Do you ever find yourself judging a woman’s personality based on how she chooses to wear her hair? Have you ever personally faced judgements that have been made about you based on your hair? As women, many of us feel deep connections to our hair that we cannot even begin to express in words. In reality, a woman’s hair color, style, texture and length are attached to certain stigmas that are deeply ingrained in our society’s culture. Whether people can consciously recognize it or not, there are a lot of stereotypes and identity issues surrounding women’s hair in the Western culture.
For example, everyone has heard one too many dumb blond jokes in their lifetimes. Most people link blond hair to beauty and youth, not to maturity or intelligence. When we think of blonde-haired people, we picture little girls with curly ringlets or the classic damsel in distress from a Disney movie. In TV shows, the blond actresses often portray the childish, airy characters who require guidance and protection from men. Brunettes are seen as possessing more sophisticated and elegant qualities; try imagining Belle from Beauty and the Beast. On the other hand, brunettes are often seen as the average girl, someone who is boring or plain. In contrast, the color red is usually associated with passion, anger, and sexuality. These associations help explain why redheads are often portrayed as feisty and promiscuous in the media.
For women of color, their dark natural hair is subjected to even more misguided labels and stereotypes. Sometimes, their hair is seen as exotic and thus, desirable. But most times, dark natural hair is judged for being too unmanageable, unkempt, or kinky. These judgements about a woman’s hair often transfer over to judgements that are made about a woman’s personality overall. A woman with hair that is frizzy or curly, as opposed to sleek and straight, is often viewed as having a wild, uncontrollable, and juvenile personality.
Judgments are often made against women for the way they choose to wear their hair. Long hair is seen as feminine, youthful and beautiful, but only on young women. Long hair on older women is generally viewed as distasteful. Short hair is seen as more masculine, mature, and serious. It is often assumed that women with short hair are tomboys, that they are overly disciplined or that they are lesbians. A woman who wears her hair down is viewed as being carefree and sexual while a woman who wears her hair up is viewed as uptight and stuffy.
Are any of these stereotypes necessarily true? No, of course not. A woman’s personality is not determined by the color of hair she happened to be born with. These stereotypes are simply examples of the many personality traits we subconsciously associate with different physical features of other women.
A woman’s hair is often personally and culturally tied to her lifestyle, but this does not mean that other people can look at her appearance and make sweeping judgements about her as a person. We cannot judge a woman’s maturity, intelligence or sexuality based upon the color, texture or style of her hair. Even though there are many unconscious biases surrounding women’s hair, we have to become more conscious of the judgements we are making about other women based merely on their physical appearance.
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