“Men who have long hair are a disgrace. Women with long hair are beautiful. Long hair is a woman’s crown of glory…” So go the words of the Apostle Paul in a letter to a church in Corinth.
Some theologians have argued that Paul’s words were said not to marginalise women, but to encourage them to separate themselves from being identified along with the prostitutes of the city. Others have dismissed his statement as chauvinist advice meant to advance the standing of men in the Christian church.
Either way, Paul’s letter reveals some attitudes that people have towards certain hairstyles.
You see, some hairdos are associated with certain behaviour because in many social groups, a specific hairstyle is required in order to be considered a part of the group, or to create a sense of solidarity amongst members.
For some people, such as my good friend Mathabo Tlali, hair is a way of making sure they are not considered part of a certain group.
“I was debating with myself about how I feel enslaved by societies view of ‘beauty’, and began to question why I’m not confident when I have natural hair as opposed to having a weave or anything that’s not ‘naturally me’,” Tlali says.
Growing up, her mother was the sole chooser of her hairstyles, but with age she began to realise that for her, beauty did not have to just be a weave or relaxed hair.
“I began loathing that superficial notion,” she explains. Tlali has a natural crop and maintains that for her, changing her hairstyle was a freeing process.
My afro is an expression of the decision that I’ve made to embrace a different kind of beauty. To stand outside of people’s expectations and look to God for my mandate. Being different often scares us because stepping out of the norm is risky. But we must step out, we must be true to who we are.
Some days I am that girl on campus with the lopsided afro, walking around looking like Frumpy Fred, and I’m still happier than ever. At that moment I smile because I’ve chosen to embrace who I am, flaws and all.
And so to add to the lessons that my hair has taught me, I must say: I am dark. I stand out. I am not always accepted. I am an Afro, and I am beautiful, either way.
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (King James Version)