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3 minutes reading time (584 words)

Nappy: The Word Debate

What is Nappy

A couple of times a year, this subject come around. Like a comet, it blasts through natural hair groups, discussion forums and social media. Is the word "nappy" good or bad? Should we use it or not? 

20+ years ago it was unheard of to call yourself nappy. The word was that bad a connotation for hair. Also, 20 years ago it was rare to see a Black woman in the regular wearing her natural kinky, afro hair in a natural style. 

Times have changed.

I never equated the word nappy with that other N word. Nappy was a personal insult, not a racial one. Even though OUR race is associated with the hair they negatively call nappy, I did not feel that  it crossed that line into a racial slur. Nappy was more like someone trying to insult me by calling me skinny or bony (which they did). But it was still hurtful. And that made it a bad word that I didn't like to hear or use.

When someone used nappy in a negative way, they meant to say your hair was thick, kinky, maybe coarse or soft, but it is, in its natural state, unacceptable and needs to be straightened. I could even go as far as to say unkempt, ugly, messy and dirty. Just about every negative thing people can say about our hair type was encompassed in the word "nappy."

Nappy and Natural

The word "nap" is a descriptive for a thick carpet pile or sheep fleece. It can be created by beautiful yarn, synthetic or natural fibers. It's a characteristic of dense strands of hair or fiber that curl around themselves. It can be light and airy or packed down. It can be free and loose or locked up. Nappy is all of those things. It is neither negative nor positive, it just IS. I know what my hair is. It's not dirty, it's not dishevelled. I've worn it packed down in a twa and picked out in a big one. It's been locked up and twisted out. Nappy is just a hair texture description. And that's why we can choose to stop being offended by it and take the word back. We can throw it back at them and not let them hurt us with it anymore.

When I went natural, I stopped seeing my hair as a negative so the term nappy lost its negativity along with it. Now if I am called nappy-headed, I think to myself, "yes I am, and I love my naturally nappy hair." My hair is a gift from my ancestors. And I don't care whether you like it or not.

Anyone seeing the word "nappturality" associated with afro-natural hair can't skim past the first 4 letters of the word. The word nappturality was created to encompass the word nappy.

As a Black person, picture someone calling you Black as an insult. Is it taken how it's meant? Or do you change it up and feel calling someone Black is not an insult? Can you separate the emotion from it? Not an easy thing, because you need to adjust your thinking to get to it.

Yes, I understand how the word can be triggering for many women and men, especially those who have had this word directed at them in a negative way, myself included. But you can decide to take the power away from the word and reclaim it by reestablishing its meaning to be a simple, generic hair type that you love, and educate people about that along the way.

What do you think? 

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