Recently, it was publicised that a Year 3 boy from a local government school was receiving daily detentions because he had a rat’s tail (slang for a plait in Australia) that he refused to cut off. The school’s reasoning being he has to conform to the school’s dress code. No individualism allowed and I must add that the hair style is definitely not gang related. Although I agree that all students should wear a school uniform as it prevents children from lower economic backgrounds facing discrimination because they don’t have the latest Nike clothes etc., I think the school’s reaction is over the top and irresponsible.
Why do people get so upset about hair? For some reason the growing, cutting, styling and covering of this matter results in judgement and discrimination. Hair has to be controlled!
Imagine six different head shots of myself:
- As I am – shoulder length blonde hair
- Hair covered with a hoodie
- Hair dyed black
- Hair covered by hijab (face not covered).
- Hair spiked in punk style with political slogans stuck to each spike
- Head shaved.
How would you react to each shot? From my own personal experience these are the general reactions I have encountered to each persona.
Photo 1: I am barely noticed. I blend in.
Photo 2: I’m obviously a thief. In my local suburb the hoodie is banned because of the assumption that all hoodie wearers are thieves. No joke! In fact, I have innocent, non-threatening reasons for wearing a hood so don’t be scared of me. I have no intention of robbing the local store. I love my hoodie because I love hip-hop and it’s part of the culture. I also wear it to avoid ear infections in winter.
Photo 3: the average person perceives me as unapproachable and weird. I’m a depressed emo who cuts my wrists regularly. Actually I just got bored with being blonde and wanted a change.
Photo 4: any women that wears a hijab must be oppressed, right? If I dressed as a nun wearing a habit you would respect me and believe I had made a personal choice. I would just be considered devout. I would not feel any hatred or discrimination. So why the different treatment? Why is it assumed that one woman is free to make the choice and the other not?
Photo 5: Joe Bloggs is scared of me and thinks I’m aggressive. From experience he’d cross the street then yell abuse at me and see if I’d react. I like punk music and I am intelligent enough to care about politics. It’s fun to gel the hair up and feels theatrical. I am not looking for a fight.
Photo 6: it’s assumed that I’m an aggressive, gay skinhead – but in the reality my head has been shaved to raise money for the cancer charity “Shave for a Cure.” I also look awesome with really short hair. It accentuates my eyes.
Every head shot is the same person. Why does society judge me so differently because of my hair? Why is it wrong to be individualistic? Why is it wrong to express one’s self through one’s hair? Why must everyone conform rather than be creative? If a Muslim woman didn’t cover her hair would she be more acceptable to non-Muslims?
I want to take this a step further. Imagine there is a 7th head shot where I have darkened skin. Now what do you see? Am I educated? Do you assume I’m guilty rather than innocent? Can I run through the streets because I’m late for an appointment or will you think I’ve just rob someone? Can I buy sweets from a shop wearing a hoodie? I’m still the same person. Now think about Trayvon Martin.
Now it’s your turn. Imagine you are going to a fancy dress party and you choose to dress as one of these personas. On the way to the party you first have to buy something for the local shopping centre then have dinner with your folks at a local restaurant. People don’t realise you are in fancy dress. They assume this is the way you always look. Now visualise how they will react to you. You are the same person – just your presentation has changed. You will be treated differently.
So, to all those people who have stressed out about my appearance or that of my friends my advice would be – judge people by their hearts, their words, and their actions. Let people express themselves, be creative and individualistic without being persecuted. Try to understand the reasons for their appearance rather than fear their appearance. Let the black child have a white child’s life. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
To the local school I would like to say – you are teaching children how to persecute, discriminate, control and judge by appearance. You are teaching that it is wrong to be expressive and individualistic. Is this really what education should be about?
“Hair” @ jamendo.com
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