Hair. Some women wear it as a symbol of femininity or cultural solidarity, or to comply with the normative practices of their society or subculture. Others wear it as a bold political statement, to rebut gender norms or a means to get close to, or away from, trending fashions.
Hair carries personal, cultural, and religious meanings that reflect the individual self, and it grows out of our bodies! As female-identifying people, the step from personal to political is automatic when it comes to our hair, with hair heritage revealing both racism and the impact of patriarchal standards of beauty.
Throughout history, countless laws and social standards have controlled our hair and in turn, our bodies. This is particularly true in a colonialist context, where power structures underpinned by racism and sexism mandated the maintenance of hair for people of colour and saw them cop the full force of prejudice and stereotyping. In Mauritius for example, at the height of the slave trade – when Europeans wore wigs to showcase their wealth – the short hair of African descendants was referred to as “pepper corns” or “sugar”: major slave colony crops.
Hair. On our heads, hair it means something; covered up, it means something; cut off, it means something. Off our heads, its function can be seen in wigs, paintbrushes, fertilisers, rope and so many other weird and wonderful things. Entangled; the Secret Lives of Hair by Emma Tarlo is a book that talks about the worldly meaning and interconnection of hair across the world.
For some, hair allows us to carry our identities on our heads. The deep tie between self-esteem and hair is strong in me and many women I know. Every few years, I chop it all off in a metaphorical process of shedding past experience and memories that feel as though they hang densely in my hair.
However, as a white woman and an atheist, my relationship to my hair is very different from that of women of colour or those whose hair is covered up in keeping with their religious beliefs. If you are interested in reading more about hijab, check this op-ed by Nadiya Takolia, and these brilliant articles: Why Do Muslim Women Wear a Hijab and 3 Reasons Why. You should also scope these interviews in Allure, which saw the mag’s digital hair editor Jihan Forbes chat to a bunch of people about their take on the concept of “good hair” and self-identity and its connection to hair.
For many non-binary people and trans women, their relationship to hair is different and complex again. Hair is an integral piece of identity, and can allow the formulation and exploration of gender and self through styles, extensions, wigs and different cuts. Here you can engage with the experiences and journeys five trans people of colour have had with their hair.
What is your relationship to and with your hair? Do you feel that a bad hair day makes for a bad day the same way that Phoebe Wallebrige does in Fleabag Season 2?
You don’t have to do witchcraft with your hair, but we urge you to ponder the thought of hair this week. What does it mean to you? How has it shaped your experiences and internal perspective?
You could try writing an opinion piece about why you do or don’t tend to your locks (or your body hair, like our mate Erin did), or have a crack at hair bending like Laetitia Ky and Nagi Noda. Write a poem in line with and inspired by Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’. Be a creepy Victorian and make some memento mori art. Experiment with performance art and paint like Janine Antoni and Xie Rong (Echo Morgan). You could also take inspiration from our dear friend Christina Smith, who has been drawing the shapes she sees in her loose hair after she brushes it out in the shower and sticks it to the glass so it doesn’t clog the drain.
As always, if you’re feeling ballsy, or as we like to say at Anaerkillik, if you’ve got big flap energy, submit your creations to us via email@example.com and we will share them on our website and social media.