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78 Seiten, Note: B+
Table of contents
List of tables
CHAPTER ONE - INTRODUCION
1.2 Background of the research
1.3 Statement of the research problem
1.4 Objectives of the research
1.5 Research questions
1.6 Significance of research
1.7 Scope and limitations of research
1.8 Organization of research
CHAPTER TWO - LITERATURE REVIEW
2.2 Pre-Colonial era
2.3 Colonization and Slavery era
2.6 MTV era
2.7 Where we are now
2.8 Glocalization of literature review
CHAPTER THREE - METHODOLOGY
3.2 Research design
3.3 Population and sample
3.4 Data sources
3.5 Data collection tools
3.6 Data analysis
CHAPTER FOUR - DATA PRESENTATION, ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
4.2 Data presentation and analysis
CHAPTER FIVE - SUMMARY, CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS
APPENDIX I: DEFINITION OF WORDS
APPENDIX II: QUESTIONNAIRE
APPENDIX III: HAIR
Picture 1: OPTIONS PROVIDED AS PART OF QUESTION
Picture 2: THE BLACK HAIR JOURNEY
APPENDIX IV: References
A woman’s hair is said to be her crowning glory, yet girls in Government operated junior and senior high schools in Ghana are not permitted to wear their (natural) hair long. The strict hair rule for young girls in school is that it must be kept short. This policy applies to only Ghanaian girls and does not extend to their Caucasian classmates. This research investigates the views, opinions, attitudes and feelings of young girls in senior high school in Accra. The quantitative method was used in conducting the research and thus the research tool employed in gathering the data was a self-administering questionnaire distributed to 60 respondents. In analyzing the data, both the qualitative and quantitative data analysis procedures were used. The research found that many girls are aware of the official reasons authorities cite for not permitting long hair to be worn to school and although a very tiny percentage of the respondents agree with the short hair policy, the majority of respondents do not. Overall, respondents expressed negative feelings about themselves as a result of not being permitted to grow their hair. The recommendation therefore is that young girls in Ghana should be permitted to wear their natural hair long to school, in basic hairstyles such as a ponytails and cornrows.
To my sister, sons, granddaughter and all members of my family. Here’s to celebrating love.
To Joyce, Fola and Deepa. Here’s to celebrating the last (& next) 40 years of genuine friendship.
To all Black women who wear their hair natural. Here’s to celebrating acceptance of your true self and refusal to conform to Western standards of beauty.
To Ebony Reigns. 16 February 1997 - 8 February 2018 RIP. Here’s to celebrating life. In the short time you came, you not only saw but also conquered, whilst rocking your natural hair. May the Ancestors embrace you.
To my classmates (MA Development Communication weekend class). Here’s to celebrating knowledge and success.
Thank you God for it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. It’s all part of life’s experiences.
Thank you Dean, Vice Dean, Professors, Lecturers and entire team at Ghana Institute of Journalism.
Thank you Kwadwo Odame Anti and my fellow appointees at the tourism sector. Indeed, sometimes when life gives you lemons, the temptation to stay bitter is strong. But real strength comes from turning those lemons into sweet lemonade. In February 2017, I was appointed by H.E President Nana Akufo-Addo as the Deputy CEO at the Ghana Tourist Development Company. As luck would have it, the appointed CEO, Kwadwo Odame Anti had no interest in working with me and as a result from day 1, I was ignored and sidelined by him and the other appointees. With no official tasks or duties to perform, I found I had time on my hands to study. Therefore I would like to thank Kwadwo Odame Anti for giving me the lemons. It turned out to be very sweet. For had it not been for him leaving me bored and unoccupied in the office, I may not have had the time to study. In everything, give thanks.
This chapter starts with background information of the research and includes the following
- statement of the problem, objectives of the research, research questions, significance of research, scope and limitations of research and ends with organization of the research report.
More than 23 years after graduating from university with my first degree, I found myself back in the lecture room, this time pursuing an MA in Development Communications. As part of the course, I am to submit a dissertation. My first thought was “great, now I can do some research on hair”. But then I asked myself, isn’t that too shallow? Of all the issues I could possibly conduct research into, why am I taking on something as shallow as how Black women and girls wear their hair? In that same breath, I had to remind myself that hair, far from being shallow is actually a very political issue, “to wear natural Black hair is a political act within itself, since depending on the environment such hair may be deemed socially and politically unacceptable,” (Johnson and Bankhead, 2014:90).
