It has been called the richest ornament of a woman. In some cultures, it is still a decisive factor when getting a woman for a bride. So when a woman decides to shave her head, it is not just personal perceptions that are triggered but also society’s perception about beauty. While some or most may think of it as the end of a dating life and others may bring about the idea of insecurity and body issue, a lot of these women cut their hair to make a powerful statement that says their hair do not define who they are. Aside from personal motivations and statements, tradition and culture in several parts of the globe play a role in baldness on women. Beauty traditions have anchored themselves in the power structures of the societies. They manifest in for time immemorial whether they reflect gender roles, racial status or some other identifier. Their ultimate roots can be traced to the pragmatic circumstances a society grapples with on personal and organizational levels; and their ties to the relevant group allocation in the societies’ division of labor structure. In early European cultures, long hair owing to their proximity to threatening cold and inhospitable climate, were tied to both men and women to separate themselves from threatening cold. The sustenance of healthy hair was not simply a statement; but a practical protective mechanism from the time of early European ancestors leaving Africa to the periods surrounding the formation of early modern cities which gathered people in thin approximation of the density of even minor cities today but lacked all but the must-have fundamental comforts.
As populations grew and people began to live in closer and more sustained proximity, hygiene became more of a concern, as populations threatened themselves with the potential for devastating epidemics. As division of labor grew, specializations given to the non-child bearing members of these cultures continued to spread through organized warfare and semi mechanized production rendering long hair more than in issue of sanitation but a pure physical liability prone to capture bones tools, one’s enemies or one’s unyielding machines. It is arguable that long hairs association with feminine beautician be traced to a divergence away from matriarchal cultures centered on family and towards mechanized world view. Short hair became synonymous with masculinity as men grappled with environments that no longer permitted the luxury of a cumbersome and threatening mane. As women remained in a position within the family older than the action now taken by men, those women of a certain privilege, began to use their hair as a symbol of privilege, in order to avoid the tasks now viewed as critical, tasks that were often performed by men, by servants or by slaves.
As epidemics raced across the landscape close cut hair became necessary to prevent lice and infections from migrating through close quarters often occupied by societies’ lesser members. But by displaying long hair, the privileged women were able to afford insulation from the threats that others had to tackle head on. In Africa, life has always been quite different. Cultures living in close proximity for thousands of years independently developed divergent strategies on how to helpfully co-exist. Blessed with different climactic conditions and heads closer to the earth, Africa’s many cultures have shamelessly embraced the human form as an extension of nature without informed pretext, or as a rigid gender based aesthetic boundaries. The preciousness of water has long been realized in its desert cultures. Africans pragmatic relationship with the land has rendered them clear of binding traditions that divorce themselves from the land or pose artificial constraints for their ability to connect with it or with one another.
When Africans enter Western cultures, they do so with backgrounds tempered under vastly different circumstances than their European counterparts. Cultures influenced by European systems are often enforced values and aesthetics developed outside relevant current context and wound in different basic physical assumptions. When long flowing hair is valued, and the source of these values become obscured by history, the socially accepted notion of beautician take on a perverse and styling twist. When the arraign of these traditions become lost and replaced by the lazy and unsophisticated notion of the normal, while people whose cultures present different paths are rendered abnormal. Moreover, people’s cultures with different physical realities are often forcibly rendered abnormal, and it is into this context that we examine the woman bald. In some cultures and traditions within and outside Africa, going bald has been and is seen a monumental step into adulthood, spiritual enlightenment and a sign of strength in various ethnic groups. Now, it is not only a mark of transition in tradition but a transition to freedom. Freedom to be whoever she sees and wishes herself to be. Freedom to love her flaws and imperfections and freedom to give an edge to that which is we call fashion. The woman who looks at these conditions and stakes her own claim to her aesthetic self, whether it be informed by a conscious acceptance of her cultural heritage or her rational pursuit of elegant simplicity, we examine the woman who leaves behind the expectation that she displays the flowing locks of Eurocentric hair. We salute the woman who walks through the world without the insulation of a status based mane to shield herself from the purity of her essential form.