity. It’s like calling yourself Fulani, Yoruba, Kanuri, Zulu etc. You can’t just choose a culture at random and assign yourself to it.

Ms. Vee

@Just Saying

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Katrina

I agree with Christina ” This is nothing new…tear us down, only to turn around and try to get what we have.”

If they were truly ashamed of their so called “nappy hair” why would they upload a picture of it for the world to see? Im not really concerned about the whole situation, it’s silly

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