In 1989, a very strident (and quite frankly, as mad as a mongoose) marxist lass at my college, told me that ‘you can’t be a feminist if you wear make-up, shave your arm-pits and dye your hair’. Of course, me being me, I felt compelled to waltz into the building each day, gurning my frosted pink lips at her and wearing sleeveless t-shirts so that I could demonstrate my de-fuzzed armpits at any every opportunity.
I would liked to have dyed my hair just in order to spite her. But I was too chicken. I think that I was the only girl in the 80’s not to have had a perm. Partly because of the fear of the chemicals, but also because a best friend told me ‘your hair’s too thick. And anyway, what with those specs – you look enough like Deirdre Barlow as it is.’
But I have always felt that the point about being a feminist is this; no one can tell you what to look like, what to do with your body. I’ve always reckoned that you should use your own common sense; don’t get too giddy about self-adornment and keep it in perspective. So, it was 1999 before I first reached for the dye bottle and went a bit lighter than my usual dishwater blonde. Some 18 years later and my daughter told me that a friend of hers was astonished recently, to learn that my natural colour isn’t so ‘yellow’ after all (this being the adjective that my son uses to describes it.)
So, I got to thinking about gender issues and dying our hair. I did a quick recce of my female friends and their barnets. Of twenty close pals, only five don’t colour their hair (two are black/asian and have lustrous natural colour). And for those of us who do, none of us are remotely bothered about the fact that we use dye. Some of us use colour because we like the shade, and others use it because they’re just don’t fancy the going-grey look right now. In fact, I’ve just bumped into my 70-something year old neighbour and complimented her on her new ‘do’; ‘Oh, I’ve only just had me roots done – got to cover the grey!’ Whereas another friend, a good few years younger than me, is totally grey now and looks ruddy ace.
In fact, it seems that the tables have definitely turned, with regards to women and hair colour. You’ll no doubt have seen an army of young women (and some men) who have chosen to colour their hair grey or white. Can’t say that it’s something that I’d have wanted to do, but I have to concede that it does look really good on some folk.
But returning to the feminist mantra, I’d say that hair colour is one of the few aspects in western society where women get to do whatever the hell they want. Not so for men though. In fact, if *I* were a man, I’d be pretty hopping mad about the current state of affairs.
Sure, they are allowed to have beards, no beards, tattoos, piercings, shaved bits, plucked bits, waxed bits these days. Sure, it’s acceptable to use a moisturiser or a hair gel product without someone questioning your sexual orientation. And best of all, wasn’t it great when Phillip Schofield showed the world that he was prone to premature greying and wasn’t going to cover it up anymore?
But what about the fella who does want to colour his hair? OK, I’m not referring to the more edgy sorts who’d want to for the green or the pink – I mean your average bloke in his 30s, 40s, 50s maybe – who looks in the mirror and just feels cheerier if he doesn’t see all of the grey or the white? Is it alright for him to call over to his neighbour ‘just off to get me roots done!’ ? Is it OK if his children’s school friends find the ‘Grecian 2000’ in the bathroom?
I’d say no. I’d say that society would totally take the rip out of a bloke for colouring his hair. And whilst we’re on the subject, what about a fella who wants to colour his beard? My other half was asked the other day why the colour of his beard was so radically different from the colour of the hair on his head. I was kind of hoping that he would answer ‘because society is oppressing me and crushing my choice of follicle shade’, but he didn’t plump for that one.
And whilst we’re on this subject what about men who are losing their hair? Again, another example of where men are just expected to put up and shut up and just go with the flow, go with the current societal trend. ‘Cause most blokes can’t afford the Elton John hair-weaving/transplant malarky. So, if you’re losing your hair, as a bloke, your only option is to shave it all off and go for neo-nazi thug look.
I do sense a bit of a backlash towards the middle-aged male in today’s society. So as a little help-up, I’m offering them some practical suggestions, that might make them feel a bit more empowered; a bit more fair n’ equal to use ladies who can do whatever the hell we want to our barnets;
- Going grey/white? Don’t like it? JUST DYE IT. Who gives a toss what people think? *I* will approve. Don’t forget to do your eyebrows, your beard and your chest hair too, if you feel like it. In fact – why not mash it all up a little? Hair on head = brown + beard hair = blonde. Screw convention.
- Losing your hair? Bring back the comb over and Cossack. Or – grow it long and go for monk’s pony tail. Hell – get a wig, get a periwinkle. Just don’t sit there feeling bad about yourself simply because society tells you that if you head for the 70’s/80’s solutions that your dad did, you’ll be uncool. You’re older now. You know better. Take a tip from the lasses.
Remember Magnum P.I?
Exactly. Go for it.