Archives for category: general

While I was in Chicago last week for a conference, I had a strange encounter. As I was unloading my luggage from the airport shuttle van, the driver walked over to me and rubbed his finger against my forearm. He said, “Oh, nice. I bet not many men would tell you that.” I’m pretty sure he was referring to the hair on my arm, which is a bit on the dark/thick side. I was shocked, and didn’t respond, but started to walk away immediately.

I felt a bit violated, to be honest; it always bothers me when people feel compelled to make personal comments to complete strangers, anyway, and I couldn’t figure out what I’d said or done to lead to this backhanded “compliment.” I felt self-conscious for the rest of the day; being alone in an unfamiliar city was challenging enough.

Has anyone had experiences of other people commenting directly to you about your hair?

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The New York Times has a story today about the huge amounts of hair donated each year to organizations like Locks of Love; apparently, much of it is unusable.

Here’s another interesting post on the topic of hair donation (there’s too much of it, it seems, and money may be preferable) from Shakesville; I do think it’s cruel to coerce a young girl to donate her hair if she’s not genuinely willing to do so.

The web is like all interconnected & stuff, so bloggers cross-post on the same topic quite a bit. Here are a few posts that Pam Spaulding very generously added to the blogs pandagon, shakespeare’s sister, and americablog, on the topic of hair & politics. The comments & discussion the posts evoked are worth reading!! 🙂

If you have a story or thought to share about your experiences with your own hair, here’s an open thread to get us started.

A domestic violence outreach organization, Safe Haven Ministries, trains salon workers to be on the lookout for signs that a client may be involved in an abusive relationship. Is it true that women would trust their hairdressers enough to share that they are being abused by their partners? Personally, I go to the salon only a few times a year, and rarely to the same hair stylist, but I know many women who are loyal to their stylists. Any possibility of assisting a woman who is in a violent relationship is worth the hour it takes to train a stylist to notice signs of harm.

I’m fascinated by the idea that a woman can embrace the hair on her face and make it work for her. Artist Jennifer Miller performs with a NY circus troupe called Circus Amok, of which she’s the founder and director. A performance artist whose photograph appeared in Annie Leibovitz’s book Women, Miller sports a full beard that is about three inches long. She calls herself “a woman with a beard, not a bearded lady.”

See the article about Jennifer posted on the Circus Amok website.

Another of my favorite bearded ladies is the character Lila from the wonderful (and missed) HBO series Carnivale.

Greetings! I’ve created this site to be a discussion forum, free-form documentary project, and home for the many stories we can tell about our cultural, social, and personal experiences with hair.

As a woman, I’ve had a complex relationship with my hair, both the hair on my head and the hair on my body. As I grew up, I learned that, for women, body hair is fraught with meaning; normally, we shave it off (or pluck, or wax, or whatever we can do to get rid of it). Some of us have more of it, others less. Women can encounter criticism or questions when they choose to shave their heads, or wear close-cropped styles. Certain professions have attempted to require hairstyles of various lengths or styles. Women who lose their hair as a result of illness sometimes face the loss of their hair with sadness or shame. And some of the bearded ladies among us historically found carnival audiences mesmerized by their gender-bending, though sporting facial hair in public is still stigmatized (and often treated medically or with techniques such as laser hair removal).

I was in my teens when I demanded my mom allow me to start shaving my legs. I don’t recall why, exactly, I felt so compelled to rid myself of body hair, but I remember feeling slightly ashamed when one of my doctors commented on the dark, thick hair on my arms. I’ve often struggled with being slightly hirsute, all the while resenting the weekly, or sometimes even daily, ritual of shaving.

To get this collaborative project started, I’ve posted clips from two interviews I conducted as part of my Hair Stories documentary project. The first is a short profile of an artist named Brenna Murphy, whom I met in Chapel Hill as she was preparing to move out of state. She is a hair artist; that is, she creates prints and art installations using her own, real hair. The second interview is with Pam Spaulding, a blogger whose site, pamshouseblend.com, has garnered praise and awards for its focus on lgbt issues. She has blogged about her experiences growing up as an African-American woman during a time when she was expected to straighten her hair with hot irons. Hair as political statement is an issue that is relatively overlooked in our media, but I’d wager a guess that it’s one of the first characteristics we notice about people (and use to categorize them).

As the site evolves, I hope to elicit discussion about the cultural and social significance of our hair stories, and to generate a broad analysis of how our hair shapes our identities, including gender, ethnicity, class, or sexual orientation.

Tell me your story!