Reader Calypso sent us this very interesting article on gray hair. Of course, I’ve been aware of the fact that gray hair is considered more acceptable on a man than on a woman, and I’ve been aware that lots of women dye their hair. But I’d never really thought about just how widespread hair dying must be. Think about this:
of the 16 female U.S. Senators — the highest number ever — who range in age from 46 to 74, not a single one has visible gray hair.
The article makes some rather dubious claims about the cause of hair dying, however:
Ironically, it’s feminism’s success that has driven today’s widespread, virtually obligatory camouflage of gray hair.
The idea seems to be that feminism has led to women in positions of power, and nobody trusts a gray-haired woman in a position of power. Hence, feminism is responsible. But the real question is why nobody trusts a gray-haired woman, when gray-haired men are considered eminently trustworthy, and it doesn’t seem likely you could blame feminism for that one. Also, umm, plenty of women are simply not in positions of power, so the explanation would be pretty limited even if it made sense.
Still, there’s interesting stuff in the article. For example, the author reports a surprising anecdote: as part of her research, she placed personal ads online with photographs of herself with either gray or brown hair, and got far more responses to the gray hair ad. Maybe she just looks great gray, or maybe (as some in the article suggest) gray is beginning to become cool.
Calypso notes (without naming names, so don’t go asking!) that there are many women philosophers who dye their gray hair. Is there the same pressure for non-gray hair in academia as there is in the Senate? I’m pretty sure the pressure is lower, but it may still be there.
Anyway, a really useful example to discuss in classes: Unless you have it pointed out, you don’t really realise just how widespread hair dying must be.