Hair is intrinsically linked with status. Scruffy hair? You clearly don’t look after yourself. Sleek hair? You obviously care what people think of you. Blonde hair? Well you’re dumb but that’s ok because you have more fun! Of course, NONE of these things are true, especially that last one, but the fact that these associations even exist is SUCH a problem. Maybe scruffy hair means that you don’t have TIME to look after yourself whilst sleek hair means that you can AFFORD to spend on your hair. Or maybe, more realistically, just maybe you wanted your hair to look that way today, and tomorrow it will look completely different.
Because these associations exist though, there is so much pressure to look a certain way in order to make sure that people are making the correct assumptions of you. For example, in the society that I currently live, grey hair (especially on women, but let’s not get into the fact that many grey men in this society get called “silver foxes”, yet very few women get called “silver vixens”) means that you’re old, over the hill, not making an effort. This leads to many people dying their grey hair. When my mom told me she was going to stop dying her grey hair, I was totally, utterly and completely against it for this very reason. However, I have realised that if grey in this society was associated with wisdom and experience, I would be proud of my grey mama!
Unfortunately though, hair is an expensive, time-consuming luxury. Blow drys, perms, weaves, dying it, styling it, conditioning it, cleaning it, trimming it…it all costs. That means that there is significant socio-economic status linked to hair. Not everyone is able to (let’s continue with the grey example for ease’s sake) dye their hair grey, so is it fair to them that their grey hair should have such negative associations?
I’m not saying that people should therefore never do anything to their hair. Humans are wonderful, creative beings and hair can definitely be seen as an art form. Hair can be a way for people to express themselves and explore how different styles feel, quite literally! However, I think that it’s important to consider why you want your hair to look a certain way, and to consider what assumptions you’re making of someone based on what their hair looks like. Otherwise, it can definitely cloud our vision.
People are judged by their hair all the time, especially in the media (not looking at anyone in particular…nope…not thinking specifically about a newspaper that rhymes with Bailey Fail). But, let’s look at an example of someone who is in the media A LOT at the moment; someone who could potentially become AWFULLY powerful over the next year. Mr Donald Trump. He is making waves with his controversial political stances, and he is making waves with the vast following that he has amassed. And yet, the only thing that many media outlets seem to be able to focus on, is his hair! These media outlets would expect Trump to have “good” hair, due to his status, and thus take great satisfaction from making fun of his “bad” hair. However, this takes away from the issues at hand, and arguably distracts publics from the implications of what he is saying and the size of his following. Because, surely if we can laugh at his hair he isn’t a serious entity right? Why are we focusing on his hair?! WHY?!
My parents were worried before I cut my hair, because of the associations that they have with the “buzzcut” look. They associate it with being a “thug”, and this in itself is a socio-economic association linked to where and when they grew up. They were worried that by choosing to cut my hair so short, I would be putting myself at risk from not only other “thugs”, but also from people who assumed that I was a “thug”. I trusted that God would protect me, and that society had come far enough from that time that I would not be at risk.
I have realised that the society that I live in is slooowlyyyyy becoming more welcoming of different hairstyles. People are beginning to push the boundaries with what their hair should look like, and thus the associations made with certain hairstyles. However, I have also realised that the socio-economic status of a haircut is a real thing. I wrote earlier in this blog that my strength does not come from my hair. Well…SURPRISE..NOTHING ELSE COMES FROM MY HAIR EITHER! Hair does not have status because of what it provides us with. Hair only has status, because we give it this status to create more superficial divides between us all, and to make ourselves feel better.
The associations that are made with hair are dangerous. They are dangerous in furthering socio-economic divides, they are dangerous in making people feel inferior, and they are dangerous because they can distract us. I need to pray and fight to change my thinking to break down these associations, both the positive and negative associations, because they are so ingrained. I need to learn to just celebrate hair for what it is- hair. A versatile thing on top of some people’s heads that can be styled in different ways and protects them from certain weather.