Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

This is an oral which I recently did in my English class. It aims to make people aware of the power of perception. It also enlightens the audience on the hair challenges that African women face.

I am not beautiful. Yes you heard me, I am not beautiful. I say this because this is what I was made to believe as a young African woman. Through society and the media, I’ve been led to believe that being African is just not good or beautiful enough. Which brings me to my topic: African coarse hair.

I’m talking about the hair that has not been altered by hot combs, flat irons or chemicals. The hair that I, as an African woman, was born with. Scientists believe that this type of hair may have initially evolved because of an adaptive need. For protection against the intense UV radiation of Africa. Or because the relatively sparse density of Afro-hair, combined with its elastic helix shape, results in an airy effect which increases the circulation of cool air onto the scalp. This might have served to facilitate our hominid ancestors’ body-temperature regulation while they lived in the open savannah.

Woman with an afro

These are all good points, but they are points that do not matter in the world that we live in today.

Growing up, I have never failed to notice that my hair was somewhat different from the other races. I knew that society said that my natural hair was bad, and I believed them. Society and the media call it “bad hair” because it doesn’t move, it doesn’t shine, it doesn’t do what the lady’s hair on TV does. Every few months I would beg my mom to buy me a relaxer and I would leave it on for as long as my poor scalp could bear. Why? Because I was and still am driven by the painful need to conform to the dominant values of society. Conforming, but yet not knowing that I’m weighing my image on a society that has a twisted view on beauty.

A young African woman doesn’t get her dream job because society says that dreadlocks are not suitable for the corporate environment. A woman with an afro notices her client’s facial expression as she walks into the boardroom. She becomes insecure and messes up her whole presentation. Since perception is a powerful tool, incidents like these are rapidly becoming a reality that African women face.

This has led to black women spending thousands annually on hair products. They have become hopeless captives of the beauty industry which has skilfully fed them with fantasies of physical glitter and social glamour and has turned them into mammoth profits. Manufacturers tell them that their hair is the path to success and self-esteem. This has led to women making their hair their priority and sometimes going to drastic measures for the sake of their hair. This has seen the rise to phrases such as, ‘Suffer for your beauty’, which helps them focus on the light at the end of the tunnel.

Others, though, might argue that they use extensions or weaves because they are easier to manage comparing to their natural hair. Whatever the reason, the stigma behind African hair still exists.

African coarse hair is just one of the many things that society and the media perceive as not forming the ideal package of beauty. But quite often we forget that what is perceived is not always the truth. Which brings me to say, “Perhaps I am beautiful, it’s just that perception has made you think otherwise.”

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2 thoughts on “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  1. My mom forced me to relax my hair hair because she hated my hair texture, it was too coarse and it was just ugly to her.But I love my afro, ive stopped relaxing my hair and going all natural. I love my natural hair!

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