No one has the power to tell you what to do with your hair.

My hair forms part of my identity whether I wear it in its natural state, relaxed, dreadlocked, braided or weaved. If it is on my head, it is mine. As a young black woman living in South Africa, I have had many dreadful experiences when it comes to the way I choose to wear my hair. People feel comfortable enough to comment on the way you wear your hair as if it is their concern.

What hurts the most is that black girls have to now bear the burden of rather racist rules enforced by their schools. Until last year, girls were told to chemically straighten their afros because it was considered untidy at Pretoria Girl’s high school. Another incident happened last month at Windsor House Academy, Kempton Park, where a group of girls were told to remove their braids because they were considered inappropriate.

The problem with these terms is that they are very subjective. One needs to know the basis of what is considered untidy or inappropriate in the code of conduct. Imagine hearing such terms about your hair every single day, and internalising them. This perpetuates self-hatred. The mere fact that girls are taken out of school to fix their hair when they should be learning is problematic.

These issues are deeply rooted in the apartheid system, because these are the codes of conduct in schools that were referred to as “Model C”. Therefore, the schools should have platforms that revise the codes of conduct, so that they are not exclusionary. Within these platforms there should be equal representation in terms of race so that rules are not borderline racist.

Having said all that, I still cannot fathom how braids can be considered inappropriate or afros untidy. It seems as if dismantling patriarchy is not enough, now we have to deal with having our hair policed

Hair politics even reaches into the work environment where black women with natural hairstyles are told their hair is not professional. They are, instead, encouraged to straighten their hair or to wear weaves or wigs.

I can’t grasp how my hair in its natural state is not good enough. I also don’t understand why someone thinks I do not like my hair in its natural kinky state when I am in a weave or braids. There are hair superiority complex issues among us women whereby one is deemed better because one chooses to wear one’s hair naturally. I can attest to this, because of the different ways I have been addressed when I have had different hairstyles.

Hashtags like #TeamNatural on social media can be used as a way to encourage women to proudly love their hair, however, that does not mean the next woman who chooses to wear her hair differently should be looked down upon. Changing my hairstyle does not necessarily change me. It is just a new look for the season. furthermore, there should be more social media campaigns that encourage women to love themselves regardless of what they have on their head.

It boils down to a matter of preference and one’s preference should not be of anyone’s concern except hers.

We need to do better as young black women, and not leave this battle to school children. This is one that transcends the school and should be addressed by the broader society.

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