In Pursuit of Sharp Hair I

Humans pay too much attention to each other’s bodies. What is he wearing? How long is her skirt? What does her hair make me feel? We are forever poking our noses into things that are none of our business.

I chose to go bald for a little over a year and during this time, my family, (certain) friends and ex didn’t stop devising schemes to get me to wear some hair. My father told me that I’d get meningitis as a result of all the mosquito bites that my large, smooth scalp would attract. He also said I would get headaches and all the exposure to cold wind would freeze my thoughts.

The shoulders of my aunts would droop with sadness whenever I’d walk into the house with yet another haircut. The ex’s tactics were so many and amusing that I cannot do justice to them in one article.

I ignored them all. First of all, I strongly disagree with the notion that a woman’s hair is her “crowning glory”.  A woman’s brain (and the things she can do with it) is what we should be focusing on, people. Not the dead waves and coils of keratin that emerge from her scalp. I refused to yield to the insinuation that the entire experience of womanhood can be reduced to the ability to push dead cells out of a scalp. It was only after I became bored with baldness that I allowed my hair to grow out.

 By the time it was about half an inch long, I was sick of it. I missed the feeling of a cold electric shaver buzzing on my scalp. I missed the newborn alien look that a fresh haircut gives me. I felt like a teenager among all of the S.6 vacists roaming Kampala’s streets. The hair felt invasive and in a last bid to make myself like it, I decided to style it.

 There’s a rather popular hairstyle around town that many people with short natural hair are rocking. They somehow maneuver their kaweke into little spikes that stick out from their scalps, giving a lovely definition to their faces. I knew from research (loads of facebook updates) that this style could be arrived at by briskly rubbing a sponge or a palm over the scalp. Thanks to the lovely people on my friend list,  I also knew that a cheap locking gel could be used to achieve this style.

I uploaded this to facebook. it helped a lot.

I uploaded this masterpiece to facebook  and captioned it with the words below:

 

(slightly edited) You guys, I need your help. So I have seen this style around town where people with teenie weenie fros like mine curl their hair into spiky little points. I know from a bit of research that this style is arrived at by briskly rubbing a sponge over the scalp. What treatment do they put in the hair to make it form the spikes when rubbed? I love this style but I’m not willing to pay the insane dimes that a salon  is sure to charge me.  A sponge is 500 and whatever product they’ll use can’t be more than 30 bob. Any(really really) useful information will be rewarded with long hugs and a good meal. 

Because I’m rich (ha), I visited a salon in town for a cost assessment. The shameless lady told me she’d require sixty thousand of my Uganda shillings. I visited another one, this time in Wandegeya because I figured it would be cheaper, what with the bulk of their clientele being broke campus chicks. I was right. Yusuf told me he’d only need 30,000. When I asked what the styling would entail, he became cagey and it was only after great insistence that he told me he’d be putting Ariel detergent in my hair.

Understand that I really wanted this style. As Yusuf washed my hair, I consoled myself that a little Ariel wouldn’t hurt. It was only when I smelled the actual detergent that I chickened out. The thought of sitting in a taxi going from  Wandegeya to Ntinda while smelling like soaking clothes just killed my morale dead. When I told Yusuf to stop, he was very angry. He rejected payment and snarled something about “losers who visit salons to steal knowledge” at my back.

I then took my research to youtube and thankfully, none of the ladies online were using detergent on their heads.

to be continued.

Why I Need Feminism

Whenever I arrive home before dusk, I pocket my boda money and walk down a path that cuts through a beautiful hill. I love this shortcut because it gives me a workout and speeds my transition from an office drone to the happy, cheeky Mildred they know at home.

After a downpour though, the path becomes hell. Shoe-swallowing ponds develop, frogs jump unexpectedly out of the thick grass and the mud becomes treacherous. I use the path regardless and every time I survive a fall, ask myself, “Mildred, are you secretly suicidal?”.

Things get bad

Recently, I slid badly and in the process of steadying myself, looked behind to find a man watching me. I think he wanted to pass, but didn’t want to speak to me, so he just stood and waited. My first thought was, “what kind of MAN stands there silent when a WOMAN is falling in front of him?”

This was followed by a shame that hasn’t left me yet and a realization that I need to spend more time working feminism out in my head. I wouldn’t have had the same expectation of another woman. I’ve been conditioned to believe that a man owes me protection and compassion, just because I’m female. Is this equivalent to the way random men feel its normal for them to approach me with a sexual agenda on the streets of Kampala? Or is a society judged by the way it treats its women?

This brings me to the study recently conducted at Makerere which revealed that 6 out of 10 campus girls feel obligated to sleep with a man who has “spent” on her. Sadly, I recognize this impulse. I condemn it in the strongest terms possible.

Chivalry has become a sexist trap. It is “expected” that a man will foot the bill when he’s wooing a woman but today’s guy, when he does this, feels like he’s paying both for the food/gifts and rights to vagina-time. I advise that dates be subjected to thorough discussion beforehand. Who is paying? Why? What are the expectations of both partners? Relationships need to be negotiated like business deals.

I struggle with the name of this column (Stiletto Point) because of the shade it casts on my content. Before reading me, people assume that I only write about ‘cute’ and sparkly, ‘girly’ things.

It also attracts weirdos.

At a party one time, a stranger recognized me from Barongo’s excellent caricature. I was happy until he started to complain about how all women writers are irrelevant man haters. This is the moment I should have walked away.
He then said that women are not equal to men in the workplace because they’re less productive due to periods and maternal leave. An argument ensued but I soon realized it was useless and proceeded to order cocktails and to point the waitress in his direction. Small victories.

Women’s bodies are not considered their own. Abortion isn’t frowned upon because fetuses are being denied the right to life. If that were the case, children would not be denied the right to life everywhere around us! Hunger, war, apathy and abuse has done more damage than abortion ever will. We’re perceived as baby-ovens and not human beings with the right to be selfish with our space, bodies and finances. All the rabid pro-lifers in Uganda  need to dedicate more energy into healing those broken, irresponsible, badly-brought up men who yell “Kill it!” at confused, scared and emotional women. Let’s start with that.

Feminism is a cry for social change by people who are fed up of being abused and treated like half-humans because of the sex they were born into. I need feminism and so do you.