In a 2017 report by Shamara Lawrence, published in Teen Vogue magazine, Lawrence writes that “for black women across the African Diaspora, the choice of how one wears their hair is at times more than simply a personal choice. Often, it’s rife with social and political implications that can have a profound impact on all aspects of one’s life. Historically, narrow European-centric beauty standards have deemed black women’s natural features as unattractive and unprofessional, especially their textured, curly to kinky hair. These restrictive ideals have left black women in a compromised position, having to adhere to certain societal norms for the sake of upward mobility, whether that’s getting ahead professionally or fitting in a myriad of social environments such as school. And as we’ve seen countless times, they are sometimes punished or shamed if they choose to do otherwise, as with the case at Pretoria Girls High School in South Africa, whose discriminatory code of conduct sparked protests from its pupils last year due to its language that implied afro-textured hair is messy,” (Shamara Lawrence, 2017)
To quote internationally acclaimed Nigerian writer Chimamanda Nzozi Adichie “I think hair is a big issue; I absolutely do. Black women’s hair in particular. People can write books about baseball and people can intellectualize the discussion around baseball. So if you can do that, why not Black women’s hair, which has a history, which has political meaning, which is so deeply layered, and which I think the world doesn’t know enough about? Which is why when a woman wears her hair a certain way, she’s considered unprofessional …she can’t work in consulting in New York City,” (Interviews on various platforms such as BBC news, Channel Four news and CNN).
Today, the world we live in is fast merging and molding into one big Global Village as technology and social media in particular, quicken communication between people. As a result of this globalization and despite the fact each country / race of people have their own cultural norms, acceptances, taboos and practices, American culture has become the dominate culture across parts of the world. Critics such as Paul Hirst, Graham Thompson and Held and McGrew argue that globalization is “Americanization” of the world. Sociologist Giddens refers to globalization as “influence from a distance”. Many critics of globalization will argue that it is a form of Cultural Imperialism whereby American values, cultures, ways of life, beliefs, practices, acceptances, taboos and norms dominate less developed or developing countries. For example, with just one click of a button, people in Ghana can have direct access to fashion in America and in order not to be left out of the global trends, some Ghanaians follow what they see coming out of America.
For the past 10 years, the hair fashion coming out of America has been the weave. Through music videos, movies, advertising, modeling and television, America has successfully managed to convince huge numbers of Black women from all corners of the world that for them to be considered beautiful, they must wear artificial, long, straight or wavy hair that resembles the hair of a Caucasian. Unfortunately, this portrayal and acceptance of only straight or wavy Caucasian type hair as being more beautiful than hair styled in its natural state did not begin today. In a commentary for CNN, posted on the CNN website on 23rd July 2008 (Online article 3), entitled ‘Why It Matters How Black Women Wear Their Hair’, New York correspondent for USA Today and former staff writer for the New York Times, Charisse Jones said “as much as I was Black, I was also American and a girl who wanted to be called pretty and in the 1970s, I knew that to be cute you were supposed to have long, lustrous hair. Historically, long, straight tresses, along with pale, white skin, defined beauty in the United States. Black women, our complexions the hues of a cocoa rainbow and our hair often kinky and short, didn't fit the Eurocentric ideal and we were made to feel less soft, less lovely, less womanly.”
When Black women are not wearing a wig, wigcap or weave, the other alternatives that allow them to have straight hair are to either process / perm/ relax the hair with chemicals or use a hot comb. According to Lynch (2017) who produced an exhibition on the history of Black hair at Liverpool, United Kingdom “Black people felt compelled to smoothen their hair and texture to fit in easier and to move in society better and in camouflage almost.” He notices further that "men and women would put their hair in a hot chemical mixture that would almost burn their scalp, so they could comb it back and make it look more European and silky." Johnson and Bankhead (2014:90) observe that “the often taken choice to straighten natural Black hair has clear historic and psychological underpinnings”. Yet each race was created with their own unique features. And one of the features of Black people who are not of mixed heritage is their hair. The hair of Black people with 100% Black blood tends to hair grows upwards. Natural hair for the Black person who is not mixed race is not naturally straight, nor does it fall downwards. According to Lynch (2017) “many believed that hair, given its close location to the skies, was the conduit for spiritual interaction with God."
