When Going Natural Gets ‘Kinky’: Calling All Bleaching Police To Formation!

When Going Natural Gets ‘Kinky’: Calling All Bleaching Police To Formation!

For sometime now I have been battling with the question, what really is natural? Specifically for us black women, can the notion of “all natural” be p

Celebrating Leading Women In The Ghanaian Telecom And ICT Space
#VGMA2017: Don’t Be Too Quick To Blame Chaterhouse Yet!
There Are No “Small Wives”.

For sometime now I have been battling with the question, what really is natural? Specifically for us black women, can the notion of “all natural” be placed under any strictly laid-down definition? I just chanced upon Ghanaian songstress, MzVee’s ‘Natural Girl’ video and for the first time, I just noticed how extremely tricky the topic can get.

Her very first lines in the song goes, “Me no need another woman hair pon me to make me beautiful.” Later scenes touch on body size and then the almighty skin tone bias that prevails in societies with the slightest taint of color. All in all, to make this message an ultimate black girl power move, she features Ghanaian women of all types: slim, big, tall and short.

But notice the confusion: Black-skinned women with permed hair; those with neatly styled kinky hair, glowing black skins but heavily contoured makeup with noses airbrushed to look sleek like that of Madonna; and finally Black skinned women with hair extensions; all proclaiming to be natural girls.

This video complicated the issue for me even more. This confusion is probably responsible for my lackadaisical attitude towards the many anti-bleaching campaigns out there because somehow intuitively, I have always felt the varying approaches to the awareness were perhaps a bit problematic, inadequate, and somehow not targeting the issue at the core.

Some Religious Perspectives

According to some, people bleaching their skins is like telling God He made a mistake making them Black and thus, its a direct insult to God’s creativity. This is actually a fair argument, but for such religious zealots, I would only wish that they make this argument at all times and in all situations.

Here we are in a society that for long, has propagated everything about black culture as fetish, primitive and barbaric, largely through a Westernized Christian religious lens. Only a few decades ago, people with dreadlocks were not even allowed into many churches in Ghana. Growing up, people with kinky hair were seen as old-fashioned, social outcasts or in some cases, even uneducated. Let me also mention how kinky-phobic African hairdressers are.

So where and when is our naturalness a ‘blessing’ and when does it become a ‘curse’ that requires atonement? In any case, is someone with permed hair but in black skin not in the same soup? So we circle out bleaching and then in our permed and dyed hairs, in our heavy layered Brazilian weaves and Caucasian-looking Barbie faces in the name of makeup, we point fingers and condemn ladies (and some men) who in their quest for similar brainwashed beauty exploits go a step further to have it all?

We realize that Westernization has been ingrained in us so much that it is extremely difficult to draw a line between what is natural and what is not; what is acceptable and what is not; what is absolute and what needs reconstruction. Who gets to decide, and according to who’s rules?

The Health Concerns

skin bleaching_sankofareviews

There have been serious health concerns raised on this phenomena. But while they are again justified, it doesn’t make skin bleaching exclusive of other life-threatening beauty regimens available to Black women out there. Makeup is equally harmful (have you heard of lead poisoning from your lipsticks?); perming creams have been recently linked to fibroid in Black women; Oh and you think six layers of borrowed human hair under our high humid weather is any safer?

The social Implications

colorism

In all of this, we cannot downplay the immense contribution of adopted societal conventions to this phenomenon. I heard of a lady who worked as a front desk assistant at a hotel in Ghana who, after months of being pressured by her female boss to “do something about her hair,”  was finally laid off for apparently being too comfortable in her natural hair.

In our arts and entertainment industry, the preference of lighter skin tones is ever pervasive. I continue to assign the seemingly stagnant or rather retrogressing nature of our creative industry to this very criteria of “beauty” over talent. And let me quickly clarify that this beauty is largely clad in ‘Oyibo Wanna-beerism.’ Let’s loosely even talk about how our musicians have stopped fetishizing “Tuntum Bronyi” (Black-Skinned Women) and are now yearning for African women with “Tomato Skins.”

We make lighter women the lead characters in movies, fantasize about them in our music videos and push our girlfriends to tone their skins. Local beauty icons and celebrities hide their natural hair under weave caps in their lines of duty, red-carpet moments, and in major gigs.  This does not necessarily tell young women that black/natural isn’t beautiful, it only says it is not the best. How about a government that sits and watch on, as seemingly harmful chemicals are leisurely brought into the country  and continue to thrive as a viable business?

So long as we continue to perceive natural hair as problematic, unprofessional and needs relaxing, so far as our men have also been brainwashed into such foreign beauty standards and are actively and passively making these demands by the features they ridicule, opt for and prioritize in women; the passive-aggressive billboards are certainly not enough. It is not a women’s problem, it is a societal problem.

Real Talk

I do not raise these issues to downplay the many initiatives/platforms attempting to address the issue. Quite frankly, I am all for anything that causes women to be confident in themselves. As a woman who recently went natural (hair-wise) but still takes pleasure in other forms of beauty enhancement products like makeup, my only reason for still romanticizing an anti-bleaching campaign is due to how very short-lived, yet extremely permanent the ‘benefits’ of bleaching are. More so, I do acknowledge that Colorism is a worldwide phenomenon and we should definitely join forces even as we attempt to tackle it at the local level.

This article is only calling for re-strategizing and a thorough consideration of the many factors (subtle and visible) that somehow fosters/promotes such thinking in our women and in society at large. In plain language, this piece is making an argument that African women do not just get up and decide to engage in these dehumanizing ventures. As an African woman, you are by default born into a world where the notion of ‘beauty’ is defined elsewhere and brought to you. Skin bleaching then becomes one of the many options ‘recommended’ for African women in their quest to ‘belong’. You might opt for wig caps, others, light-colored eye contacts, for some it is all the above.

Let us first of all then, accept and name skin bleaching as one of the many symptoms of the psychological side effects of Internalized White Supremacy that governs our position as a third-world people. This then places skin bleaching into the same category as the prioritization of anything western over our own: language, food, social norms, etc. If this is the case, then the approach should be that of a collective deconstruction of mentalities and not judgment, condemnation nor ridicule.

Significantly, we should not circle out skin bleaching and overlook the other beauty regimens that seek to ‘insult’ our God-given nature as Black people and similarly do pose certain peculiar health risks as well. So when you talk about skin bleaching, talk about natural hair, talk about fake hair and how our young women are putting all their investments into how they look, while simultaneously doing the unimaginable, to be able to afford them. Talk about contouring, and how we are being lured in the name of ‘beauty enhancement’ to promote and endorse non-black features. All hands should be on deck: the government, employers, the creative industry, religious bodies, and health officials. The tone of our campaigns must be that of brotherly/sisterly love. After all, I cannot proclaim to myself in front of my mirror that “Black is beautiful” when everything else outside my room says otherwise.

In a sequel to this article, I lay out some suggested strategies that seek to move the  campaign beyond the fancy billboards, the photo-shopped images of proud black-skinned girls and the funny memes of bleached people on Facebook and other social media platforms. Watch out for it!

Disclaimer: All images used in this article are not the property of Sankofa Reviews. This article is also in no way directed at any specific initiative on this issue. 

Efe Plange

Efe Plange

Efe Plange is founder and editor of Sankofa Reviews. She holds a Master's degree in Rhetoric and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University. She is passionate about the Arts and Cultural industry and her background in the field is fueled by a longstanding dream of seeing theory work together with practice. Connect with Efe on social media.
Efe Plange
4.5
OVERALL SCORE
How did you like this?
1 user vote x 4.0

COMMENTS

WORDPRESS: 0
Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Hide Buttons