Hiding Behind the Hair

by Shushana Vignier

Black women outspend other women by a factor of two to six times (depending on which source you believe) when it comes to hair care.  While we represent less than 10% of the population, we spend most of the money spent on hair care in this country.  A black woman will take care of her hair- no matter what the cost. Hair care is deeply embedded in our culture as India.Arie so eloquently described in “I Am Not My Hair”.  This is tremendous spending power that is being spent largely outside of our community.  The vast majority of the money spent by black women on their hair is going to large white-owned corporations, and to Asians who have effectively cornered the market on distribution and retail of black hair care products.  As a black owned company servicing the black community, this is something we are obviously interested in and concerned about.  How did things get this way?  Is there anything we can do about it?  Should we do something about it?  Why should you even care?  (excerpt taken from http://www.treasuredlocks.com/black-hair-care-industry.html)

So it should come as no surprise that since I have made the very bold decision of cutting my hair before the start of 2011 into a Halle Berry pixie cut from it’s more than ½ way down my back state despite the fact that I am donating my hair to Locks for Love and in many ways it will be a therapeutic breakthrough as I admonish that nine year old girl who se hair was being cut against her will…that nine year old girl who once felt ugly and disgusting is finally growing into a beautiful nearly thirty two year old butterfly. In addition, to the mixed feelings of friends who may admire my long tresses the question that is most frequently followed once I deliver this news is, “Joe is going to let you cut your hair?” In my mind I am saying what the fuck, I am his wife not his own personal property. I mean it has been almost eight years in the balmy haze of the Bahamas which we got married, but I am pretty sure I can’t recall the Bahamian accented minister in the tacky stained checkered suit did not say, “Should you desire to cut your hair you must have the permission of your husband. Should you disobey his wishes it will be grounds for divorce / give him permission to ogle at women with long hair and or engage in a extra marital affair with a woman with long hair and/or express his vehement views about you cutting your hair. “

I must admit that I have grappled with the idea of cutting my hair for a very long time, but I have always been under the impression that men love long hair (which brings me to another point that I will come back to later if someone truly does love you then should stretch marks matter, scars, etc), so if this then is true why is it that just the very iconic beauty Halle Berry that my new hairdo will be fashioned after could bring a man to their knees?

Perhaps it lies within the concept of hiding behind the hair. Hair can create a façade. When a woman can carry off a super short do it is a testament of both her external and internal beauty because the mask of hair to hide behind is no longer there.  Every feature that God sculpted as her own unique masterpiece comes forth…her eyes, her freckles, her smile, her lips etc.

Moreover, I feel that hair can be a mechanism of control. Somehow as I prepare myself for cutting my hair the long hair of my ancestors being pulled by slave masters as black women/young girls when they were beaten and raped and treated as property stirs a feeling of empowerment in me.

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