Although natural hair can be held down or styled to flow down through plaiting / braiding, twisting, putting it into (dread) locs or threading, Black people’s hair in its natural state will rare flows down our backs, naturally. Despite this biological fact and for a very long time, Black people have been convinced to believe that having fine straight cascading hair will make them more attractive, desirable, accepted, appropriate in appearance and also be considered more qualified to fit into the workplace.
When describing Black hair, words such as “kinky”, “nappy” and “coarse” are used by everyone, such as Black women, hairdressers, fashion magazines, mothers and daughters. Everyone uses such words to describe Black people’s hair and it is accepted as being okay to do so. Johnson and Bankhead (2017) however argue that the words used to describe Black people’s hair are “pejorative” and cite “peppercorn” “woolly” and “matted” as examples (Johnson and Bankhead, 2017:88). Hagro (2011:8) also points out in her research that Black hair “is tightly coiled, and often described as nappy or kinky. Both terms, however; carry a double meaning. The word nappy is used disparagingly. Kinky is a term used to described sexual deviance. Don Imus famously referred to the collegiate women’s basketball team as nappy headed hoes. This comment was derogatory and only fueled the prevalent belief that nappy hair is undesirable. Why is kinky hair such a problem? What is the big deal?”
In describing Black people’s hair, four main types have been identified by Oprah Winfrey’s hair stylist, Andre Walker. Type 1 which is straight. Type 2 which is wavy. Type 3 is curly and type 4 is coily or kinky. Within each of these four types of hair, there are also subtypes ranging from A to C, with A being the finest version of that particular hair type and C the worst. Today, when discussing the type of hair Black people have, this categorization is the yardstick used. And the definition of beautiful hair is type 1A. Type 4C is considered the worse type of hair to have as it is hard and kinky. Yet for many Black people type 4 hair is the norm. In order to attain the type 1A hair they aspire to have, Black women choose to use chemicals to straighten their hair or more recently wear wigs, wigcaps and weaves.
Historically, hair played a huge part in African culture. The co-author of Hair Story, a book about the history of Black people’s hair uses the Wolof tribe of present day Senegal and The Gambia to demonstrate the historical role of hair “when men from the Wolof tribe… went to war they wore a braided style. While a woman in mourning would either not "do" her hair or adopt a subdued style,” (Rumeana Jahangir). Johnson and Bankhead (2014) also cite the 12th / 13th century Senegal as an example of how young girls wore their hair and its significance “a young Wolof girl would partially shave her head to point out that she was not of the marrying age.”
Today in Ghana, young girls also wear short hair, but for a different reason. According to school authorities, young girls are not permitted to wear their natural hair long to school because natural hair is unmanageable, messy and will make them look unkempt. School authorities also believe that by allowing young girls to keep their natural hair long whilst in school, the girls will be distracted from their books and studies. Furthermore, authorities argue that by permitting young girls to attend school with short hair only, they are ensuring that these girls do not attract male attention, either from their classmates or male teachers.
Although the policy for girls to wear short hair is not an official policy from the Ghana Education Service, it has become a compulsory policy in some schools across Ghana. In an informal conversation with Madam Joyce Ayree (Ghana Chamber of Commerce and Salt and Light Ministries) several years ago, she revealed to me that she was the initiator of this concept because she feels young girls look better with short hair. She further said she believes both girls and boys will focus more on their studies as girls with short hair do not attract male attention. A former Director of Ghana Education Service, Mr. Nsowah Adjei, speaking on an Accra based radio station Citi FM’s breakfast show, confirmed that there is no official policy on the length of hair young girls can wear to school and acknowledged it has become a decision that each school makes on its own accord, with no directive from the Ghana Education Service, “for many of the schools and also for economic reasons, they will prefer that the students don’t waste too much time going to expensive salons so they advise that the students keep their hair low so they can concentrate on their studies and it has become a norm.” He went on to say some schools allow girls to braid cornrows with extensions.
Although not an official policy deriving from the Ghana Education Service, the rule that young girls must wear short hair to school has become an official policy of most government and public schools in Ghana. As a result, young girls who attend these schools are not permitted to grow their hair whilst in school. The hair policy in these institutions is strictly short hair. Yet a woman’s hair is her crowning glory. Aside that, there is the fact that girls in private schools in Ghana who wear their hair long excel. Globally, girls in different types of educational establishments are allowed to wear their hair long to school without any negative effect on their performance in class or in examinations.
