By Ari Liakeas
When I was asked to write about this particular subject, my first thought was, ‘why is this even a topic? Why should anyone even care or bother themselves about this?‘ This wasn’t just my opinion; I spoke with others who had a very similar reaction.
I don’t in any way mean those thoughts in a harsh or uncompassionate manner; it just took me a moment to understand why it is a point of conversation for anyone.
Maybe I’m just open-minded and feel that people should be whoever they want to be, have their hair, clothes and bodies any way that makes them feel great about themselves, confident and alive and be allowed to do so without judgement.
But still, we should be compassionate to people who may have come up against ridicule, bullying, and narrow-minded attitudes regarding gender, sexuality or experienced feelings of being different or an outcast.
I have found that, unfortunately, some people behave disrespectfully towards others through fear. Differences scare them, challenge their conditioning, and show that others are brave enough to be themselves and not conform to what is perceived as the norm.
I was bullied throughout primary and high school for being Greek, having an unusual name and having a big nose. It can be incredibly tough to live through this experience, especially in your formative years, until you find your tribe or connect with a support system of people who understand you.
What’s In A Haircut?
So what difference can a hairstyle make? For many people, their hair can be at the root (no pun intended!) of their personal power and confidence.
I was having this conversation just the other day with a friend who has always loved her thick, long, luscious locks and is now feeling distressed because she is experiencing hair loss and lack of lustre. Her hair was her personal power space!
Historically, hairstyles were a form of showing your status. Ancient Egyptians used to shave their servants’ heads to make wigs for themselves. They were also bald or had very short hair under these hair pieces.
In Georgian times the higher your wig, the richer you were, and it wasn’t just women wearing wigs; all the men were too. Victorian men developed a whole culture around beards and moustaches, with the facial hair craze seen as a symbol of manliness during this time.
In contrast, there was an underground society of cross-dressing and gender fluidity. Neil McKenna’s ‘Fanny and Stella, the men that shocked Victorian’ England, gives a great insight into this topic. As it was illegal to have same-sex relationships then (like it is still in some countries and cultures today), one famous Victorian, Irish writer Oscar Wilde, was sent to prison and spent his final years in exile due to his homosexuality.
Is The Modern World Any Better?
Through the ages, there have been many different hairstyles and fads which, if we look at them closely, have no real gender affiliations. From the Hippies in the ’60s, Mods & Rockers in the ’70s, to the New Romantics in the ’80s, hair, clothing, and self-expression were central to challenging the old belief systems these movements embraced.
I was shocked when my partner informed me that he was suspended from school in Texas because he had a mohawk haircut. Apparently, it was distracting other students, resulting in him being unable to access his education. Wow!
My research also made it apparent that hairstyles are used as tools for LGBTQI, religious or racial discrimination. Students from different backgrounds are often penalised or punished by schools for wearing their hair a certain way. It’s mind-boggling that those in charge of educating, empowering and uplifting our future generations sometimes support such outdated, fascist systems.
So, has anything really changed? And why is this topic still a conversation?
Well, after the recent Oscars, it certainly is a subject we need to revisit! Jada Pinkett Smith was made the centre of a joke because she shaved her head. She may have done so because of Alopecia, an auto-immune disease that leads to hair loss, but why should she be made fun of even if she had simply done so as a stylistic choice? Her hair, her business!
Let’s hope that we can all become more aware of these topics thanks to exposure and education. We need to change our attitudes because it shouldn’t be about gender, religion or race; it’s about love and equality. We all need to live in a more open-minded world where the central theme is respect and care for our fellow humans.
If you experience discrimination, please reach out for support; you should never have to suffer in silence. Together we can be one voice for change. And, always remember, my hair, my choice!