Hair

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For the first part of week 3’s lecture we read though Janice Millers ‘Hair without a Head’, we were then asked to summarise the main findings of the article. These are my notes:

  • Miller claims that hair can be a liminality between life and death. It can be seen as dead or alive but it is already dead. It grows and can be made shiny but it can also live on without you. ‘becomes a substitute for the dead person’
  • Freud theory of the uncanny- something that should remain hidden. ‘stray hair should be hidden and shouldn’t be there’  Uncanny in films – zombies and ghost – obvious trumps of the horror film. but they both highlight this issue of liminal body the idea of the zombie is un-liminal of the undead, its a corpse that is walking around as its dead, the ghost does the same thing but in a different way – its dead but seems to be alive, the zombie has a physical form thats deteriorating in front of you, the ghost seems to have some sort of form but doesn’t have a clearly identifiable one. ‘spectral’ – Hair is in between, alive and dead.
  • liminality. horror films always deal with liminality to do with the body. Liminality in life and death means that it can be in between the two or both. Miller starts with a contradicting fact that hair is dead ‘styling products are sold on he premises that they can create hair that has life, vitality and strength, hair is dead matter’  – we buy products that promise to give our hair ‘life’ but our hair is always and has always been dead. We, mostly women are told that hair should be ‘lively’ it is symbolic that women need to tame their hair. Hair signifies femininity so long as its tamed and shiny.
  • Britney shaves her hair and is therefore seen as going crazy. Hair is a signifier of beauty – fairy tales, repunzel ect.
  • Hair becomes unfamiliar when it leaves the body. ‘On the body hair is controlled, familiar and homely; it is part of us. Off the body, it transforms itself into something at the same time alien, unfamiliar and unhomely’. 
  • Whether the hair falls out or is cut from the body, it becomes alienated and unnatural. She links to Myfanwy MacLeod’s ‘Bound’ art piece of a deep pile, white carpet thats described as clean and pure with a lock of dark hair laying on top. It is described as ghostly and disturbing because once the hair has left the body ‘we know nothing of the origins of the hair, who it belonged to, the persons presence or lack of hygiene, how it became there’
  • ‘hair reveals its marginality’  Marginality because it exists outside of the body. marginal objects in relation to the body. piercings, they don’t belong to the body and yet we invade the body with them. your earring is inside you and outside you at the same time. when it gets taken out it doesn’t look the same but there is a hole where it was. the hole was made snd therefore have controlled some of the holes and not others. Tattoos are also marginal but these invade the bodies and are internal and external at the same time but are harder to get rid of. so both tattoos and piercings explore the boundaries of my body. where the body begins and where it ends. these are all marginal concepts. are bodies are always dealing with marginal concepts. Hair is a marginal concepts. the stray hair on the jumper has come off of my body but is not part of the body anymore.  this idea of the context for hair and the way we receive it. Hair can be disembodied. its only not gross on your body if its on your head – mainly for women. the trend of shaven pubic hair emerged in porn culture of the 90s but a lack of pubic hair on a women represents a pre pubescent vagina.

We were then asked to talk about how this article linked to what we have discussed in the study group so far.
In the first 2 weeks of this study group we have explored and discussed the characteristics and social constructs of glamour and its relation to femininity. Hair is something that can be glamorous but can also be disturbing depending on the context of which its received. When it is attached the the head or body it is acceptable, and glamorous when it is off the body it is deemed as gross. In Freud’s theory of the uncanny, a stray hair is something that should be hidden. There is a separate set of rules on body hair for men and for women. This reflects on what we have learnt about social constructs on gender based on what is acceptable and what is unacceptable depending on the fashion at the time and that women are glamorous characteristics are often unnatural. Hair is liminal and can be associated with the monster as well as the goddess. For example, in the story of medusa, the hair signifies the change from goddess to monster. Hair is an example of something that is liminal and a margin of the body. Piercings and tattoos are examples of something that once had an existence that was separate to the body but is absorbed or pierced into the body and becomes part of it. With liminality becomes anxiety. Anyone that doesn’t conform to the rules of social constructs is liminal. Michael Jackson is an example as he was neither black or white, his surgeries didn’t make him look masculine nor feminine, and he didn’t act as an adult nor as a child. He defied categories and this made him ‘monstrous’.

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