Couch Kitten: Public hair vs pubic hair

08 March 2020
Author   Clementine Tjameya
It seems to me that black women have two vaginas. There is her real one and then there is her kinky hair. Don’t be shocked, I am just telling it as I see it.
  I learned this by observing closely, and having grown up in a community where black women are made to hide the hair on their heads as much as they hide their pubic hair, I made my conclusion: we have two vaginas.  
I wasn’t sure if my conclusion was true until I came to varsity. In my first year I made friends with a girl who proved my conclusion right. I’ve known her for three years now and I have never seen her with her natural hair in public. And, I noticed so many women just like her.
She always has either braids or extensions for months. As soon as she removes them, she comes racing to me and begs me to braid her hair straight away.  She always wears a scarf for fear of her natural hair being seen. One day I asked her why she is so determined to hide her hair. She took off her scarf dramatically and pulled at her thick and healthy shock of tangled black hair, “Look at all this kinkiness! My hair is my second vagina. You don’t see me showing my private parts in public either, do you?”
She had me cracking up with laughter.  However, her rather dramatic point of view about her public hair vs her pubic hair made me realise how we black women are made to feel that we can only look good if our hair meets other people’s standard of beauty.  We walk around hiding our natural hair and hating our natural growth (or lack thereof) as if it is something ‘bad’ that must be hidden.  We have been conditioned and taught what is ‘beautiful’ and it is not what we see in the mirror when our braids or extensions are out.  It’s almost as if a glance of our natural hair will cast a spell of blindness upon the whole world.
Many black women do not treat their hair differently than they treat their private parts – they hide it away as if it is wrong in society to be exposed.  I think this is deeply rooted in ‘hair discrimination’ and self-loathing.
Back in the eighties and before, natural black hair was considered unprofessional, unclean and unattractive. Black women had to chemically straighten their hair with relaxers or press it with hot combs. They were not allowed to go to work with their natural hair because it was considered poor grooming. 
Images in magazines, movies and on TV always had ‘pretty’ and ‘smart’ women with coiffed, styled hair.  Those with kinky, unkempt locks were addicts, impoverished, or desperate.  Black women bought into those negative pictures about our natural black hair. We don’t like something that is a true part of ourselves and that is sad.
I don’t know about other women, but I personally love when my hair is free. I don’t care if it’s too kinky. I want to have it out and take pride in it. As a student there are days I barely have time for myself, especially when I have tests and assignments piling up. I usually braid my natural hair when I have a lot of work at school. But on days that I am mostly free, I leave my air in a high bun. Sometimes, I have gone for about a month with a high bun. It felt liberating.  I felt nice until a self-important guy from my class decided to offer his unsolicited opinions and said: “Are you really going natural or are you just broke?”
I didn’t know how to reply. I was just amazed about how people expect black women to always hide their real hair. Why should I not take pride in my God-given nappy curls?
Why do people just look at someone with a hair weave and think, “she has cash?” Do they look at someone who has their natural hair out in full view and think “her bank account must be drier than the Namib”? When did extensions and braids become a sign of financial well-being?  Why do we allow that kind of self-hatred thinking to continue? 
We should be proud of our hair. To all the natural haired ladies out there, too much of braids and extensions could be imprisonment for your hair.  Stop treating your hair like a private part. Let loose, show it all and walk tall!


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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