I saw this quote written with a chalkboard marker on a sandwich board, outside a hair salon. I slowed my pace as I read it and several thoughts and emotions flashed through my mind. I kept looking back at it, as if I wasn’t quite sure I’d read it right. Perhaps you’ve heard this phrase before. I hadn’t.
It was a marketing strategy. The hair salon was actually a hair boutique and had flowers all over the sign. So I’m assuming its target audience was women. For some reason, I don’t think the barber’s slightly further down would use such a phrase to market their business.
It shocked me. So they think that I might book an appointment based on the fact that someone has recently slighted me, or I’ve failed at something and need to prove something to the haters?
It annoyed the hell out of me and begs the question:
What the heck has gorgeous hair got to do WITH ANYTHING?
What even is “gorgeous hair”? It’s totally subjective.
I like having hair. I like getting my hair done. I even look forward to it. Maybe that’s because I tend to leave three to six months in-between cuts.
I enjoy the experience itself. What mother doesn’t like sitting still for an hour or two, having someone wash and tame their tresses, being brought a hot drink, chatting about anything that’s not Thomas the Tank Engine?! I do know some don’t care for it.
I also like the change and the opportunity for creative expression. I’ve often gone for a completely different style because I’m bored and I don’t care if it goes wrong. Fringe, then no fringe. Short, then long again. A blonde streak at the front. Blonde highlights. Dark, dark brown all over. I even tried out having it so short when I was a child (but old enough to care and choose for myself), that my teacher once called me Paul when I had my back turned.
Whether your hair is short or long. Whether you change it a lot or never do. Perhaps you don’t even wash it. Heck, I’ve known women to look beautiful with NO hair. It shouldn’t be seen as something that will impact your worth as a human being. How much someone regrets losing, hurting or rejecting you, shouldn’t and doesn’t revolve around your appearance.
It’s. Just. Hair.
This quote mostly annoyed me because it brought to light aspects of our culture that I’m not all too pleased about, regarding the way women and their bodies are spoken of, portrayed and marketed. They are as follows (not exhaustive):
A woman’s appearance is always open for scrutiny and judgment.
I keep tutting and rolling my eyes when I remember the ridiculous media coverage of Jennifer Anniston recently. “Is she pregnant?”… was the basis of an entire article. “Oh, no. She’d just had a big lunch, her people informed us”… was the basis of the follow-up article. What a waste of perfectly good editorial space.
Why does our media scrutinise the female body so emphatically? I know men are scrutinised too, but if it was a contest? Women would win by a landslide.
Do you know the worst thing? It’s mostly done for women’s magazines! For the entertainment of women.
I was scrolling down my Facebook newsfeed to see an article from the Guardian: ‘What news stories you missed because of the Brexit coverage?’
Yes, we’re all wondering what news stories we missed when the media was covering a moment in history, a significant change for our country and the continent that will have a global impact… But we don’t care about the news stories we miss because our feeds are packed full of trollop about celebrity cellulite and bloated bellies. Oh no.
Let’s make a pact – don’t click on those articles! Don’t read it! Then perhaps, they’ll stop writing it.
It’s #bodyhonestly week on The Pool and I read an article titled: How women began “flaunting” their “assets” all over the internet. Read the following excerpt:
“Simultaneously a celebration of beauty or sexiness and a vehicle of slut-shaming, women can’t really win in the narrative of asset-flaunting: if we’ve nothing to flaunt, if we dress conservatively, or if we don’t adhere to specific beauty norms of being thin and young and white-skinned, we’re somehow disgusting. If we possess physical attributes that some caption writer considers attractive or sexual, then they are not just components of the bodies that carry us through the world – we’re aggressively displaying them. Our bodies are never right – too much, too little, not enough. As someone in possession of a figure that some might call buxom, I know well the particular discomfort of wearing an item of clothing that might look modest on someone with different proportions, but which is interpreted as blatant and provocative on me. Were I famous, the Mail would certainly claim that I was flaunting my assets; I’d call it “wearing a V-neck T-shirt that I bought at Banana Republic without trying it on”.” Jean Hannah Edelstein
Yes, a lot of celebrities wear revealing clothes that one might say invites an assessment of their body… but it feels like a chicken and egg conundrum. Do women feel they have to “display” their bodies in order to be successful or famous, because that’s the expectation? That’s what it takes?
