Shear Audacity

Let’s talk about hair. My mom constantly preaches that a true Southern Belle never leaves the house with her hair looking like a bird’s nest. So if you are like me, you spend hundreds of dollars each year to ensure that your hair looks fabulous for every interview, presentation, special occasion, etc. A good hair day can give me the self-confidence to take on the world because in the words of Maya Angelou, “Hair is a woman’s glory.”[1] So what would happen if my hair was suddenly taken from me? Not because I deliberately chose to cut it off, but because somebody had the “shear” audacity to hold me down and take my crowning glory from me.

In the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, a recent rise in hair assaults have resulted in women fearing for their safety while traveling in heavily populated public places such as beaches, malls, etc. A local gang known as the Piranhas, have been holding women at gunpoint, forcing them to tie their hair into ponytails and chopping off their locks so that they can sale them at beauty supply stores.[2] As many as three assaults per day have been occurring within the city. The most surprising part about this gang is that all the suspects are women!

Venezuela is not the only country to be plagued by this problem. In 2008, a Brazilian woman was on her way to church when she was attacked by thieves on a motorbike. The woman had made a religious vow to not cut her hair for 20 years, and within an instant her 1.5 m long hair was hacked off by a machete. In South Africa, dreadlocks are the prized possession. Thieves will use anything from pocket knives to broken glass during a “cut and run.”[3]

In the documentary, Good Hair by Chris Rock, a man in the Tamil city of Chennai (Madras), said that hair assaults are common occurrences within the city. Even though thousands offer their locks as sacrifice at local temples in Tonsure Ceremonies, girls and young women are still targeted for their hair length. The man said that it is not uncommon for a woman’s hair to be shorn as she is sleeping. Even going to a movie theatre is not safe because some thieves attack while women are focused on the films.

Why is this happening? The answer is simple: money. Think about the rise of theft from beauty supply stores across the United States. Recently, thieves stole $60,000 worth of human hair extensions from a store in Atlanta, $150,000 from a store in Houston, and $230,000 from a store in Chicago.[4] The business for human hair extensions is beyond lucrative, and it is not difficult to see why.

Women, and some men, in the United States spend thousands of dollars each year to have a dark mane like Kim Kardashian, regal curls like Beyoncé, or voluminous waves like Diana Ross. The media bombards us with images that long hair equals beauty. This is especially true in Latin America where long hair directly correlates to a woman’s sensuality. Venezuela has produced more Miss Universes and Miss Worlds than any other country.[5] Think about it. When was the last time a woman was crowned Miss America with short hair?

We know that patterned hair loss in women correlates with lowered self-esteem. How are women in Venezuela or India supposed to feel when their hair is abruptly and forcibly shorn off for someone else’s benefit? I can tell you how I would feel. I would probably doubt my own femininity. I know that I would have trouble looking in the mirror in the morning and finding myself beautiful. I would feel depressed and humiliated anytime someone mentions the incident. Furthermore, I would never feel safe in public again.

It is for these reasons that I consider hair assaults to be a cruel form of psychological warfare against women. The feelings of humiliation, self-doubt, inner loathing, and depression that surely arise from such an attack are incomprehensible. The fact that these assaults are being perpetrated by women leaves victims feeling betrayed because if anybody should understand the intimate connection between hair and feelings of inner beauty, a woman should!

Before I end this post, I would like to make it clear that I find all lengths and shades of hair beautiful because it is a direct reflection and interpretation of the woman wearing it.  Furthermore, I have no problem if a woman wants to buy a little extra to add to her natural locks. My main concern is that the added hair extensions worn by women in the United States could have come from women who were physically assaulted for it. I, in good conscience, cannot wear something that negatively affects the mental and psychological health of a woman from a foreign country. As women, we should be steadfast in ensuring that we are not contributing to a movement that devalues and diminishes the feelings of our counterparts. We must stand up for each other because at the end of the day, it really is women against the rest of the world.

by LAE


[1] Rock, Chris. “Good Hair” Recorded Jan 18 2009. HBO Films. DVD

[2] Groden, Claire. “Venezuelan Thieves Target Women’s Hair.” Time Magazine, August 12, 2013. http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/08/12/venezuelan-thieves-target-womens-hair/ (accessed November 13, 2013).

[3] Fihlani, Pumza. “South Africa’s dreadlock thieves.” BBC, February 26, 2013. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-21498878 (accessed November 13, 2013).

[4] Stevens, Alexis. “Hair weave theft suspects linked to several smash-and-grabs.” Atlanta Journal Constitution, October 8, 2013. http://www.ajc.com/news/news/hair-weave-theft-suspects-linked-to-several-smash-/nbH7d/ (accessed November 15, 2013).

Williams, Timothy. “Costly Hairstyle is a Beauty Trend that Draws Thieves’ Notice.” New York Times, May 16, 2011. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/us/17hair.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 (accessed November 15, 2013).

[5] Moloney, Anastasia. “Venezuela’s hair robbers – an attack against femininity?.” Thomas Reuters Foundation, September 3, 2013. http://www.trust.org/item/20130903080819-xqhs0/ (accessed November 14, 2013).

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3 thoughts on “Shear Audacity

  1. womanstats says:

    Good grief, what will they think of next? Assaulting women to cut of their hair to sell to other women . . . you are right; this must end, and the only way for this to end is to eliminate demand.

  2. Victoria says:

    I’ve heard of the Chris Rock documentary! I still need to watch it. Apparently he embarked on it because of a comment his young daughter made. She said she wished could have “good hair”, that as a black girl her hair somehow feel short of what we’ve accepted as the one standard of hair beauty – the long smooth Kardashian look. I had never considered that this standard would lead to such a disturbing black market. A very insightful post, thank you!

  3. cperrymcom320 says:

    My hair got less expensive this year. I’ve been using baking soda and vinegar to wash it, with essential oils in the vinegar. (I *think* it’s still inexpensive. The essential oils were given to me.) Yeah, I won’t be demanding any extensions. Interesting article!

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