Weitz, R. 2010. “Women and Their Hair: Seeking Power through Resistance and Accommodation.”

Weitz, Rose. 2010. “Women and Their Hair: Seeking Power through Resistance and Accommodation.”In The Politics of Women’s Bodies: Sexuality, Appearance, and Behavior, 3rd ed. Edited by Rose Weitz. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 214-231.

Hairstyles as cultural artifacts as they are public (visible to outsiders), personal (biologically linked to body, personally manufactured to suit cultural and personal preferences) – women’s hairstyles as central to social position. Though resistance strategies based on the body have limited utility (Dellinger and Williams 1997, Elowe MacLeod 1991), hair has served as a way to both reinforce and challenge subordination. Foucaultian notion of “docile bodies” – as a site for political struggle, bodies can be used as sites of resistance.

METHODS***: “Because the sample is nonrandom, it is appropriate for exploring the range of attitutdes among American women but not for calculation the proportion who hold such attitudes” (217).

Conventional attractiveness lends realistic forms of power to women – both internally and externally. Conventionally attractive women are less lonely, more popular, more likely to marry, more sexually experienced, more likely to marry men of higher socioeconomic status and are also more likely than nonattractive women to be hired, promoted, and paid higher salaries (Jackson 1992, Sullivan 2001). Though power to command attention and change people’s reactions to them through hair/beauty may be a different form of power, it is power nonetheless (Bordo 1989).

Look up: “feminine apologetic” – compensation of female athletes by conforming to conventional beauty standards to reduce perceived “masculinity” – see Hilliard 1984 and Lowe 1998.

Use of hair demonstrates rationality in commanding power, approval, and attention – but exposes “accommodating protest” (Elowe MacLeod 1991) – “simultaneously express dissatisfaction with and acquiescence to current power structures” (220-221).

Only hairstyles recognized externally (as Afrocentric, lesbian-identifying, etc.) have the power to unite women as a group, offer resistance, and go beyond individual expression. Individuals adding raced, ethnic identities to how they wear their hair (being Chicana means wearing your hair long, etc. ), but are often faced with Anglo-centric hairstyle norms when in pursuit of “professional” status.”

Resistance is easier when supported by others, when in coalition and recognition within contexts of larger social movements, and when other sites of privilege and power are offered – thus, appearance not making so much of an impact in the pull for power.


Bordo, Susan R. 1989. “The Body and the Reproduction of Femininity: A Feminist Appropriation of Foucault.” In Gender/Body/Knowledge, edited by Alison M. Jaggar and Susan R. Bordo. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Dellinger, Kirsten and Christine L. Williams. 1997. “Makeup at Work: Negotiating Appearance Rules in the Workplace.” Gender and Society 11:151-177.

Elowe MacLeod, Arlene. 1991. Accommodating Protests: Working Women, the New Veiling, and Change in Cairo. New York: Columbia University Press.

Jackson, Linda. 1992. Physical Appearance and Gender: Sociobiological and Sociocultural Perspectives. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Sullivan, Deborah A. 2001. Cosmetic Surgery: The Cutting Edge of commercial Medicine in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.


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