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Why are men with grey hair accepted in society, but not women? Let's take a look at the politics of grey hair.
A woman flaunting grey hair in an Indian middle-class household is blasphemous.
It is often considered as sacrilegious as entering the sacred quarters without a bath.
Unless one has crossed the glorious 60s or 70s, a woman swaggering with a crown of yellow/ grey/ platinum strands is definitely an unholy sight.
The politics of grey can easily be witnessed in the depiction of men with shiny/rough greys as fashionable or respectable while in the parallel universe, a woman simply becomes ‘aged’. Even in the mainstream popular culture (or in the regular workplace) we are visually bombarded with images of mature women with a dark mane whereas their male counterparts can be seen carelessly moving around without their hair dyed. Needless to say, as a society, we are rather unforgiving to a woman who displays grey roots irrespective of whether she is the Duchess of Cambridge or someone from nowhere land.
As the first-world high fashion industry debates and discusses accepting greys (grey ombre is a trend and Meryl Streep is an exception, not the norm), the idea of embracing natural grey is still a far cry in an Indian middle-class household. Of course, one can find a few urban-bred Indian women embracing their greys, but they are only a handful. Pre-quinquagenarian women embracing greys is frowned upon by society as it never meets the patriarchal standards of beauty.
I am constantly bombarded with curious glances and innocent queries about my headful of thirty shades of greys! In social gatherings, I am offered solutions to keep my hair dark and dazzling; sometimes from those who barely know me or vaguely recall my name. I find these unsolicited pieces of advice amusing; because these problem-solvers are clearly flag-bearers of stereotyping who display a serious lack of understanding and carry a trans-generational bias towards women who want to break free from the oppressive social practices like refusing to cover grey hair.
Interestingly, many of these well-wishers themselves struggle with insecurities related to their own appearance, and when they see me being so nonchalant about my platinum hair they project their insecurities towards me by trying to feed me with ageist and regressive ideas.
As I see it, adopting a fresh attitude towards naturally platinum hair is also a step towards embracing nonconformity. This alternative approach calls for recognizing individuality and does not encourage the idea of blending into a homogenous crowd; a way of life that is neither appreciated by the patriarchal society nor by the upholders of culture.
After all, no one likes a rebellious woman, a woman who is unapologetically herself – it disrupts the basic fabric of society, however insignificant that might be. The phallocentric worldview finds such subtle shifts rather alarming because they are indicative of change, challenging normative behaviour.
Women who embrace grey as a natural progression display huge self-confidence and are perceived as inspiring. They are not afraid of breaking free from social pigeonholing of appearing youthful. They are imperfect but real agents of change in a long-delayed yet necessary step towards perception evolution.
In the middle-class surroundings, grey hair still lurks around as a stigma and one has to really fight one’s way to keep a headful of hair undyed. Of course, upholding the dignity of grey hairs does not mean one has to adopt an anti hair-dye rhetoric. To each her own. As long as one is at peace with herself, feeling happy as the possessor of a healthy mane, colour – black, grey, red, brown, blue, orange – should not be a matter of concern.
After all, the sorority gains strength through all of its diverse and distinctive colours and acceptance of the same!
Image Source: Canva Pro
Dr. Khusi Pattanayak was expecting a letter from Hogwarts but never received one. So, she decided to be the woman of letters and earned a PhD in English Literature. She has 13+ years of professional read more...
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