Will their bodies be assessed no matter what they wear, so they may as well aim to please? We know if a celebrity steps out of the house in sweats and an oversized hoody they’d probably get criticised for that as well as the plunging neckline (as our new PM has been recently called out on).
2. Women can be stereotyped as petty, catty, or just plain batty!
She’s such a bitch! She’s completely nuts! Look at that outfit, she’s obviously mental! What was she thinking?!
The boyfriend who cheats, the friend who bitches, the boss who criticises us… they all need to be taught a lesson. Apparently!
We’ve all met women out there who display one of the above traits, I’m sure. I’m not going to lie and claim they’ve all passed me by. But I do think we are all products of culture and ideology, to an extent. If we are expected to act like that, then we’re more likely too, which is why this kind of marketing that appeals to our inner-bitch makes me sad. She’s different, can often be reinterpreted as: she’s mental! Let’s think the best. And talk about women in a way that lines up with what we want women to be and how we want them to feel – free to be themselves.
Let’s face it – we’re all a bit batty!
3. A woman’s appearance can be made much more of than her achievements.
Do you know who said this somewhat famous quote?
It was Donald Trump’s first wife, Ivana Trump. After their messy divorce in the 1990s, Ivana set about making a career for herself. As a child she was a competitive skier, she became a model, then a businesswoman, and a fashion designer, and a novelist and columnist. But I found that her trademark up-do seemed to be more famous than her husband.
Harper’s Bazaar did an article about her where they did a make-under. This hugely frustrated me. Why? Because they are still making it all about how she looks. They are saying, “no, no, no. Love. Look, you’re famous for looking over-the-top glam and you’d look much better if you let us tone it down a bit.” Why can’t she wear her hair how she wants to? Have you ever thought that she might like it like that, it’s not all about getting attention? Who knows. It’s probably all so meshed up, what she likes, what she thinks will appeal. Can she separate the two anymore?
How about an article that details how she has been so successful in many areas OTHER than her impeccable hairstyle? What can we learn from a woman who suffered a messy and public marriage breakdown and came up fighting?
You don’t have to like her. But have you ever stopped to consider that perhaps we, on some level, created a lot of the unlikeable things about her?
I love this, and the freedom and vitality it connotes. It’s not about making a point by backcombing your hair, or using it to cover your face like cousin It. It’s about putting hair, and your face, and your weight, and the length of your legs, in their rightful place. Be yourself.
If that’s wild and unkempt.
If that’s carefully styled.
If that’s always changing.
If that’s always the same.
If you don’t have the appearance you used to have because of age or illness, you’ve no less to give to this world. With that age or painful experience, you’ve no doubt gained a depth of character and strength, wisdom, understanding through experience, and expertise we can only look on and admire.
Enjoy the freedom of being yourself and let other women feel that freedom too by going further than skin-deep.
I was looking through photos the other day and found this one of me and my daughter from last year.
My eyes are puffy. My skin is pale. And I didn’t care. I don’t care now. It’s an incredibly poignant photo for me, depicting a time in life when all the material things fell away and showed their true worth. I’m grateful I have it because I feel like my daughter went from age one to two in the blink of an eye. My mind was so foggy from pain I can’t remember a lot of what she was like. This photo reminds me that I was still there, still there for her, in the small capacity that I had.
Having said all that, I did go and get my hair done before the funeral because having my hair feel dull and lifeless didn’t help me emotionally. I got my hair done FOR ME. Not because I didn’t want to “terrify” others with my grief-stricken appearance.
This is me at our 30th party a month ago.
I loved getting all glammed-up! It was so fun.
Both pictures represent me being me, through different seasons of life. I certainly don’t maintain this freedom to be myself and non-judgemental attitude 100%, by any means. I have to check myself often. It’s a work-in-progress.
But hey, aren’t we all?!