The close shave

The close shave

MASERU – IT is more than just a hair cut. It is a statement of fashion that runs counter to conventional views about female beauty.
In Maseru street lingo, they call it ‘cheese kop’, referring to the bald hair cut that is so often associated with men.
But that famous haircut is slowly becoming the style of choice for women. Other women though are not going that deep; they trim it short and nice, attracting both awe and sneering comments.

Lineo Mosebi is in love with her bald head. Mosebi says that cut makes her look more beautiful.
“With short hair, you may feel it’s kind of hard to change up your look and style it in different ways,” Mosebi says.
“But you can look good and become the most beautiful girl ever.”

Mpho Makhoali, who is also bald, says she likes this style because it is easier to maintain.
“The short haircut is the cheapest to maintain but is also beautiful. It is stylish and super functional,” Makhoali says.
’Mampho Tlelase from Teya-Teyaneng says she first realised how stunningly gorgeous she looked when shaven after she was forced to shave as a mourning ritual after her husband’s death.

It is part of the Sesotho culture for a widow and close relatives to shave their heads as a sign of mourning.
But after all the rituals where observed and her hair grew again, Tlelase maintained a bald head.
“Even my children say I am more beautiful when bald than when I have long hair,” Tlelase says.
“Before my husband passed away in 2015, I had never shaved my head.”

Hair saloons say a huge number of women are opting for the clean shave. Although there is no statistical data on how many women visit hair saloons for a clean shave, saloon managers told thepost this week that the number is increasing steadily.
Sefika Hair Salon manager, Mpho Phiri-ea-hae, says she thinks women look good with their hair shaved.
“They are more beautiful and I wish many of them can (opt for that shave),” Phiri-ea-hae says.

“Apart from that, the more they come to shave the more I make money.”
’Mathabo Thoahlane, a manager at Hair Lounge & Beauty Clinic in Maseru, says some women are opting to shave because their scalps react to hair chemicals and have sores.

Others, she says, are merely following the current trend. “They say it is stylish and fashionable,” Thoahlane says.
However, some women say they shave because it is easier to maintain.

Matšeliso Tsibolo says hair creams and gels are “too expensive for an unemployed and single mother like me”.
“These creams range between M30 and M50 while the services of a hairstylist cost over M150,” Tsibolo says.
“I cannot afford that.”

The story of women shaving their hair has a long but controversial history.
For instance, during the Second World War, French women who were caught sleeping with German soldiers were forcibly shaved and paraded in the streets to shame them.

But around the 1960’s shaving of hair was associated with the women’s liberation’s movement when women refused to be ‘boxed’ to conform to cultural expectations about beauty. Women began to take control of their lives and were asserting themselves by shaving their hair, against cultural expectations.

Shaving of one’s head thus had a ‘liberatory effect’, according to some female cultural activists.
Some parents who spoke to thepost say the shaving of heads is being promoted by schools that require that even girls shave their heads.
Some schools like Phomolong High School and Cenez High School require their students, including girls, to shave their heads.
Teachers at these schools say this is meant to keep up with tidiness as well as reducing pressure on girls who come from poor families and therefore cannot afford the costs of keeping hair.
Some parents however argue that the requirement opposes the Biblical decree that a woman should not shave because it is undignified.
“Being church schools, they should have observed this passage in the Bible,” says ’Mathabo Motleleng.
However, Reverend Phakiso Moleko says that Bible verse “refers to women and not girls”.
“The Bible specifically says hair on a woman’s head shows that she belongs to her husband, she is a subordinate of her husband but these girls do not have husbands because they are still children,” Moleko says.
“This verse therefore does not apply to them.”
Reverend Tanki Mofana says the schools have good intentions in requiring that students must shave and “the Bible should not be misinterpreted to say they should not shave”.

“We must read and interpret the Bible in its proper context,” Mofana says.
“If women elect to shave, let it be so. I don’t see the Bible dictating what should be done. They freely decide to shave and I don’t think it’s a sin,” he says.

Shaving a woman or a girl’s head for any purpose other than for ritual purposes has been a taboo for Basotho for decades, according to Malefetsane Liau, the president of Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo. Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo is a cultural organisation that seeks to preserve Basotho traditions.
Liau says women whose heads are shaven should cover them until their hair regrows.

“People cut their hair to observe our tradition when family members have died and it is a Sesotho mourning ritual,” Liau says.
“Women show respect by having headdresses on and walking up and down the streets with bald heads shows disrespect,” he says.
“This is not the Sesotho way of doing things. Basotho women have a way of keeping their hair beautiful and they don’t shave unnecessarily,” he says.
“The hair is the pleasure for every woman, that’s why in most cases women like to put on something on their head every time, they show value and women like that are respected.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

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