The hair politics of black ladies is lengthy, advanced and contradictory – however the backside line is that black ladies have the proper to put on their hair any method they need, with out having their magnificence questioned by whiteness or black males and society.
The current TRESemmé Clicks advert portraying black ladies’s pure hair as “uninteresting” and “broken” has dropped at the fore the hair politics that black ladies battle with each day. Our hair continues to be policed within the office, colleges and lots of different social areas wherein we discover ourselves.
In 2016, younger black women protested Pretoria Ladies’ Excessive College’s racist hair insurance policies that banned pure hair. My very own highschool expertise was no totally different; my faculty banned dreadlocks out of concern that we used mud to mould our hair and the mud would stain our white shirts and make us look untidy. No quantity of convincing would make the varsity rethink its insurance policies, so your choices have been to straighten your hair with dangerous chemical substances or cover it with extensions.
Personally, I’m not shocked by the TRESemmé advert. I count on nothing much less from whiteness and an financial system constructed on the oppression of black individuals. However I’m nonetheless indignant that this has occurred once more, particularly in such an overtly violent method.
I’m indignant over the timing – the one time we’ve within the 12 months to overtly and comfortably have fun Africanness has been tainted. I’m indignant that whiteness doesn’t relaxation, not even in Heritage Month.
Studying social media feedback on the matter, my anger turned to disappointment, as some black males felt confused by our outrage as a result of our position fashions are ladies equivalent to Khanyi Mbau, who usually wears her hair straight, lengthy and blonde.
They pitted the 2 struggles towards one another; pure hair versus wigs/relaxed hair and didn’t miss the chance to share what their preferences are. Once they did this, to me they have been no totally different from the TRESemme advert; they simply traded the Western view for a male view and additional bolstered the concept black ladies are ugly. They turned wigs, a innocent type of expression, right into a debate as as to if ladies with pure hair are extra lovely than “pretend” ladies with wigs. They missed the purpose.
The purpose is, we need to put on our hair the best way we wish, with out concern of exterior components equivalent to workplaces and colleges that may label us as unprofessional or messy for having pure hair. We additionally don’t want the criticism that comes from black males who query our Africanness or genuineness after we put on wigs.
The hair politics of black ladies is lengthy, advanced and contradictory.
On the one hand, revolutionary theorist Bantu Biko makes an issue of black ladies’s positionality in societal magnificence requirements. He states: “They (black ladies) use lightening lotions, they use straightening units for his or her hair and so forth. They form of imagine, I feel, that their pure state which is a black state isn’t synonymous with magnificence and sweetness can solely be approximated by them if the pores and skin is made as gentle as potential and the lips are made as crimson as potential, and their nails are made as pink as potential and so forth.”
It can’t be denied that black ladies have traditionally been made to really feel ugly, with those that are thought-about lovely being these whose look resembles whiteness. So, for a very long time, black ladies have been compelled to put on their hair straight, do their make-up in ways in which introduced them nearer to whiteness, and carry out many different Western magnificence practices bolstered by well-liked tradition and society as an entire.
The contradiction is that we’ve a protracted cultural historical past previous colonialism of adorning ourselves with “extensions”, colouring our hair, beautifying our pores and skin.
Even at the moment, older, married Shembe ladies nonetheless observe an outdated magnificence routine that additionally symbolises standing and social place in society. They develop their hair lengthy, dye it a reddish color, stretch it in order that it seems to be straight and may be pulled far sufficient to be woven right into a hat-like construction that nearly resembles inkehli, a conventional Zulu hat. It was additionally not unusual for African ladies to make use of shells, feathers, animal hair, and many others, so as to add size to their hair. I’d argue that modern-day wigs are an evolution of those outdated cultural practices.
The best way wigs have been compelled on us in order that we conformed to Western requirements of magnificence was problematic, however black ladies have reworked this observe and made it their very own in methods not that totally different from how black People reclaimed the “N” phrase. Our hair solely turns into a political battleground after we are compelled to decide on how we put on it or are made to elucidate why we put on it a technique over one other.
Black ladies have the proper to put on their hair any method they need, with out having their magnificence questioned by whiteness or black males and society. I hope that the subsequent time (sadly, there might be a subsequent time) whiteness questions our magnificence in the best way that TRESemmé did, black males will come to our defence as a substitute of perpetuating the false narrative that one sort of black lady is extra lovely than the opposite. DM
Nombulelo Shange is a lecturer within the Division of Sociology on the College of the Free State.