May 21, 2022
21BALD POLITICS facebookJumbo jBRjIt

In all the discuss of “the slap” that has gone on since the Oscars; in all the soul-searching prompted by that break from the norm, its aftermath and what it might imply not only for the Smiths or the Academy however for comedy, culture and gender writ massive; in all the essential medical discussions it engendered of alopecia, to not point out the advanced function hair has played in Black history — there was one fixed underlying all of it: the highly effective symbolism of the bald feminine head.

Like all the politics that swirl round ladies’s our bodies, the shaved head is each a magnet and a set off. It evokes a difficult stew of prejudices, fears, stereotypes and sensitivities — no matter the motive for the baldness in the first place.

It was solely 4 years in the past that X González, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Excessive Faculty pupil then often known as Emma, final made shaving your head as a lady a nationwide speaking level as a face of #NeverAgain. How far we have now not come since then. Hair, or the lack of it, remains to be a public difficulty.

That’s partially as a result of it’s, actually, public. It’s the most evident expression of self, of gender, of subversion; of conformity, seduction, aggression, riot. It’s instantly seen, not possible to disregard. And thus it’s a key variable in shaping the notion of the exterior gaze, be it male or feminine.

If, as Malcolm Gladwell wrote in “Blink,” all of us make snap judgments about each other all the time, then one among the first cues we use is hair. Mr. Gladwell stated the thesis of his e-book was truly impressed by his choice to let his personal hair develop out into a fuzzy corona — and the means that new do modified folks’s reactions to him. (In his case, he thought, it led to racial profiling.)

“In the social media age, one thing like hair turns into a a part of your model,” stated Tanisha C. Ford, a professor of historical past at the Graduate Heart of the Metropolis College of New York and the creator of the coming “Our Secret Society,” an examination of race, energy and cash. “The alternatives we make about how we adorn our physique grow to be a part of who we’re.”

As Consultant Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said when she revealed on Twitter that she, like Jada Pinkett Smith, has alopecia and had determined to unveil her bald head: “My twists have grow to be such a synonymous & a conflated a part of not solely my private identification & how I present up in the world, however my political model. And that’s why I feel it’s essential that I’m clear about this new regular & residing with alopecia.”

In a world the place persons are consistently making assumptions about each other primarily based partially on their hair, every hairdo turns into a assertion of self, learn by way of the lens of associations, usually unconscious, absorbed over time.

It’s very true at the two extremes: the yin of lengthy, lavish hair, the type described in Western fantasy, the Bible, fairy tales; and the yang of the shaved head. It’s embedded in the historical past of race, wealth and sophistication. And, in the West, it’s outlined largely by what Professor Ford calls “patriarchal concepts of magnificence and sexuality rendered by way of a very normative lens.”

Simply consider — in no specific order — how Rapunzel was freed by her hair, and Goldilocks named for hers. How Woman Godiva used her hair to cowl her nakedness. How hair was the supply of Samson’s power.

Think about the towering wigs of the court docket of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette; the powdered wigs British barristers nonetheless put on. The billowing and blow-dried locks of the Trump ladies and Fox Information (hair the anthropologist Grant McCracken known as “voluptuous hair” in his e-book “Big Hair”).

To reject all that isn’t to keep away from such associations however to grow to be a part of a host of different references and traditions.

The naked feminine head, for instance, is usually learn as a assertion of “radical politics and transgressing gender norms,” Professor Ford stated. To not point out “a refusal on the a part of Black ladies to suit into European magnificence beliefs.” See the mannequin Pat Evans, who grew to become a sensation in the Nineteen Seventies by shaving her head.

On this, it may be a signal of power and energy; a refusal to cover a face underneath a bushel of Farrah Fawcett flips or a hair-sprayed helmet; a riposte to previous energy buildings and their antiquated concepts. So it was, anyway, in “Mad Max: Fury Street,” with the buzz reduce of the insurgent Furiosa, performed by Charlize Theron. And in “Black Panther,” wherein the shaved heads of the Dora Milaje, the military of feminine warriors who defend Wakanda, are a reflection of their fierce, fearless magnificence.

Whereas that could be, as Professor Ford famous, “a very affirming picture, it is usually set in a fantastical land of superheroes, and girls strolling down the streets of Atlanta or Chicago could have a very totally different expertise.”

Certainly, shaving ladies’s heads has additionally been a type of punishment and mark of disgrace, from the guards shearing Joan of Arc’s pageboy earlier than her execution to the ladies in France shorn after being accused of collaboration with the Nazi regime. And generally the bald head, in the context of chemotherapy, could be a sign of sickness.

To put on it proudly in public is to drive a confrontation with all of those prejudices and suppositions.

All of which is to say, whereas William Blake could have imagined seeing the world in a grain of sand, the world could actually see itself extra usually in a strand of hair. Or in its absence. Perhaps particularly in its absence.

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