Last week, 3rd Degree, a current affairs program on South Africa’s etv channel dealt with the topic of hair, in particular black women’s hair and how for a long time black women have been taught to subscribe to Eurocentric views of what counts as beautiful hair.
I missed that particular episode of 3rd Degree but as a reader of many blogs and internet articles, I have come to realise that this is not just an issue of hair. To see where the issue of hair ranks in terms of importance, one blog suggested that I go to http://www.google.com and begin typing the words, “Why do black women…” The top four most popular searches Google offers that begin with that phrase are:
• Why do black women love white men
• Why do black women wear weaves
• Why do black women have bigger bums
• Why do black women like white men
Like the blogger who wrote that article, I also watched Chris Rock’s documentary, “Good Hair.” The documentary featured Meagan Good, Nia Long, Tracie Thomas, Lauren London and other beautiful black women (In my book these sisters would be hot even if they were bald but that’s just me).
These ladies offered their thoughts on Black women’s hair. What surprised me is that even though these ladies are beautiful they all seemed to share the commonly held opinion that natural hair is not as attractive on a black woman as relaxed hair (chemically treated hair) or a weave.
One quote that stood out for me is Nia Long’s joke that she actually chooses to be on top during sex because she doesn’t want to ruin her weave. Lauren London and Meagan Good spoke about not allowing their hair to get wet or a man to run his fingers through it.
I found Tracie Thomas’ realization that wearing natural hair for a black woman is considered revolutionary and different, very profound and a good indicator of how the issue of hair is inextricably linked with issues of identity and one’s perception of beauty. Although this doccie featured Americans their views on black hair mirror the views of some people in Africa.
Even in South Africa, especially in the corporate environment women sporting the natural look or men with natural dreadlocks are in the minority.
I am of the opinion that women (black or white) who spend large amounts of money on making themselves look anything but natural are actually admitting to the world that they do not like themselves as they are. This applies to hair, breasts plastic surgery etc. If they were happy they would not be doing anything to themselves would they? In the same way that a guy who gets a haircut is not happy with the way he looks.
Whether you agree or not, by relaxing your hair, by wearing a weave or going under the knife, there is an inferred admittance that you are not as good-looking in your natural state. When it comes to hair, the comparison with European women/Indian women (and others) or western ideals of beauty invariably comes up because Europeans’ and other peoples’ hair is much straighter naturally than black peoples’ hair and weaves very often resemble these peoples’ hair in terms of texture, feel and appearance.
To be honest I would not like not knowing what my girlfriend’s natural hair looks like (there are some brothers out there who don’t know). I would not want my wife to interrupt an intimate moment because I might just move her weave out of place.
Gentlemen, as an aside, if ever you meet a black woman and she asks you how her weave looks this is what you should do if you want to be on her good side:
Look her straight in the face with a serious look about you while lightly (very lightly touching her hair because trust me you don’t want to pull the damn thing off) and say “Weave? You’re wearing a weave? Really? You don’t say! She’ll be so impressed that you think her beautiful weave is her real hair she will have no choice but to marry you.
It bothers me that even little girls think that they are not beautiful unless their hair is relaxed. I’m not saying that extensions and chemicals don’t make our sisters look attractive or they are wrong; I’m just saying that it bothers me that words like unkempt, untidy and inappropriate are used when black people decide to leave their hair in its natural state.
But what do I know? After all, I’m just a guy who studied sociology, media and culture studies.