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Mo Ivory: Ladies…Who’s Hiding Under Your Weave?

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(Credit: Sonia Murray/CBS Local)

(Credit: Sonia Murray/CBS Local)

Mo Ivory
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March is Women’s History Month, making it an opportune time to invite all ladies to please, PLEASE, come out from under your weave!

And if that automatically offends you, you are exactly who this article is meant for.

I am not judging you, calling you out or degrading your weave.

I’m simply trying to find out why you really have one and what it means to you.

So, let’s set some rules for this conversation: Let’s exclude all women who have suffered from a medical condition, disease or have lost their hair to no fault of their own. Let’s exclude women who are employed full time as super models, or have a full-time job on Broadway. Let’s exclude all women who say they have a weave as a protective style because they are growing out their hair or need to protect their hair for some reason.

Fair enough?

OK, let’s talk…

Statistic: Black women spend billions of dollars a year on hair products buying 70% of all wigs and extensions purchased in the United States. Weaves include but are not limited to, actual weaves, lace front wigs, regular wigs, weaves sewn onto a wig, clip-ins, sew-ins, glue-ins or anything that resembles or appears to be any of the aforementioned.

But this commentary arose not from those figures, but from my own 14-year-old daughter; who asked me several months ago: “Mom, can I get a weave?”

I politely answered: “Hell no! Why would you ask me that?”

To which she replied: “Why not? All my friends have one!”

And I couldn’t resist…

“If all your friends jumped out a window, would you do that too?!”

I was struggling to find the correct reaction to my only child, a beautiful girl with a full head of shoulder-length, unpermed hair asking me to pay for a weave so she could have longer hair.

I understood, I guess, but it bothered me, a lot. I don’t want my daughter to think she’s not pretty enough or she needs to be something she is not.

Has some teenage boy told her she would be prettier if her hair was longer, straighter, curlier? Is she feeling the pressure of the images of beauty in the media that suffocate her 24 hours a day? Can you feel my heart breaking?

Then, I realized something: Everywhere she looks in Atlanta, 9 out of 10 women have weaves. Teenage girls, their mothers, their grandmothers, their babysitters, their transgender cousin, their teachers, their principal, the cashier at Kroger, their favorite reality star, their favorite radio personality, their favorite singer, the lady who serves their lunch in the cafeteria and even the pastor’s wife.

It’s out of control! And the signal it’s sending throughout our entire community is that you need a weave to be beautiful and ultimately attract the man of your dreams.

Am I wrong?

Oh wait, right, it’s an accessory, a fashion statement like makeup, eyelashes and butt implants. You only wear it to enhance your look, to play with different styles, because you want to take a Zumba class twice a week and not mess up your hair. You have a weave because it’s fun.

BUT, you live in an apartment and can’t afford your bills and you pay weekly or maybe monthly for your weave while your real hair begs for air and your scalp is sending out smoke signals. Or maybe, you own your home, pay all your bills on time, but your weave gives you confidence and makes you feel prettier so you can keep your man happy and at home. Or just maybe, you don’t like how your own hair looks and a weave makes you look and more importantly, feel better.

(It doesn’t matter that your natural hairline now starts at your ear.)

Maybe it’s not as deep as I’m making it out to be – or maybe it’s deeper.

And for the record, I had a weave once. I did it purely because I thought it would make me more attractive to men. And actually, it did. I got a different kind of attention. It meant something to some men that I had a full head of luscious long locks.

I liked it, but I couldn’t keep it up. It wasn’t the real me and eventually he would know that. And this was years ago before it became a status symbol to compare how much your 18-inch pack cost. I ended up having to cut my hair after the weave tore my hair apart. Never again.

Hair isn’t supposed to go over hair, and it caused me too much heartache trying to keep up with my manufactured beauty. Besides, it was itchy and patting my head ferociously wasn’t as socially or professionally acceptable as weaves appear to be now.

And I’ve been doing my own research – stopping women and men on the street – to ask why.

I only made it one block in Atlantic Station before I had already spoken to 10 women with weaves. It’s an epidemic. And the men were mostly easy to catch at work and on benches while they waited for their weave-wearing girlfriends to come out of the beauty supply stores.

This is what they had to say.

29-year-old female hair stylist/makeup artist:
“Weaves have become a handicap for women in an effort to validate beauty. Some women need weaves as a badge of honor based on the kind of weave they wear – Indonesian, Brazilian or Malaysian. Women are proud to say what weave hair they wear and how much they paid for it. [It's] like status symbols, but instead weave tiers. Where do you fall on the weave status ladder? I get a bigger reaction from men when I wear a weave. Hair weaves elevate women’s self esteem.”

34-year-old female lawyer:
“I don’t feel like doing my hair every day, even though my weave does take a lot of time and can be real itchy. I want long thick hair. It makes me feel more confident and like I can compete with other women. I feel like a professional woman with a lot of sex appeal and men really like that.”

30-year-old male living in Atlanta from Chicago:
“Weaves don’t bother me but I like it to be kept up. I prefer a nice girl no matter if she has a weave or not. I like healthy girls, who are into physical fitness but I don’t have a type. My current girlfriend has a shoulder length weave. I can’t tell when she has the weave in or not.”

35-year-old male who makes a lot of money and is well known:
“I’m not a fan of weaves. I think its part laziness that women get weaves, but I also think weaves take a lot of time. I hate when I move a woman’s hair and her whole head moves. I like to feel a woman’s scalp. But I can’t say weaves are a super deterrent, although I would rather a woman wear her own hair. I believe many women hide behind their weaves because they don’t feel beautiful without a weave and that their beauty is attached to their weave. I would never let my teenage daughter get a weave and I feel it’s important that she learn how to do her own hair. I also don’t understand why women feel like they have to have long hair. It’s all vanity. It’s like ‘fake it ’til you make it'; same way with cars, houses and pocket books.”

41-year-old male from Atlanta:
“Women with short hair have more confidence. It’s her hair, she’s more real, she’s more beautiful, and she knows who she is. A lot of women hide under their weave, under their makeup. Some women use a weave to beautify themselves. Others take it to the extreme, and it makes me think ‘You are insecure and that you don’t like who you really are.’ I want a woman who knows herself. I dated a woman who took her weave out and she was not happy with herself. I don’t want to date a woman like that.”

Are weaves giving us an identity crisis? Have we fallen too deep into society’s measurement of beauty? Are weaves about the way they make you look or the way they make you feel? Can you accomplish the same without the weave?

I want you to think just for a minute, why do you wear a weave and what does it say about you? If you want longer hair, why don’t you buy the texture of your real hair to make it longer? Why do you buy a completely different texture, completely different hair?

Are we ruining young girls and their self esteem, teaching them they are not pretty the way they are? Sending them the message that they need a weave to be glamorous and beautiful? Have you passed the point of no return? Are you going to wear a weave for the rest of your life?

Weaves used to be a part of costumes. Used for dress-up.

No one actually believes you and your five girlfriends ALL have hair down to your ass!

LADIES, WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHO’S HIDING UNDER YOUR WEAVE? PLEASE TELL HER TO COME OUT AND GET SOME AIR!

We need to talk.

- Mo Ivory, CBS Local

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