What does it say about you when your manager uses a performance review to bring up your (insert halo shape hand motioning) *ahem* hair. More importantly, what does it say about society when your male boss feels entitled to make comments about your hair? Because it’s not enough that you show up with a face full of makeup, spend 200$ on hair products a year, and pay 20-30% more on hair cuts than men. Considering that my hair plays into my job performance about ZERO percent of the time, I’d say that comments about my hair are irrelevant. Professional appearance only becomes an issue if one transgresses what is deemed acceptable in society – or what is normative. In terms of sexuality, non-heteronormative people face violent realities because their appearance and behaviours are ‘non-normative.’ Leading up to the Stonewall Riot of 1969, those who transgressed the normative boundaries of society faced discrimination both on the streets and within the law. At the time, New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down. The police monitored and enforced behaviours they felt fit nicely within their realm of acceptability. In 1967, Chief of the LA Police Department Ed Davis, opposed pride parades and went on record announcing: “As far as I’m concerned, granting a parade permit to a group of homosexuals to parade down Hollywood Boulevard would be the same as giving a permit to march to a group of thieves and murderers.” The states role in regulating behaviour meant that not only could the police use intimidation and brutality on those deemed to be gay, but so too could the general public. In 1962, Michael Maye a New York City firefighter (who held six commendations for bravery ) brutally beat multiple gay protestors. In 1978, Dan White open fired and killed Mayor George Moscone of San Francisco and fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk. In 2016, 49 people were killed at Pulse, a gay-night club in Orlando. The list tragically goes on.
Privilege is an understanding that others face oppressive conditions in which you yourself know nothing about. Because you have not transgressed the elusive line. This is why we have a Gay Pride Parade and not a “Straight Pride Parade.” What straight person walks down the street holding the hand of their heteronormative other and fears that the act of holding that persons hand will either get them arrested or worse killed.
The oppressive beauty standards I face at work do not put my life at risk. Instead I use it as an example of how the continuation of men monitoring women’s appearance is divisive and patriarchal.
There’s no other way to put it, my hair being brought up in a performance review is pretty fucking ridiculous. What does my hair say about my performance? I mean, the humidex is 80% today and my hair happens to be both curly and fine. Did I miss the job requirement stating me to be a replica of an actual human being? The beauty norm affects those that transgress it. Is the way I look not acceptable?
While this issue is far from over, to conclude, who should you direct your manager to when he takes on the role of conflating job performance with hair performance? Shrug and point to the Sky – used here as a metonymy for JESUS.
Technically the OJ made me this way and if you’ve got a problem with that, then I suggest you kneel at your bedside tonight and ask for some holy sanction to free me from my flyways.
Until then, take your expectations of what a women should look like and crush them before I crush you.
Illustration by Julia Borzuka, more here.