The words were “sex and politics” now, in the 21st century, “hair” has woven its way between these two words and is competing for the limelight up there along with sex, politics and soccer.
The hair industry has morphed into a multibillion dollar industry and it is not merely skin deep, it brings about socio economic issues and self esteem. Former United States of America Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, had middle-aged women across the United States donning her famous “Flip hairstyle” because to them it represented power and dominance by an African American female in a white man’s world.
Even our very own woman super power, former Minister, Joy Phumaphi, brought back the “Drop-the-pilot” hairstyle which is still very popular among women.
Beauty parlors and hair salons continue to prosper despite the economic hardships that many other businesses are currently incurring.
Somehow, Western culture has managed to convince African women that hair should be straight or, at least, wavy.
(Un)fortunately people of African descent have been generously endowed with kinky, spongy hair. While most men are comfortable with a regular haircut, women have resorted to treating their hair with chemicals which have been proven to be strong enough to cut through aluminum to have straighter hair.
The weave has also taken over the industry by storm; they can either be synthetic or “100 percent human hair”.
When asked, young professional women were quick to justify as to why they wear their hair the way they do. Though some indicated that they wore their hair short and natural since it, “provides a fresh look, and makes my facial features stand out”.
“Although I have noticed that most people think that kinky natural hair constitutes as good hair on a woman,” said one woman, “personally I prefer weave-on because I have long hair so one can substitute the other and it’s more convenient and looks good on me.”
So it can be deduced from the parallel stances that the major objective is to look good.
There are those extremes, however, when women will torment their hair in the most painful, uncomfortable manner for no apparent reason other than to get attention.
One lady when asked for her opinion as to what constitutes as good hair stated that, “It does not need to feel good as long as it looks good then I am definitely on the right track.”
An alternate view also exists. Said another lady: “For me, clean hair is a must. Comfortable is a close, there is nothing worse than seeing a woman scratching her hair all day, or with her hair so pulled back it looks like it’s a miracle her eyes hadn’t popped out yet. Even worse is those plastic weaves that look like they could give you a nasty heat rash that some people choose to wear without considering the climate in Botswana.”
Asked about “Good hair,” their male counterparts were generally of the notion that a woman is only as confident, pretty and as smart as she feels. One gentleman in particular stated that, “Every woman’s hair is perfectly done according to her wanting. The good or the bad of it is a perception of the other person.”
Most men among the interviewed also came across as completely oblivious to the dynamic lifestyles of their women’s hair. The two things that most agreed upon was that maintenance of the hair was costly and that they were not particularly fond of the synthetic hair woven on.
One man pointed out that he wanted to be able to run his fingers down his woman’s hair without the humps that are formed when weaves are sewn or glued on to the scalp.
In a piece titled “Rediscovering my Hair”, Paulette Caldwell, a Professor of Law, says: “I want to know my hair again, the way I knew it before I knew that my hair is me. Before I lost the right to me, before I knew the burden of beauty or the lack of it. For an entire race of people could be tied up with my hair and me.”
Women can spend between P25 to P2500 on a hairstyle, haircuts, straighteners, hot combs, braiding. Cornrows and weaves are among the most popular hair styles in Botswana. A good hairstyle, though relative, can do wonders for a woman’s self esteem, sexuality and overall confidence.