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Zee Fashionista: I am not my hair - or am I?


I am not my hair - or am I?

It's funny how we make assumptions, right? I remember taking part in a conversation with Liam Lynch and others at a Marie Claire shoot we were working at in October, and he was telling us his opinion on women and their hair. Rather than seeing a woman's hairstyle (say a weave) as a sign of the depth (and in this case, lack of depth) of her character, he maintained that more often than not, a woman's hairstyle was simply a matter of preference. I agree with him.

Now, I write this just as I've spent the past half an hour deep barrel waving my 18" Indian Remy hair. Of course the 'my' comes with a disclaimer - while the hair is now my possession, it actually belonged to an Indian woman somewhere with seriously great hair - you know, Chris Rock. 'Good hair'? Yeah. Something like that.

As we all know, it is a popular opinion amongst some men (again the 'some' here is a disclaimer. There are varying views on this topic) and increasingly amongst women, that a weave is a sign of a number of (oftentimes demeaning) things about a woman's character - she may be labeled superficial (after all, 'natural is keeping it real'); or high maintenance/ a lover of other people's (insert sugar daddy, husband, rich parent) money.

I read in the Sowetan last week, for example, that Indian Remy, Brazilian or Malaysian hair costs between R900 to about R2800 per packet of wefted hair. The average woman needs about 3 packets of hair, so you can imagine just how much a weave, sans the labour, actually costs. The timeliness of the article comes with 'bonus season' - bonus = money to blow. Case in point - one of the workers at the salon where I did my hair (before bonus season) asked, "So who's paying for the hair?" Needless to say, I paid for it myself - no 'other people' here darling.

I digress. My question is, however, does a woman's hair really point to the shallow nature of her character? In fact, does a weave have anything at all to with a woman's charcter? My weave is, as Liam surmised, primarily an aesthetic preference. Granted, there are what some would call 'not so deep' women with weaves; there are some women whose weaves are some kind of statement about their material muscle. There are many reasons why women wear weaves.

I ask this not just because this is a commonplace judgment, but also because this judgment or viewpoint actually directs people's behaviour - some men refuse to date women with weaves; musician Hugh Masekela refuses to be interviewed by women with weaves; some men only want to date women with weaves (to perhaps flex their material muscle in their efforts to woo the woman); and some women look down on other women that wear weaves. There exists also a subsection of the box braid or dreadlocked hair or natual hair brigade who's hair is to them akin to a badge of honour of their realness - shun those Aishwarya Rai's.

The reason why this topic actually intrigues me is just how much we can fetishize hair (or light skin, or big butts, or great style, or marital status) and place an entire value system on it ranking the good from the not so good. In fact, the speed and basis upon which humans compartmentalise each other continues to baffle. What's more is these labels affect not just someone's opinion of another in passing, but these opinions even shape the level of interaction one is willing to have with another, and even the job/husband/boyfriend/drink a woman is likely to get.

To be sure, I have been careful to add the 'some' disclaimer - not all men and women are of the above opinion about weaves. There are numerous opinions about hair, and most of them have nothing do with 'character' or 'depth' or 'superficiality' or 'value' - and that is just my point.

So as I plan which colour combo to ombre my hair in, and just as I decide which styling wand will help me get those tight, big curls to go with my J's, I agree with India Arie, I am not my hair. This hair is not mine. This hair does equal this or that kind of woman. This hair is not my end and be all. No.

So can Solange grow her natural hair out without being heralded and equally attacked attacked as the patron saint of realness? Can Khanyi Mbau change her lace fronts as much she wants just because she damn well can? Can Bonang continue to tlatlamula them with her Diva Divine hair because she seriously looks good? Can you young woman box braid your hair from here to kingdom come because that's how roll?

Your thoughts?

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At December 30, 2012 at 7:42 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is subject has been discussed to death.pleaaaase just stop justifying yourself:natural/weave.now can we leave this boring topic in 2012?

At December 30, 2012 at 8:48 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its always going to be a hot topic as long as people continue to fetishize things. We as women also need to stop fueling the fire by making negative statements about each others hair. To each their own.

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