Thursday, September 24, 2020

A hair-raising issue

I was enticed by my colleague Angela Mdlalani’s article, titled: ‘Hair Politics ÔÇô Women affairs’, in last week’s Sunday Standard.

I just cannot resist throwing in a word edgewise.

Last month, talk show host and former Victoria’s Secrets model, Tyra Banks, led the debate into unravelling the hair issue among women. An enthused Tyra exclaimed, “This is me people, the real me!” She was showing off her natural hair hidden for years underneath layers of weaves and wigs.
Of course, her largely female audience celebrated Tyra’s ‘coming out’ and exposing the facade rocking so many black women.

What is it about black women and hair? Sisters have sold out and seem determined to jump to anything that gives them long flowing hair. Is it an inkling of inferiority that causes black women to go out and opt for the white look of straight, long and ‘elegant’ hair and shun the natural kinky look?

What’s certain though is that hair is a real political issue, part of the greater debate on gender and race.

Absurd as it may sound, how one wears their hair reveals their personality. The Afro look largely is symbolic of all things African. Seeing a woman spotting a chic-Afro hairstyle has that feeling of conveying that she is in touch with her roots, unfazed by the glamour of hair products promising to do this and that for her.
Naively, much of the world has associated the Afro look with rebellion. Far from it, the Afro is the look of authority.

Imagine if US First Lady Michelle Obama were to spot an Afro? I can almost bet on how newspaper headlines would read, ‘Afro-Power in the White House’.

Tackling this hairy issue, American comedian Chris Rock in a new documentary, Good Hair is looking into the black hair industry. Interestingly, Chris’s plunge headfirst into this business was provoked by one of his daughters who asked why they “didn’t have good hair”.

Now, who can blame the poor girl for feeling that her black hair just doesn’t cut it. Probably the greatest trouble causing many a black woman to be uncomfortable with their natural look stems from yesteryear, as little children growing up.
Remember Barbie dolls? Anyone ever seen Barbie with curly hair? Maybe with an Afro?

For many little girls, Barbie represented the best of femininity, all things to look forward to. One of those things being that a girl must have long, straight and shiny hair. I tend to marvel at one of my siblings who pleasantly takes the time, especially on Saturdays, to comb her array of barbie dolls. Silently, on days like these, I muse on whether she compares their long hair to her own short hair and whether one day she will join the fray of women trying to be like Barbie.

Maybe it’s everyone’s wish to secretly be a barbie doll.

And one of my friends aptly remarked, “As long as there are women there will always be salons”. I also find the opposite equally true. My only wish is for salons to churn out as in the words of Tyra Banks, “The real me” looking kind of black women.

One ‘famous’ salon at Game City Mall is known for specially catering for “Caucasian” hair and doesn’t do black hair. Hmm…that’s all very well.
I, on the other hand, propose a black hair only kind of salon. Such a salon would in every sense be totally serviced to catering for 100 percent black hairstyles. No weaving, no wigging, no extensions just 100 percent pure African hairstyles of dreadlocks, Afro and plaits.

(While at that could the police, the United Nations or whoever is responsible please address the sprouting business of hairpieces in Africa, its messing up the campaign to restore our black sisters to their roots).

Why, after a visit to a black hair only salon, it will make it all so much easy for me to comment the next time any one of my female friends, spotting a new hairstyle, asks me what I think of it. I’ll most likely say, “The real you, finally”.

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