Cutting their hair or letting it grow, dyeing it or showing gray hair, showing off their hair or covering it modestly are daily acts with which millions of women claim their identities, try to fit in, fight for their rights or abide by regulations in which, too often, They have had neither voice nor vote.
This could be a trivial topic were it not for the fact that, in the 21st century, Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, was arrested last September by the morality police in Tehran accused of violating the law that requires women to be cover the hair She apparently didn’t wear her veil properly. A few days later: the news of his death shook the world.
Some Iranian women began to show their hair and cut it in protest, which some also associate with ancient traditions of mourning. Since then, famous and also anonymous women, from various countries and cultures, have shared images and videos cutting their hair to show their support.RELATED
Hair is the visibility of something deeper
Culture has numerous references in which hair is related to strength, power, punishment or even intelligence: starting with Samson either jellyfish until reaching “dumb blondes” of the cinema. On this last cliché, a academic research showed that, although it is not true that blonde hair implies less intelligence, very few blondes achieve managerial positions in the Fortune 500. They analyzed it by crossing hair color and its stereotypes with economic and labor issues with numerical data.
Currently, images and videos proliferate on social networks of women claiming all kinds of causes with haircuts on their heads while they let their armpits grow or dye them. Among them, those in which some women shave their heads as a gesture of sisterhood with relatives and friends with cancer tend to be especially moving. Some go viral like the case of Gerdi McKennawhose family and friends also donated their hair.
Hair as a religious or political issue
Some groups linked to certain beliefs try to maintain a tight control of women’s hair. In some cases it is forced or recommended to shave it when getting married, cover it with scarves, hats or wigs in the name of “modesty”. Some women accept it voluntarily, but for many others it is a problem.
series like Unorthodox make these practices visible, in this case in the Hasidic Judaism of the Satmar community. Other artists reflect in their works the passive or silent rebellion of many women who, in these cases, use striking fabrics and accessories, or very immodest blonde wigs. It was the case of the Iranian Shirin Aliabadi in works like MissHybrid (2008).
Shirin Aliabadi’s Hybrid 5, 2008. (THE THIRD LINE)
Hair historian Rachel Gibson remember that the hair has become a way of political expression. A clear example is the Afro style, linked to the vindication of one’s own beauty and the fight for civil rights. For Gibson, in this case hair is a form of protest since the beginning of slavery, when it was imposed how to wear hair to anonymize people by erasing their culture and basic rights.
Cultural identities of African origin and its diaspora give great importance to hair, which is considered art and who stars in songs like “Don’t touch my hair” either “I am not my hair”. How important is hair? It looks like it is. Mena Fombo, with the campaign “Nope. You Cannot Touch my Hair!”helps to understand why something as seemingly innocent as touching a stranger’s hair can cause deep discomfort and be a sign of racism.
Cut your hair or leave it long
The image of a woman with shaved hair is usually associated with illness or punishment. It is unusual and usually shocks. This is reflected in the impact that the actresses and singers who have shaved their heads.
Most have done it due to script imperatives and some confess that it has been “liberating”. However, for a minority, such as Sinead O’Connor or Adwoa Aboah, it has also been a way of confronting stereotypes and commercial pressures for female beauty ideals. Ideals that Frida Kahlo faces with her Self Portrait with Short Hair (1940) after her separation from Diego Rivera.
Not every claim implies shaving the head. in my own work Locket: Familiar Manes I tried to pick up the various aesthetic, political, and religious connections of hair for the women in my family.
In wigs (1994), Lorna Simpson explores the way in which people are usually identified, judged and classified by their hair, especially African-Americans. María Magdalena Campos-Pons uses long hair as an element of self-recognition and reconnection with her Yoruba roots in works such as of the two waters (2007).
Finally, it is interesting to mention The Hijab Series: Mother, Daughter & Doll, by the Yemeni artist Boushra Yahya Almutawakel, who deals with the progressive invisibility and social disappearance of women in her culture; a work as powerful as devastating.
Hijab series: Mother, Daughter, Doll, by Boushra Yahya Almutawakel. (BOUSHRA YAHYA ALMUTAWAKEL)
Behind it stands out the latest work by a controversial artist, AleXsandro Palombo, who paints Marge Simpson cutting her peculiar blue hair in a graffiti in front of the Iranian consulate in Milan to show his support for Mahsa Amini and the rest of the women of his country. The graffiti disappeared the day after it was made. Palombo painted it again, but with a more provocative and aggressive expression and gesture, a treatment of the subject that differs from that of the female authors analyzed. They are usually forceful but generally more subtle in the ways they use their hair to claim political issues, identity or their most basic rights, such as being able to show it without fear of being killed for it.
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