The Motley News

Relaxing in Ghana

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I saw this YouTube ad yesterday for Dark and Lovely boxed relaxer that was targeted for the women of Ghana. It follows the same formula of the commercials here in the states. As you can see there’s a beautiful young lady with her friend, letting the wind whip their straight hair around. She walks past a young man who’s all “Whoa, check out her hair!”

This commercial is also perpetuating the same myths surrounding perms and relaxers:

  • It’s fine if you find a relaxer that claims to be a moisturizer. This one happens to be “blend shea butter” with its “Moisture Seal Technology”
  • A man will become attracted to you and potentially fall in love with you when your hair is not just “straight, but silky straight. . . with extra bounce.”
  • You will gain confidence with straight hair, causing you to dress better, hang out with prettier friends and potentially pull yourself up out your depressed socio-economic state.

This is where my Shea Butter comes from too! So it makes me fume when the announcer of the commercial says that the super toxic chemical treatment is infused with shea butter. Whether that’s true or not, I’m not sure. And so what if it is? The chemicals of the perm are the active ingredients and they are all dangerous.

I was so intrigued by this commercial that I scouted about for more information about the straight hair influence in Ghana and found this amazing article written by Yukiyo Oda, entitled: WOMEN WORKING AT HAIRDRESSING: A CASE STUDY OF A RAPIDLY INCREASING BUSINESS AMONG WOMEN IN URBAN GHANA

I learned that Ghana only gained independence from British colonizers in 1957 and today, because of their industrialized society and Free Zone Act of 1996, they have received a major influx of foreign products from both America and Europe. Relaxing kits are one of those booming imports.

The western influence and the urbanization of some parts in Ghana are some of the reasons why homegrown salons have been spouting since the 1980’s. It’s a great way for women to make money. Women who don’t want to work manual labor like farming and forestry, can work in their own homes and now they can get certified. I’m all for women have the opportunity to work and make their own income, but it saddens me that it’s through an industry that continues to hold women back from becoming their natural selves.

But of course, not all of the women of Ghana are on the hair straightening bandwagon. There are many who are trying to free themselves from years of European influence. I was excited to read this Facebook discussion between Ghanaian woman on the subject of natural hair. It’s slow moving, but it’s happening, just like here in the states.

I think they are getting to their natural hair revolution too. I hate to sound ironic, but soon, even the “Motherland” will be natural.

Author: charishreid

Writer and Educator.

One thought on “Relaxing in Ghana

  1. Great post! Initially it surprised me to learn that so many women in many parts of Africa relax their hair, but then I said well of course, American standards and norms are global. It is a very ironic phenomenon, but sociologically it makes perfect sense. Thanks for the references, I'm heading over to read them now:)


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