Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hair propaganda

Have you ever loved something and held it dear, then grew a little older, and felt as if you'd been duped? Such is the case with a book I still adore, called Mop Top. It's a children's book written and illustrated by Don Freeman, published in 1955, about a kid who has to get his hair cut. On the way to the barber, he encounters lush uncut grass, a shaggy dog, etc. (the illustrations are fabulous) that make long hair seem like a good thing. So instead of going to the barbershop, "Moppy" hides behind brooms and mops in a hardware store. Until a lady picks him out of the bin, saying she'll use him to mop her kitchen floor. After that, Moppy can't wait to get his hair cut.

I remember Mom reading this book to us on the family room couch. This was in the early 1960s, an era when the Beatniks were metamorphosing into long-haired hippies. I can picture us in a row, my two brothers with buzz cuts, me with a pixie. The book is still in print today. Here's a reader's guide from Live Oak Media. Sure, hair cut education is a good thing. Some children must be eased into the concept of a stylist coming at them with a pair of sharp scissors. But I also smell a subtler propaganda, in the wording: "Would [children] rather let their hair just grow shaggy, or does it feel better to be well groomed?" A leading question, that reeks of family and societal values propaganda, n'est-ce pas?

Here's a more insidious instance of hair propaganda. Last September at a hair trade show in Atlanta, Georgia, pro-life advocates were promoting their "Samson Project." At the "Life Talks" table, over 1,000 barbers and stylists signed up to watch an indoctrinational DVD about how abortion is a form of genocide against blacks, the controversial Maafa 21 documentary. Once these stylists were "educated" on the subject, they took packets home to carry the message to their clients in their workplaces, and decals to put in their windows.

While I hold dear the hope for progress and societal change for blacks, especially with regards to endemic poverty, I see huge problems with the premise of Maafa 21. I smell an agenda behind it, and it stinks. I also have big issues with using the salon chair as a tool of indoctrination. Please. There are passionate opinions, and educated ones. There is also blatant manipulation, when a person who goes for a hair cut ends up feeling as if she's been duped. Thank goodness the "Life Talks" people distributed little Samson Project window decals. I intend to keep my eye out for them, and vote with my feet.