Of Dangerous Ponytails and Costly Hair

Let's talk about hair! I found this post on Refinery 29 about the perils of sourcing human hair. Traders scout women desperate enough to sell their hair for cheap to feed their family. Granted, some of these women are offered $100 per ponytail of hair on their head, and while that sounds like nothing, it's a lot in Vietnam and some of these women can even "retire" afterwards. The truth though is, it is seldom so straightforward with honest buyers empowering women. Apparently, what is more common is that this [unregulated] business (reportedly worth billions of dollars) opens up the opportunity for scammers and con artists who prey on desperate women, luring them to cut off their hair for a few dollars and then they sell the same hair to those of us in the Western world for exorbitant prices. What's worse? some of these hair brokers flood war-torn and conflict ridden countries to find these women. Women are attacked, rubbed at gunpoint, and violated for their hair. It's a problem and I implore you to read the entire article and maybe even go a little bit further to understand what exactly is happening.

It got me thinking too, and particularly something in that article stuck out:

"There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear someone else’s hair"

I wanted to puke. Like actually reading it out loud. Someone else's hair. On my head. See, I am a self-proclaimed germaphobic. I don't even like people touching me because I worry I don't know where their hands have been. I go over hand sanitizer like crazy. But I also wear hair extensions. I posted on Instagram stories, asking isn't it hypocritical of me? Why doesn't it gross you out that you have another person's hair on your head? Don't get me wrong, this is not about extensions in general. Because there are tons of hair extensions that aren't  actually human hair. Crochet hair, for instance is mostly synthetic; in fact some hair peddled as human hair, are not people's hair.  But...someone's actual hair?

What is more worrisome is that despite the injustice against the owners of this hair and proclivity for this business because its unregulated and opens up to violation, no one is boycotting it. But people (rightfully) boycott H&M and forever 21 because they expose factory workers to inhumane conditions. People boycott shea moisture and others. But not this industry. Now, I no longer boycott organizations and I explain why in another post.  However, the hair situation is one easy industry where we can say you know what, without a regulated system, we ain't buying jack. Because yes, it might be more expensive when it is regulated, but hell it's something we can do without..

But that's what fears me. What if we actually can't do without these weaves. What if we have been so conditioned to think out hair is just not good enough. What if we have finally accepted that European standards of beauty (longer, straighter the better) is indeed the hallmark of beauty? What is wrong with our own hair? Why do we need someone else's hair??

I know we always say we wear weaves because we can and not because we hate our own hair. But do we really?  I wear weaves too (I have drastically reduced it though) because truth is our hair is hard to manage and its always easy to put them in protective styles. But honestly, I am tired of conforming to the European/Western standards of beauty. So I am now turning to other means of protecting my hair like braids, crotchet locs (I see the actual, natural locs in my near future), and synthetic wigs. Of course again, when I wear the stupid wigs, they are mostly always straight. I am not judging or criticizing anyone here, I'm just really becoming uncomfortable with it.  I am increasingly becoming tired of human hair: the price, the ridiculous lengths UGH. And I wish we all were too. I wish it bothered us to have someone else's hair on our heads. At the very least, let's not contribute to a system that exploits disadvantaged women. If they willingly choose to sell their hair to empower themselves, then great. But how many are actually willing? And how many only do it because  conditions of hardships and systemic corruption have pushed them too. It truly is something to think about more and more. While embracing our natural hair is becoming more popular, it is not nearly mainstream enough. And yes, I know black women are not the only ones that wear extensions. I talked about that here. I also believe we can choose to wear our hair any which way and still be gorgeous. This is just something to think about.




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