On Tuesday, I told you about American Apparel instructing female employees on eyebrow grooming. Now, bellasugar is reporting on two cases where elementary school children are in trouble over their hair. A Milwaukee first-grade teacher cut off one of 7-year-old LMya Cammon’s braids when the little girl wouldn’t stop twirling them in class (video above). And 4-year-old Taylor Pugh has in-school suspension in Mesquite, TX because the school says his hair is too long for prekindergarten.
So, what I want to know (and haven’t seen any of the news coverage asking):
A) Would the Milwaukee school teacher think it’s okay to cut the hair of a twirling-prone white student?
B) Does Mesquite, Texas have the same hair length rule for all students, regardless of gender?
I’m guessing no on both.
As I’ve been telling my peeps about Beauty Schooled over the last few weeks, I’ve been noticing that the initial reaction of many folks is to laugh: Beauty school! So fun! Placenta in face cream, whaaat?! It helps that I happen to be hilarious and that a lot of what we talk about here is on the silly side (I know, sperm facials, I know). But part of why they’re laughing is because “those people who buy into that crap,” as in the women who splurge on $300 face creams or crave eyelash extensions or put their children in beauty pageants, seem somehow completely alien to us. They must be less intelligent or more insecure than all of us New York Times-reading, leg wax-eschewing enlightened types. And I’ll admit, I’ve marched in that parade myself a time or two.
But even with just six weeks down, this I know is true: Everyone but everyone buys into beauty standards, some way, somehow. If you own a lipstick, shave your legs, wear clothes, or tend to like people who do those things, you cannot consider yourself immune to the desires and messages of the Beauty Industrial Complex. And that’s not always a bad thing. We need to explore all the shades of gray here to figure out our own personal set of standards for what’s delightful or necessary and what crosses that line over to absurd or offensive.
But we also need to remember that no matter how examined our viewpoint, those standards of beauty bleed over into the way we perceive the world. And so, so quickly, they can turn into character judgments, into gender rules, into racism, into this world where a first-grade teacher grabs the scissors when she finds a black girl’s braids “distracting,” or a little boy needs a more masculine haircut to go to recess. What’s more, all of our preconceived notions and societal hang-ups about such issues help write the very beauty rules we’re dissecting here — the crazy ones that we can’t believe anyone really follows, and the not-so-crazy ones that just seem like good common sense. The differences between them aren’t always so stark.
So yes. This is about lip gloss, this is about popping zits, this is about saying, “Whaaat, sperm facials?!” Beauty is often best when we don’t take it too seriously. But when there are repercussions like these? I’m not laughing.