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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Short Cut To Beauty

Written By: Nicole Parker-Jones—Women in sub-saharan Africa keep their hair short ... really short, in the same vain as a "buzz cut." As a result, their hair is neat, practical, and consumes less of their efforts. Their short hairstyles certainly don't make these women any less beautiful (if anything women with especially short hair have an organic beauty precisely because we see them for what they truly are).

It seems as though in Western culture, the opposite is true: black women are more consumed than ever with their hair, and there is nothing more pressing on black women's minds than hair—whether it is short (not really short), relaxed, locked, natural, straight, curly, braided, dyed, or dare I say, weaved (gasp), hair has us preoccupied. We spend hundreds of dollars every year on our hair even in the face of serious financial constraints. We forgo exercise to keep our hair—down to its very "edges"—looking pristine. And we sacrifice considerable time around our visits to the hair salon. Sometimes I even schedule important events around the times when my hairdresser can see me; when I had to travel outside of the country for the first time, I kept my vacation at two weeks to the day to ensure that I would not miss my standing bi-monthly hair appointment. This incident got me thinking: why is our livelihood consumed this much by hair when there are so many other more important things in our lives to care for (like our wealth, our health, and our time)?

Perhaps it is time that we take the short cut like so many African women living in other parts of the world do, and simply stop obsessing over hair.

(Photo Credits: iStockPhoto/Stacey-Newman) (Model Used Solely For Illustrative Purposes)


udee said...

I tend to disagree with your thoughts on women of the sub-Sahara and their views on hair. African women do not exclusively keep their hair scalp short. Rather our historical relationship with our hair is different from our Black American sisters. African women are all about our hair too, but it's not as a result of the slave legacy. If you just visit a typical hair salon on a typical Saturday in Abuja, Nigiera, it is packed FULL of women doing hair! All kinds of hair - getting a relaxer; plaiting complex cornrow styles; sewing in a weave afro look; glueing in the blond Beyonce long weave or the jet black edgy Rihanna bob; even faux dreadlocks! 21st century African women are so similar to Black American women when it comes to the value placed on hair and wanting to look fabulous!

In the same breath, however, African women are unafraid to scalp it all off or keep it short, matter what anyone says! And I have seen some LOVELY young Nigerian women with scalp-short hair, exposing excellent cheekbones with enviable jaw lines.

While African women would do the Big Chop for more practical reasons, I believe, Black American women seem do it more often for more revolutionary reasons, fore mroe I Am Not My Hair reasons.

So you see, the BACKGROUND motivations are different when comparing perceptions to hair on the Continent and in the Diaspora. But I really do believe that no matter how you toss the coin, Black women EVERYWHERE have interesting relationships with our hair. It our crown and it will always be a topic for debate.

The Randomness said...

@udee you could not have said it any better! I was hoping to including something you missed but you covered all the bases lol. I am a Zimbabwean and I can attest to the same. Yes I would also just reiterate that we do EVERYTHING in Zimbabwe and we actually do it better, especially the braiding and that we really do our hair for grooming purposes as well as keeping with the trends as opposed to 'trying' to achieve a European look (I hope you understand what I mean). I have had long hair, short hair, weaved hair, braided hair, loc'ed hair, relaxed hair, permed hair (80's in high school lol), stretched hair (they call it hot combing in the US). I love that I can just wake up and chop it all off and absolutely love it and no I will not run to the store to get a wig. Yeah wigs - I failed....they are just too much work for me - I am always too consious wondering if it will fall off or if it has shifted around, etc.

This is an amazing blog by the way!!! Keep doing it!.