How Cutting My Hair Became My Defining Moment

By: Courtney McKnight

March 2016. The last spring break of my undergrad career and I decided to spend it a little differently than most would. I remember being home from school and telling my mom my exciting news… “I’m cutting all my hair off!” She loved my hair as did a few others. My mom didn’t fight with me about it like I thought she would but that was still only the beginning of this battle. The battle with me versus society was the first that I thought about.

The next and probably largest battle was figuring out who was cutting my hair? There were some decent barbers in the area that I’m from in Charleston, SC but I never knew any of them to be all that experienced in cutting a woman’s hair. After all, I wanted to keep my feminine features prevalent. One day I got on Instagram and started scrolling through various pages and found a great barber who was located in Atlanta.

I hadn’t been to Atlanta since I was in middle school so it was almost a no brainer to spend my spring break there! Thankfully he had an appointment available that week so I was good to go. Now that you have that brief back story, here is the explanation as to why I cut off three years of healthy natural hair growth.

Contrary to what most believe I did it for the experience. Yes, change is a part of that experience but it wasn’t the driving force for why I got my hair cut off. You’re probably thinking, what exactly did I want to experience? We as black woman have always been targets for objectified beauty. Our bodies, our hair, and even our skin have always been “part of the package”. Let me explain.

We have been scrutinized as black women about our hair since the beginning of time. It’s too nappy, too kinky, too dark, or just too “difficult to manage.” We’ve been told how pretty our hair is when it’s not in its naturally curly state. Black women on their jobs and at schools are being told their natural hair is unprofessional and disruptive. Black women with short hair are told they look manly.

I could pull up a list of nonblack celebrities whom have had short hair for years and that reference has never been thrown their way publicly. We deal with a lot of crap from society and the media. Before I got my hair cut I decided to watch some big chop videos on YouTube. There was one common theme that played across in every single video I watched, tears. Why was everyone crying?! Oh I forgot, they were removing one of the things that society has told us we must have as black women to be beautiful.

The other pretty big reason I cut my hair was so I could encourage other black women in a more compassionate and sincere way. It’s one thing to tell someone “everything is going to be okay” but when you’ve actually been through it it’s a lot easier to convince them of that. When I talk to girls that want to do the big chop because they want their hair to be healthier it’s much easier for me to say “go for it, it’s not that bad” because I know it really isn’t.

When I became fully natural I transitioned because I was absolutely terrified to be without hair so I can completely relate when I hear black women talk about that as their fear. It’s so important for me to express to other black women that they are beautiful with or without hair. Cutting my hair was all about proving to myself that the confidence I have in myself is real and it wasn’t dependent on the amount of hair on my head. Another thing I want to share with others is that your journey has to be just that, your own.

Don’t cut your hair because you think it will make you feel better about yourself or because you are seeking approval from others. I think I only told three or four people that I was cutting my hair before I did it. I knew there would be people that would hate it and people that would talk down on me for my decision. I knew I had to be confident in how I felt as a woman because I knew I would be treated differently for my decision.

Although most would say “It’s just hair” I can firmly disagree because I see how we as black women are treated over it. If it was just hair then the texture wouldn’t matter and be such a big deal in the workplace or schoolhouse. I do hope that one day we can truthfully say that it is just hair. Until then I will continue to encourage my sisters and let them know they are beautiful. I stood strong in how I felt and how I feel and I can say this hair cut was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

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