Saturday, February 17, 2007Some thoughts on public shock surrounding voluntarily bald women: baldness in women connotes undesirable states like desexualization (as tonsure in religious contexts), shaming (in repressive regimes like Nazi Germany and witchhunt-era Europe (and modern-day Asia), women frequently had their heads shaved in public as punishment), disease (anything from “treatment” of head lice to hair loss associated with cancer, etc.), or “sexual nonconformity.”
We also recall the bizarre photos of the female members of Charles Manson's "Family" showing up in court with shaven heads, freshly-scabbed-over swastikas carved on their foreheads - and the bald psychopathic LSD badtrippers in "Blue Sunshine." A bald-headed woman is clearly seen as somehow evil, dehumanized...or just plain nuts.
We’ve made some progress in the past few decades - Natalie Portman’s baldilocks for her recent film role in V for Vendetta were considered slightly less shocking than the late Persis Khambatta’s in the late-seventies Star Trek films - but unfortunately we’ve still a long way to go before women can wear stylishly shaved heads without arousing pity, scorn, or bewilderment:
"Some people will think I'm a neo-Nazi or that I have cancer or I'm a lesbian," so supposed the actress Natalie Portman, who has shaved her head for her next film role in V for Vendetta and debuted the look at Cannes [May 2005], to the consternation of many. Portman is the latest in a relatively small procession of anti-Rapunzels - Sinead O'Connor, Demi Moore, Sigourney Weaver, Skin, and the model Eve Salvail being the most well-documented. Despite the fact that we can digest all manner of unorthodox hairstyles and outlandish beauty trends, a shaven head on a woman is still a look that causes shock.I think part of the reason Britney’s new ‘do is making headlines (besides the other recent publicized events in her life, like her separation and rehab ’stint’) is its chronological proximity to Anna Nicole Smith’s death. One American starlet “goes down in flames,” and another one is starting to act mighty peculiar. The tabloid media is waiting for Britney’s other shoe to drop.
(P.S.) Joan Jett shaved her head (briefly) at the turn of the millennium, partly as a personal "turning point," partly as part of her role in the Broadway version of Rocky Horror Picture Show; few people gave a hoot. Did anyone care when Howie Mandel shaved his head? Nooo. Then again, unlike Britney Spears, he wasn't captured on video exposing his genitalia in public.