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When women put their hair on the line in the fight for equal rights


A poster with a drawing of Marge Simpson cutting her hair in support of Iranian women, by aleXsandro Palombo, at a protest in London. aleXsandro Palombo / TW

Cutting your hair or letting it grow out, dyeing it or showing it gray, sporting a mane or covering it up.

These are daily acts by which millions of women claim their identity, try to integrate, fight for their rights or respect regulations on which, too often, they have no say.

Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurd, was arrested in September by morality police in Tehran for breaking the law requiring women to cover their hair. She was apparently not wearing her veil properly.

Some Iranian women have started showing their hair and cutting it off in protest, which some also associate with ancient traditions of mourning.

Since then, women from various countries and cultures have shared images and videos of themselves cutting their hair to show their support.

Explained When women put their hair on the line in the fight for equal rights

Protesters shout slogans as they take part in a rally outside the Iranian consulate in Istanbul following the death of Mahsa Amini five weeks ago. AFP

Hair means so much more

The culture has many references in which hair is linked to strength, power, punishment or even intelligence: from Samson or Medusa to “dumb blondes”. In this latest shot, academic research has proven that while it’s not true that blonde hair implies less intelligence, very few blonde people make it into Fortune 500 leadership positions.

Today, there is a proliferation of images and videos on social media of women championing all sorts of causes with different head and body hairstyles. Of these, those in which some women shave their heads as a sign of sisterhood with relatives and friends with cancer are particularly poignant. Some are widely shared.

A religious or political question

Some belief groups impose or recommend shaving one’s hair at marriage, and covering it with scarves, hats or wigs in the name of “modesty”. series such as Unorthodox make these practices visible, in this case in the Hasidic Judaism of the Satmar community.

Explained When women put their hair on the line in the fight for equal rights

Posters are seen on the grass during a protest in support of Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini during a demonstration. AFP

Other artists reflect in their works the passive or silent rebellion of many women who use shiny fabrics and accessories, or very flashy blonde wigs. This was the case of the Iranian Shirin Aliabadi in works such as miss hybrid (2008).

A clear example is the Afro style, linked to the struggle for civil rights. For Gibson, in this case, hair has been a form of protest since the beginning of slavery, when certain haircuts were enforced to erase people’s culture and basic rights.

Hair can be considered art in some cultures. It features in songs such as don’t touch my hair Where i am not my hair. Mena Fombo, with the campaign No. You can’t touch my hair!helps people understand why something as innocent as touching a stranger’s hair can cause deep discomfort and be a sign of racism.

Cut it or grow it for a long time?

The image of a woman with a shaved head is usually associated with illness or punishment. It is rare and often shocking. This is reflected in the impact of actresses and singers going bald.

Most did it to portray their characters and some say it was “liberating”.

However, for a minority, like Sinead O’Connor or Adwoa Aboah, it has also been a way of confronting stereotypes and commercial pressures for female beauty ideals – ideals that Frida Kahlo challenged with her. Self-portrait with cropped hair (1940) after his separation from Diego Rivera.

Not all justifications involve shaving your head. In my own work Reliquary: family manes I tried to collect the different aesthetic, political and religious links of hair for the women in my family.

In Wigs (1994), Lorna Simpson explores how people are generally identified, judged, and classified by their hair, especially African Americans. María Magdalena Campos-Pons uses long hair as an element of self-recognition and reconnection with her Yoruba roots in works such as De las dos aguas (2007).

It is interesting to consider The Hijab series: mother, daughter and doll, by Yemeni artist Boushra Yahya Almutawakel, who deals with the social disappearance of women in her culture; a work as powerful as it is devastating.

Explained When women put their hair on the line in the fight for equal rights
The Hijab Series: Mother, Daughter, Dollby Bushra Yahya Almutawakel.
Boushra Yahya Almutawakel

The latest work by a controversial artist to stand out is that of aleXsandro Palombo, who painted Marge Simpson cutting off her distinctive blue hair in graffiti outside the Iranian consulate in Milan to show support for Amini.

The graffiti disappeared the day after it was painted. He repainted it, but with a more provocative and aggressive expression and gesture, a treatment of the subject which differs from the female artists I have cited.

Women in art tend to be forceful but more subtle when using their hair to advocate political or identity issues or their most basic rights, such as being able to show it off without fear of being killed for it.Explained When women put their hair on the line in the fight for equal rights

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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