Ma is not a bad person you hear ?!
This however, is another post in response to one of the many comments made by her, directed towards me.
At the birth of the new year (being 2015) suddenly and with great surprise, to both me and my sister due to it being relatively new and top of the range in hair styling technology, our flat iron broke. We went into crisis mode almost immediately, trying to figure out how we would tame the unruly mess atop our heads which we had been burdened with. Thus due to this event, began my journey of hair self-discovery, for the first time ever I learnt how to manage my hair in its natural state, how to maintain it nourish it and nurture it with the love it had been so cruelly deprived of for so many years.
However on a glorious day in summer, my grandmother set eyes on my voluminous, bouncy, curly, healthy tresses and spewed this remark – in Afrikaans of course.
“Maak jou hare reg ! Ek wiet ons het bad hare maar dit hoof nie om soe te lyk nie” – “Make your hair right ! I know we have bad hair, but it doesn’t have to look like that”
Now mind you, unlike my previous ‘Ma related post’, I did not defend my hair with a snarky remark I alternatively merely took the remark as her commenting on her own insecurities as a black woman, and trying to pass said insecurities down to me.
In every culture hair has its distinct meanings, in a general sense hair could be used as visible indicator of an individual’s: gender, social class, sexual orientation, political views, religion and at some times even age. In Black culture (around the world) however hair holds particular significance, as historically it was synonymous with education, heterosexual desirability and social class. These aspects have become so deeply embedded and entwined with the meaning of hair that it has become a valid indicator of education, heterosexual desirability and social class.
Now this could be problematic for the black community. The distinction between of what is known as ‘good hair’ and ‘bad hair’, like the gradation of skin tone, seems to separate black woman rather than unite them. Where women whom are ‘blessed’ with with good hair and typically have a lighter complexion are considered more beautiful. This preferential treatment of good hair can be traced all the way back to slavery, where individuals who had a smoother hair texture meant that they were most likely bi-racial and thus employed to work in less harsh conditions than individuals with ‘kinky hair’. As these ‘privileged’ individuals worked in such close proximity to their white masters a certain level of appearance and education was maintained.
Time has passed since the atrocious days of slavery, but ironically the hair preference has still not changed as the media images perpetuate a single beauty ideal. This single beauty ideal usually makes reference to the woman being white or as close to white as they possibly could be (given that they are ethnically different), the hair should be long and flowing and body should be in shape and not over weight in any way what so ever.
By media images maintaining this largely unattainable standard of beauty and media images being mass produced and consumed by all, it allows for the self image and esteem of women to be relatively low as well as teaching a whole group of people that they will never be considered beautiful. The only solution that could be employed to remedy the problem is to include all races and ethnicities in the mass media beauty images, this has been very prevalent in recent years where Black, European and Latin women have graced covers of magazines and been endorsed by advertisement campaigns.