Written by Marietta Iyinbor
When will our ‘natural hair’ be considered professional in the work place? Naija, it is time you stopped discriminating against women in Afros. It’s our God-given hair. Stop stigmatizing us for it.
February 2019 will forever be a month to remember to the black community in New York. The city picked the perfect time -Black History Month- to release a statement that makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of hairstyle the workplace. Under the guidelines, residents have the right to have “natural hair, treated or untreated hairstyles such as braids, Bantu knots, locs, cornrows, twists, braids, fades, Afros, and/or the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” And any negative stigmatization they may face in a public place like work or school can be deemed racial discrimination.
After reading this I gave a silent applaud. However I was a bit ashamed.
Because why did it have to take for a law to made shielding a black woman and her hair from discrimination in the workplace to force companies to come to order?
Now, in Nigeria, it is advice to look neat in schools and in the workplace. Schoolgirls are asked to plait their hair and are punished should they come to school with unplaited hair. Women are encouraged to keep their hair packed up and/or straightened. Leaving your hair in it’s natural Afro state, is regarded as unruly and unkempt.
And hairstyles were broadly grouped into 2 types.
They were ‘Olowo’ meaning ‘hand-finished’ or ‘made with the hands’.
And Olowu which is a hairstyle ‘made with thread’.
Olowu which is a hairstyle ‘made with thread’.
In Olowo, the hair is parted with a long tail wooden comb into intricate patterns and then woven with fingers while black thread, made out of rubber or cotton material is always used in the Olowu hairstyles.
One can fully understand why hair should be worn in a neat hairstyle. Back in the old days, hairstyles are not just for beautification. They also serve other purposes and these can range from religious purposes, as a sign of identification, age, political power, ceremony, occupation or even to reflect the mood of the lady.
Hairstyles can also signify the marital status of a woman.
In Yorubaland and other parts of Nigeria, failure to properly groom the hair will be translated as a deviant, anti-social behavior or can even be taken to be a sign of illness or disease.
The hair is a very central point in Yoruba beliefs, humans are referred to as ‘Omo adarihurun’ meaning ‘the species that grows hair on its head’.
Extract from drbiggie.wordpress.com
Recently, there has been an increase in the numbers of women in Nigeria who are reverting to their natural state and wearing it with pride. Because of the toxic effects relaxers now have on hair, Nigerian women are choosing their health over vanity by not perming their hair and allowing it grow longer and healthy.
However the workplace has not been the same. Many women reported facing discrimination and insults hurled at them by their colleagues and bosses for daring to be ‘dirty’ by choosing to not relax their hair anymore.
In an Instagram post, @hairoflife reported the day she was asked by her boss to cut her hair or have it relaxed because it was looking ‘untidy’.
Adults aren’t the only ones who face exclusion because of our hair.
Children as young as 6 (and possibly even younger) have been suspended, expelled, banned or otherwise disciplined for their hairstyles for decades. Students at a South African school famously protested a dress code that deemed Afro puffs a violation. In December 2018, a high school wrestler in New Jersey, U.S was forced to either cut off his dreadlocks in the middle of a match or forfeit.
What’s it going to take for our ‘natural hair’ in it’s kinky tightly curls state to be seen as appropriate?
Will the discrimination stop when a law is passed? Is passing a law what needs to be done to protect a new generation of Nigerian Naturalistas?
Source Essence.com, DrBiggie.wordpress.com