Black people’s natural hair is versatile and allows for a variety of styles, using both the natural hair itself and/or adding pieces to the natural hair to create artistic, creative and elaborate looking hairstyles. With so many young girls not being permitted to wear their natural hair long until they reach university, three things could happen. First, young girls may grow up believing and falling into the beauty myth that wearing long fake silky Caucasian hair which runs down their backs is more beautiful than their own natural hair. Second, young girls will be convinced that only by wearing fake hair will they be perceived as more attractive in society and accepted in the workplace. Third, the art of braiding, plaiting and maintaining African hair in exquisite and creative styles may be lost.
In spite of the current global discussions on Black hair, not much research has been conducted within the Ghanaian context. For this reason, relevant data in this area are scanty. It is against this background that this research seeks to collect and analyze data on “Girls’ perception of keeping short hair in school” with particular reference to girls in Labone Senior High School.
The general objective of the research is to examine girls’ perception of keeping short hair in school with particular reference to girls in Labone Senior High School. The specific objectives are:
1. To discover the thoughts and feelings of girls in Labone Senior High School on the policy that girls in Junior and Senior High School in Ghana must keep their hair short.
2. To ascertain how girls in Labone Senior High School wish to keep their hair.
With young girls in Ghana being permitted to wear only hair short whilst at the pre-tertiary level of their education and older women opting for weaves and wigs, this study seeks to answer the following questions:
1. Are female students of Labone Senior High School aware and knowledgeable about the official reasons why they are not permitted to wear long hair to school?
2. Would female students in Labone Senior High School like to be permitted to wear their natural hair long to school?
3. Do female students of Labone Senior High School prefer natural or fake hair and if given the choice, what would they choose?
4. Can female students of Labone Senior High School do a basic hairstyle such as cornrow?
This research will be significant in the following ways:
1. In Ghana today, a girl or woman who chooses to wear her hair in its natural state is labelled by society as a rebel or a bad girl and although more girls are going natural, the perception that natural hair is not attractive, nor is it acceptable at the workplace keeps being perpetuated and reinforced. It is thus the aim of this research to open the Ghanaian floodgates for conversations which is hoped will lead to a change in attitudes and perceptions about natural hair which in turn will lead to the acceptance of natural hair as the norm.
2. Many decisions that influence policies affecting young people are taken without their consideration. If this research discovers that young girls in Junior and Senior High School would like to wear their own natural hair long to school it could lead to a change in policy whereby they may be allowed to do so. Thus it is hoped this research will document and archive the importance of involving all affected parties and stakeholders in relevant decision-making processes.
3. Cultural Imperialism and having an inferiority complex often go hand in hand and can have an unbalanced and devastating effect on the relationship between developing countries and countries from the West. This has an adverse effect on areas such as conditionalities attached to trade deals and loans and grants granted towards developmental projects and programmes. This research will be significant as it will reveal how young girls feel about themselves, in comparison to Caucasian classmates who are permitted to wear their long silky hair to school.
4. The findings of the research will also add to existing knowledge.
5. The final research report will become a document for stakeholders, researchers, lecturers, students and interested individuals.
This research was limited to 26 female students of Labone Senior High School. Labone Senior High School was selected because of its easy accessibility and all round good reputation.
To obtain a true reflection of the thoughts, views, feelings and opinions of young girls in high school in Ghana about the policy for them to keep their hair short, the ideal situation would be to interview thousands of students, nationwide. However, time and resources were my limitations. Another limitation I had was that with the end of term exams fast approaching students at Labone Senior High School had to prepare by focusing on their revision thus though more than 50 questionnaires were distributed, 24 of those were not returned because exams were swiftly followed by the end of term which led to students leaving campus.
This research is organized in the following ways:
Chapter One covers: Background of Research, Statement of Problem, Objectives of Research, Significance of Research, Scope and Limitations of Research and Organization of Research.
Chapter Two contains: Literature Review which focuses on past research on Black hair.
Chapter 3 discusses: Research Design, Research population, Sample Size and Sampling Techniques, Sources of Data and Instruments used, Data Collection Process, Data Presentation and Analysis
Chapter 4 presents: Data Presentation, Analysis and Discussion
Chapter 5: Summary, Conclusion and Suggestions
This chapter of research focuses on works of other researchers. Most of the research was conducted via the internet because of the challenge of sourcing relevant literature in Ghana and because of convenience and accessibility.
