Over a year ago I posted about a boy who wasn't allowed to start public school in Texas because he had long hair. He was Native and it was part of his culture to keep his hair long.
Another school in Texas, this time a suburban school instead of a rural one, has a problem with a boy who wants long hair, this time for apparently no reason other than taste. He's allowed to go to pre-K, but he and his long hair have been separated from the other students in the library with a teaching assistant. Long hair on a boy, the school board claims, is such a distraction that he can only be handled by people with hazmat suits. Talk about gender anxiety.
And then talk about authoritarians playing the victim. Sheesh, they make a decision to separate this child from classroom instruction for no reason other their own psychological issues with those who'd cross the gender binary, and then it's all boo-hoo about how the parents are forcing them to do it:
"It's a trade-off," said one board member, Gary Bingham, an insurance agent, in an interview. "Do the parents value his education more than they value a 4-year-old's decision to make his own grooming choices?"
The boy's parents, Delton Pugh and Elizabeth Taylor, have argued that it is unfair to punish Taylor for his longish locks; it suggests, they say, that the district cares more about appearances than education.
I'm valuing looks over education? You're valuing looks over education! This whole country's valuing looks over education!
Hair is still political, especially since it's malleable enough to be a form of self-expression, attached to one's own body to make it incredibly personal, is laden with cultural, racial, gender, and religious politics, and grows back and can be changed fast enough to make it a moral decision worthy of condemnation.
And gender is meeting culture here. Boys with longer hair aren't necessarily seen as gay or trans (although they may be called "gay-mo" or "pussy" because of it), but as inherently feminine and weak. As digby put it a while back:
A lot of the shrieking aversion to the dirty hippie came from all that "feminine" hair on men's heads and "masculine" hair on women's bodies, if you'll recall. My brother was constantly harrassed about "looking like a girl" in 1966 Mississippi for having hair below his collar. In those days, hair was a political statement and even though forty years have passed and most of those people can only dream about all that hair they no longer have, the right successfully parlayed that gender role anxiety into a political narrative that continues to powerfully effect politics today.
It cuts both ways. Here's Michael Savage saying that any woman with short hair is a lesbian who should be killed:
CALLER: I'm listening to you with the window open. This mean-faced, clipped-hair, liberal type -- you know, the type you always talk about.
[MICHAEL] SAVAGE: Yeah. Yeah.
CALLER: She comes up by my window and she goes, "You're listening to hate speech. Why are you listening to that?" And I go, "Wow, you sound pretty angry." And she goes, "You're listening to hate speech. Look at you, listening to a hatemonger." And then, like, there was other traffic coming, she ended up walking away, and I rolled down the window and I go, "You're a loser." And she just walked away and gave me this smug look. But it was pretty --
SAVAGE: Well, what does that tell you about the loving, kind lesbian who just assaulted you in your car? She's a -- the type that stuffed ovens in Hitler's concentration camps. Whenever I hear anyone preaching to me about how compassionate they are, I reach for my Glock.
The Texas school board that is separating this kid from the class because of his long hair, while allowing girls with longer hair to stay in class, is just riding the cultural baggage that comes with hair. While the stereotype of boys with long hair is about femininity and weakness, the core of the problem is power and control, trying to show people who's boss and that even their identity that's a natural part of their bodies can be surveilled, policed, and changed by someone more powerful.