Sunday, September 27, 2020

Hair Politics – women affairs

A few weeks ago, I rocked up to a friend’s doorstep with my new hairdo. It was just after sunset, sitting on her bed and only managing to get a glimpse of my new hairstyle through the dim light provided by the TV, she wowed.

“You look fabulous!”

I settled next to her for better visual access to the TV, that’s when I heard her mumble, “Oh, that!”
Of course, I knew she was not at all impressed with my weave. I also knew I looked good but, again, I knew if I had walked in in broad daylight and she saw me clearly, the compliment I had got from her could have never been popped.
If she could, I know she would walk around screaming at the top of her voice, “Kill all black girls with weaves!”

And she would too, because, according to her, girls with weaves are fake and an embarrassment to Africans.
I laugh it off whenever she criticizes weaves and when she puts down black women who wear them.

I only look at her auburn chemically relaxed hair and say in my mind, “Same difference, hypocrite!”
It is actually funny how often the contest to win the hair race is vital for women.

Even as young girls, every woman dreamt of soft silky hair. I have no idea how many hair relaxers I have gone through as a kid; and how burnt I got! My scalp should hate me by now, but I don’t hate me, it was worth it.

Don’t get me wrong, I also know how kinky an African girl’s hair can get. Girls kept afros and had funny names to go with their hairstyles, and the teasing!

No wonder almost every woman has turned to the weave, God’s special gift to every woman who was heartbroken that God had not given them that lustrous hair all white girls flaunt.
God loves all his children!

The little devils at primary school would call you “Bushy” because of your kinky hair, and would roll in laughter when one just stood up to say how they saw a lion in your “bush”. Those were the days when we all wanted to look like the brunette, red head and blonde TV girls.

Fast forward to a decade or so later, the wig and weave somehow are a sin to the African woman. (Some have even added hair relaxers to the list.)

But what is so phony about the weave that isn’t about chemically relaxed hair?

My friend uses chemicals to enhance hers while I use plastic. I bow to all women with afros and dreadlocks. That is natural. And if one of them was to walk up to me and accuse me of being a fake, I would accept and chant, “Forgive me mother I have sinned”.
But what is the argument all about, now I can’t understand.

The supposed wrongness of our hairstyle was that it was hard and kinky; now it is so wrong to straighten it out by using silky, soft lustrous weaves! The debate on hair grows as much as Soft Sheen Carson bank accounts do on a regular and persistent basis and, of course, a little more than Virgin or Expressions Extensions do.

My gut tells me that for some reason unbeknownst to us, women with straightened hair hate those with weaves. Between them who gives the other a run for their money?
Perhaps that’s the motivation for the competition. Straightened hair looks way better than a weave or vice versa?
What of status between the two?
You realize that even the sisters in the ‘low’ status have a beef of their own.

Between the afros and dreads who is trying to be like the other. These women have drawn lines though, a mark of their own, being Afrocentric and keeping Africa close.

Or is any one between them trying to beat the other – the locks and Afro, which is more natural? You take the pick now.

The prime debate is between the women with the natural hair and those with enhanced hair. Whether it be a weave, straightened hair, Afro or locks which is the best hairstyle? Does best here mean good looking or costly or ‘the in thing’?

What grabs my attention at the end of the day is the emphasis of long straight hair. And relaxed hair doesn’t cut it here; the outside world (un-Africa) still crushes any hope for African hair. I noticed with grave sadness how our very own natural looking Face of Africa, Kaone Kario, graced newspaper covers and billboards on the Nivea advert.
Dark and Lovely South Africa uses Nonhle Thema as its face, with that weave of course.

There was a time even I swore I wouldn’t be seen dead in a weave, well I can’t seem to place the reason I said so now. But when I finally did, I did not like what I saw, it felt foreign.
Of course, it was. But with time, people I never thought would like the look actually did.
And, of course, it was some consolation.

I can safely say, I have gone through all the hairdos, bald, the short hair, the S-curl, the Afro, dreadlocks, straightened it, cornrows, Braids, the bob-cut, and the weave. Earnestly, I do not have any problem with any of it. I am yet to have a tint. Any African woman has had this ability to move fluidly between different looks and worlds through changing hairstyles.

What is the big deal really? The immortal debate of hair amongst women really leaves me thinking. I can’t put my finger on it.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.