The Pastor and The Weaves

Long_Weave_Pink_BlouseThere has been a lot of reactionary talk lately about whether Black church women should wear weaves. ‘Impossible!’ you might say. ‘With all the pressing economic and social issues facing us today, why in the world is anyone devoting any time to discussing a trivial matter like hair.’

Well, a pastor in Waco, Texas thinks women’s hair grooming habits were worth talking about, and he made headlines after word spread about an interview he gave America Preachers.

Our Black women are getting weaves trying to be something and someone they are not. Be real with yourself is all I’m saying” said Pastor Aamir.

His remarks were more extensive than that, and when they came out the reaction was predictably shallow and sassy:

“God sees the heart …”

“There are more important things to talk about …”

“People are not going to go to a church that doesn’t feed them … ”

“Sounds like the beginnings of a cult … ”

The original interview, as published, seemed incomplete to me. The article didn’t contain a lot of context to help me frame his remarks, so it was hard to understand where he was really coming from. So while most people took the bait from what appeared to be a truncated interview and just went in on this guy, sizing him up as an insensitive luddite, I couldn’t help but ask myself a few questions.

What is the focus of his ministry?

In his excerpted remarks, the pastor also mentions that a lot of people in his congregation are struggling financially. Sounds like he is attuned to their needs, not out of step with his flock. He says a 26-year-old mother in his congregation is one of those with modest means, yet chooses to wear a $300 weave. His point here is that her priorities are all wrong, and I agree. There has to be a way to look cute without spending so much of the family’s hard-earned money on something you’re probably going to throw away in a couple of months. Find a cheaper way to look snatched, slash the hair salon budget and use the difference to enroll your kids in an activity they would enjoy.

Was he generalIzing with the self-esteem remark?
Perhaps. Low self esteem is one reason women spend beyond their means to be fashion forward. But some women are simply vain, shallow and will go to unnecessary lengths to have their hair layed like Toni Childs every single time they step out of their houses — assuming they made an effort to own their homes. And sometimes I think all the other pieces that go with Remys — the fake eyelashes, high-gloss lip color, nails, etc., have a cumulative drag queen effect. Sometimes I think women are obsessed with their outward appearances — and others. When every other woman you see on the street has a head of virgin Brazilian, yet you know her ancestry is nowhere close to matching what’s on her head, you have to wonder.

Other women deserve the benefit of the doubt know what they are doing when it comes to their virgin Brazilians or Remys and aren’t hampered by any psychological issues tied to their beauty self image. They how to wear that Malaysian, maintain and style the hair and how to work out in it. They know when to take breaks from the hair, whether it means throwing on a lace front for a spell while the scalp breathes uncovered — at home in the evenings — or just wearing their own hair unencumbered.

So why bother calling people out?
He wasn’t.  He asked the female leadership to abandon the weaves,  presumably to set an example for other women in the flock.  Or to open up a conversation about our collective self image and what our priorities are–or should be when it comes to beauty rituals. If they overrule him and continue wearing weaves, then I assume that they’ve found another way to get to the root of their problems.

Haven’t the edges suffered enough? Sensitive topic, I know.  All women want to do is beautify themselves. What a paradox that women who consistently install weaves to look their best end up losing a good chunk of their hairline over time, due to excessive pulling, tightening of the hair shaft at the root, and pulling while styling and maintaining the weave. Maybe women should take a break every now and them from such an expensive and potentially damaging way of managing their hair.

This is one of those perennial debates that Black women have to deal with, much like skirmishes in the “mommy wars” sometimes flare up among upper-middle-class Caucasian women. You’ll always have people who offer unsolicited opinions about how women should go about looking their best. Whether it’s a seasoned pastor concerned about your family’s financial solvency, or a bird who just sacrificed her car payment to go out on the scene in L.A., it’s probably best to set aside the extreme opinions and figure out your own brand of respectable style.