I have been fascinated by hair as a symbol for liberation since I first saw the musical on Broadway. Hair tells the story of teenage “hippies” in 1969 who are protesting the war, while receiving draft cards. Their “hair like Jesus wore it” protests the traditional buzz cut for soldiers. With their hair, the young men are expressing their disagreement with the government and politics.
At the same time, African American hippies grew out their “afros,” as an expression of racial pride. 1969 was the end of the Civil Rights decade, and African Americans used their hair to express newfound power and rights. In showing off what was natural of their hair, African Americans were not conforming to, nor accepting standards of Caucasian hair, and thus Caucasian ideals of beauty and appearance norms.
Women were also rejecting beauty standards in 1969 via their hair. In growing it out, “long, straight, curly, fuzzy, snaggy, shaggy, ratty, matty,” they were protesting ideals of femininity, concurrent with the Women’s Rights movements in the 1960s.
Today, men and women of all races are also using their hair as forms of expression. As the LGBTQ revolution progresses, androgyny in fashion is becoming popular. Men are not considered “feminine” for taking care of their hair, and the “man bun” (long hair put in a bun) are seen as attractive.
As women are gaining power and equality, shorter haircuts are also very normal. Women are no longer expected to have perfectly managed long locks, and more professional, short cuts are acceptable.
While hairstyles may be used as a form of liberation for men and women in 2015, another type of hair is setting back the progress gender roles. With the growing popularity of internet porn, women are under pressure to be perfect, and thus pubic shaving is becoming more and more socially necessary. Since many men expect their partners to look like the porn stars they see, women are becoming ashamed of public hair, just as they became ashamed of leg and armpit hair.
We discussed in class if it was necessary for women to shave. The public scrutiny of women with hair is too hard for many to justify the lack of razor. The pain women endure with leg and bikini waxing could be compared to the pain of foot binding.
So what direction will hair take society next? Will men and women’s androgynous haircuts soon mesh into one shaved do? Or will we all grow everything out and do away with the waxes and razors?