In India, long hair and femininity are synonymous with each other. The television and film industries are the trendsetters in our country. Their activities play a significant role in the trending fashion from clothes to hairstyles to everything. Unfortunately, these role models are still stuck up in the conventional long hair fashion. Sadly, they haven’t made many efforts to broaden this understanding of femininity. The fashion collections of famous designers usually feature women in long, demure hairstyles. This cements the obsession for long hair harder.
A LOOK AT THE STEREOTYPES
Society has a wide range of stereotypes associated with hair. These stereotypes are prevalent across the countries. Since ancient times goddesses are always portrayed with extra-long hair. Bengali culture has many references to feminine beauty ideals in literature, song, and poetry. Long hair has been hyped up so much as if it is a certification of femininity. Curly brides seldom wear their natural hair at their weddings. They are forced to adhere to a stereotypical beauty standard of long straight hair. The brides often have to adhere to the; mainstream bridal fashions that simply don’t factor in curls. All of this highlights a cultural obsession with long, straight, “proper” hair.
Society often tends to have a really narrow view of beauty. Fair skin, tall height, and long hair are often seen as the yardsticks of beauty. People usually link femininity to having long hair and beauty. Surprisingly women themselves are quick to judge other women based on hair stereotypes. A bizarre assumption in society is that you will not take your work seriously if your hair is fun. Another funny assumption is that you’re aggressive, butch, unfeminine if you have short hair. Besides curly or short hair, colored hair hurt society’s eyes even more. Coloring hair is often seen as the characteristic of an irresponsible or selfish girl. Surprisingly a girl still has to seek permission from her parents or her husband to color her hair. Colored hair is looked upon as highly unprofessional. Especially when women have short colored hair, they often fall victim to the judgmental behavior of society. Sadly this behavior often comes from their own family and friends. Other women themselves are the forerunners in this series of comments and judgments.
WHY DO THE STEREOTYPES GET STRONGER?
The television and film industry tends to stick to them and make them even more prevalent. Advertisements, movies, and daily soaps further cement these stereotypes. Short-haired women are cinematized as mouthy tomboys, athletes, or staunch careerists. They are never picturized as affectionate mothers or wives. Short or colored hair is stereotyped as a shrill, cold archetype devoid of softness and femininity. Long straight hair is shown as the typical main lead thing. Big banner movies and commercials usually feature the heroine with super long hair. They rarely feature curly-haired leads.
In hair oil or shampoo advertisements, super long straight hair is always glorified. These advertisements mislead us that long straight hair is a beauty standard or that every girl wants them. Even songs celebrate long hair only. We can never think of a song that praises a woman’s short hair, but we can remember hundreds that do this for long hair. The obsession is deeply rooted in the country, especially in the visual profession. Visual professions like modeling or acting expect people to adhere to their usual beauty standards, long hair being one of them.
Sadly workplaces aren’t hair-inclusive. Surprisingly many companies have a policy about the types of colors allowed on women’s hair. Straight long hair that is not frizzy or colored is considered professional. A majority of Indian corporations believe buzz cuts as unprofessional.
THE CURRENT SCENARIO
Women are trying to free themselves of these suffocating beauty standards. But sadly, due to this, they often face trolling and lose comments from society. From being compared to noodles or broom, their hair often becomes a subject of words. Some women have even decided to go bald. Although we very conveniently say that “bald is beautiful,” but we fail to believe that. If a woman goes bald, she is assumed to be diseased or mourning for someone’s death. Society must stop weaponizing hair to judge women.
The scenario is undoubtedly changing. Women have become more accepting of themselves. They are making efforts to free themselves of the societal shackles associated with beauty and femininity. We have Indian actors like Kangana Ranaut and Tapsee Pannu, breaking stereotypes related to curly hair. Change is visible in animated children’s heroines as well. Earlier, we had Disney princesses with super long hair. But now we have famous characters like Merida and Moana with curly hair. Women must have the right to decide how they want to look. This decision is a matter of personal choice. It should not be a consequence of societal pressure or stereotypes. Beauty is indeed not derived from skin or hair. There is no benchmark for beauty as “Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.”