Locs and Babies and Consent, Oh My!

I’m still thinking about hair, but today I’m thinking more about Eve’s head rather than my own. I’ve always wanted locs for myself and my children, and have always had every intention of locking up my kids’ heads while they were very young. While browsing the natural hair boards to see when (and, most importantly, HOW) other parents started locking up their children’s hair, I found that there is a bit of a debate over whether or not one should lock a child’s hair before they are old enough to consent to it.

I was surprised, honestly, that there was even any ethical question over it. Eve’s ears are unpierced because I do not believe in permanently altering children’s bodies for non-medical reasons without their consent – and this includes routine circumcision and cosmetic genital surgery for intersex children. Several people have asked when we plan to pierce her ears, and my answer is simple: when she is old enough to ask for it, she can have them. This may be when she is four, it may be when she is seven, it may be never. But it’s her body, not ours, so it’s not a decision that we will make for her.

My opinion on hair is very different. While locs are a somewhat permanent style, they ultimately are just hair. They can be grown out, cut off, whatever. If she gets older and decides that she doesn’t want them, we can remove them. If we cut them off, she will have to learn how to style her hair as it grows from very short to whatever length she prefers, but I don’t think that learning how to manage one’s hair throughout its entire growth cycle is really a bad thing. Basically, my thoughts on hair boiled down to: it’s my kid, it’s just hair, I’ll do what I want.

However, one person on the natural hair board did say something that made me rethink my stance. Her gripe was specifically with parents who decide to loc their very young children’s hair when they do not have locs of their own (including white parents in transracial families). She brought up the point that locs are a highly politicized style whether or not one grows them for political reasons, and that there are distinct stereotypes and other misguided assumptions that one will face if you’ve chosen to wear them. While it’s one thing for a child to endure that sort of ignorance from people with the loving guidance and support of a parent who is also dealing with the same thing, it’s another situation entirely to force that child to go it alone.

That was all she needed to say to convince me. I still intend to loc Eve’s hair, but ONLY if I have locs myself. If I can stick with it, then in about two years my locs should (hopefully!) have matured, and Eve’s hair will be long enough that I can start the process on her head – if that’s still what I want to do. If I can’t hang in there, if I quit again, then Eve’s hair will stay loose for as long as she wills it.

Fair enough? I think so.

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4 Responses to “Locs and Babies and Consent, Oh My!”

  1. Nicole Says:

    God you’re awesome.

  2. baj4life Says:

    I’ve decided to leave the decision about whether to loc or not up to my son when he’s old enough to decide. My husband and I both wear locs too. I don’t have a problem with just going ahead and starting the loc process from birth on kids as it isn’t a permanent hairstyle unless you want it to be. Even though I couldn’t really put into words why I wanted to leave the decision up to my son, I think the fact that it’s a politicized hairstyle has a lot to do with it.

    • August Says:

      At this point I’m starting to think that it’s going to be left up to Eve after all. Poor girl barely has any hair and certainly not enough to loc!

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