Whilst conducting research for the literature review, it became clear that there is very little research coming out of Ghana and Africa that investigates the relationship between the Black girl and woman and her hair. Most of the available literature I discovered during my search is research conducted by African-Americans mostly in America with one or two studies coming out of South Africa and Zimbabwe. In America, research investigating the relationship between Black girls and women is in abundance and covers diverse areas such as the factors that affect Black women’s hair choices and the relationship between exercise and natural hair.
Unfortunately, the information I sourced is not directly or specifically related to my dissertation topic, i.e. the relationship between young girls in Ghana and their hair.
Regardless, the literature reviewed for the purpose of this research proved to be beneficial as it provided an invaluable wealth of information, plus insight into and background accounts on the politics of Black people choosing to wear their own God-given natural hair. The literature reviewed put into perspective the journey of cultural imperialism through the subjugation and oppression of Black hair.
This literature review thus critically examines literature and scholarly research which investigates the historical, political, cultural and social significance of hair for Black people and takes the reader on a journey that details the factors that affect the relationship between Black women and their hair.
The literature review is presented era by era, namely Pre-Colonial Era, Colonization and Slavery Era, Freedom Era, Emancipation Era, MTV Era, Where We Are Now.
Historically and culturally hair for the African was considered as a symbol that represented background information about factors such as an individual’s tribe, social status, beliefs, religion, marital status, age and traditions. According to White and White (1995:50) “In African cultures, the grooming and styling of hair have long since been important social rituals. Elaborate hair designs, reflecting tribal affiliation, status, sex, age, occupation and the like were common. The cutting, shaping, wrapping and braiding of hair were centuries- old art. In part, it was the texture of African hair that allowed these cultural practices to develop”. Hair for the Black person was very spiritual and was also believed to have a direct connection to God (as it flowed upwards). “Throughout the ages, from the Ancient Nile Valley civilizations to the movement West and the establishment of Western African empires, hair has maintained a spiritual, social, cultural and aesthetic significance in the lives of African people. Historically, hair has held significant roles in traditional African societies, including being a part of the language and communication system. For instance, during the 15th century, African people such as the Wolof, Mende, Mandingo and Yoruba used hairstyles as means to carry messages. One of the unique features of African textured hair is its ability to be sculpted and molded into various shapes and forms. Hence, while hair may play an important role in the lives of people of all races, for people of African descent, this role is amplified due to the unique nature and texture of Black hair. Since antiquity, Black hairstyles have been known for their complexity and multifaceted nature, a notion that remains true today,” (Johnson and Bankhead, 2014).
Before being colonialized, hair was a thing of pride for Africans and held a historical and cultural significance to the wearer. As quoted from the research by Brewington and Shamasunder (2013:14) "across the African Continent, the hair’s value and worth were heightened by its spiritual qualities…the hair was the closest thing to the heavens, communications from the gods and spirits was thought to pass through the hair to get to the soul”. Not just the wearer, but the person charged with doing the hair also held in high esteem their role / duty. Prior to the establishments of hair salons and people visiting professional hairstylists to have their hair done, women in pre-colonial African took pride in being able to do their own and other people’s hair. Doing hair and having your hair done was quality time spent between female members of the family. Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters, female cousins all knew how to maintain each other’s hair. Hair maintenance during this era was based around the concept of “do for me, I do for you” and taught people how to give and take. Having the hair done was an activity that could involve many female relatives. It could take all day and was a time for elder women to pass on advice and pearls of wisdom to their younger female relatives. From an early age, girls were exposed to the art of doing African hair and knew how to maintain their own natural hair. Keeping and wearing African hair was part of the identity and everyday life of the African girl and woman.
With the onslaught of slavery, pride in wearing and significance of maintaining natural hair was slowly erased in several ways - firstly, by shaving off the hair of captured Africans, thus stripping them of their identity. Research by Johnson and Bankhead (2014:87-88) revealed that “Europeans, who had long traded and communicated with Africans, knew the complexity and significance of Black hair. They were often struck by the various hairstyles that they saw within each community. In an effort to dehumanize and break the African spirit, Europeans shaved the heads of enslaved Africans upon arrival to the Americas. This was not merely a random act, but rather a symbolic removal of African culture. The shaving of the hair represented a removal of any trace of African identity and further acted to dehumanize Africans coming to the Americas in bondage.
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