Monday, October 20, 2014

Let's Talk About Hair

In the past 24 hours, I have:

- Put my hair up to go on a run
- Washed my hair twice
- Blow-dried my hair twice (about 10 minutes each)
- Put on mascara twice
- Plucked my eyebrows
- Shaved my legs
- Shaved my underarms
- Brushed my hair about million times 

Likely, if you are a woman, you have also done some, if not all, of these things. If you are a man, well, you maybe washed your hair. You maybe also shaved your face, which is incredibly intimidating to me, and I'm glad I'll never have to do that. But do I, or does any woman (or anyone of any gender, for that matter) really have to do any of the things mentioned above? No. So... why do we?!

Hair is a really funny thing in our society. On women, it's sexy and feminine. But only in the right places, amounts, and colors. Leg hair? Nope. Underarm hair? Oh hell no. Eyebrow hair? Yes, but keep it in line. Eyelashes? Better be long and dark. Regular old hair on your head? Style it how you want (kind of), but it has to look good.

Phew! How do people keep up with all that?!

One way: spend a LOT of time, money, and energy on it. I recently tried using a cheaper brand of shampoo and conditioner. My hair did NOT like it. Back to my $8 bottles. Women use all kinds of crazy things on their hair. There's shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, heat protectant, mousse, and dyes. There are curling irons, straighteners, and hair dryers. And then there are razors, wax, tweezers, threading, laser hair removal, and Nair. That #$%! takes time!

Something that has always confused me about women's hair: the eyebrow/eyelash double standard. I fight a constant battle with my eyebrows, as do many women. We pluck and tweeze and wax and do all these things to keep our eyebrows tamed and ensure not one hair is out of place. But our eyelashes, the hair only like one inch below our eyebrows, we enhance by darkening, curling, and lengthening. What is the big difference between eyebrows and eyelashes?! I still don't get it.

So I know not all people or all women do all the things I've mentioned to keep up with their hair (I don't either). But it seems like there is more for women to do to control, tame, enhance, etc. their hair than there is for men. If I don't shave my legs, it seems like a statement, or it seems just plain gross. If a guy doesn't shave his face, it's his style and he looks sexy. Umm... not fair.

In my women's studies class, The Social Construction of Women's Bodies, we read about Sandra Lee Bartky's theory of disciplinary practices targeted towards women. Bartky argues that these practices, such as women decorating themselves by styling their hair, are located both nowhere and everywhere. I completely agree with this. No one tells me I have to shave my legs or dry my hair or put on mascara. I do these things because I want to, and I feel prettier and cleaner when I do. I shave my legs because I like how it feels. But I bet if I were a guy, I bet I would like how shaved legs feel too, and I still wouldn't shave my legs...

I am not upset about any of these things. I realize that maintaining my hair takes up more time than it does for other people (especially men), and I realize I could change that if I wanted to. Mostly, I just find it amazing that there are so many forces, especially in advertising and other media, that tell us that women should look a certain way and men should look a certain way, and that there are products and stores and entire companies for making that happen. And so many of us just follow along, sometimes without questioning it at all. 

I just want to encourage us all to question disciplinary practices I mentioned above, even if we do continue following along. I also want to encourage everyone not to judge people who don't follow these rules. If you see a woman who doesn't shave her legs, it might be surprising at first, but don't let that surprise turn into judgment. You get to decide what you does with your body, and so does she!

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