Monday, September 9, 2013

Shampoo to Equality: The fallacy vs. the fight worth fighting?

To want is to have
To have is to lose

The shower is an unlikely place to ponder, but here I am, pumping for more shampoo. As my hair grows another inch longer each few weeks, I can't help but reach for more shampoo. For sixteen years, I had hair that failed to graze my shoulders. "Why would you keep it short if you have such thick hair?" one hair stylist asked each time I went for a trim. Well, for the two years of my life I was bald. My hair grew and fell. Each day, my poor grandmother had a horrifying shock when she saw the clumps of hair that clung on my pillow instead of my scalp. So, on she goes applying a myriad of ingredients, ranging from egg yolk to kemiri to lidah buaya (aloe vera). For years she continued my treatment to ensure those follicles would hold on to my head. And now, I just heard from her asking if my hair is falling off again, since I've decided that I would grow it out until it's mermaid appropriate.

But, what grabs my attention is the fact that wanting something has resulted in the loss of other privileges. Yes, any desire would require some form of sacrifice, however small or large it is. And this is a perfect example of that phenomena. As my hair grows longer, I would have to use more shampoo and conditioner. Time is also a victim as I need more of it to wash my hair. Yet, what is time and a little more investment on shampoo in comparison to a beautiful mane?

Well, lust-worthy locks aren't merely lust-worthy locks. Instead, in some cultures like Indonesia, it is a form of performativity. As a woman, I express my gender through my body, behavior and thoughts. My hair is part of my performance as a woman. To have long hair, might mean to have more men looking your way. But it also equates to having to use more shampoo and spend more time. The question is would I sacrifice all those privileges for men's attention, for instance. Of course, this hints at a much larger issue. Should women sacrifice certain privileges to attain others?

For instance, last night, I learned that some men continue to be intimidated by women who have it all. "What would the man bring to the table?" one asked amidst the conversation, "If the woman is a well-educated woman, say with a master's degree or two, a career, wealth, beauty, and ambition, what does the man have to offer?". The first thing that comes up to my mind is "company". If I were such a woman with my personality and needs, I would want a man that offers company because he truly likes me the way I am. I can't really hire someone to spend a night at the theatre because they are there for the money instead of my presence and the time that we are spending together. Furthermore, a husband should not be attained solely for financial stability and protection, for once, women should want to have their men around even if he is not able to provide any of those items.

How do we expect society to reach gender equality if men and women are either/both held to a certain level of expectation? If women can work, why can't men stay at home? Some men enjoy taking care of children. In a world with gender equality, men's passion to raise a family does not point towards a lack of masculinity.

I guess, what I am saying, after this long road trip from hair to womanhood to marriage to gender equality is that perhaps, the world will never achieve gender equality or any type of equality. Many have said that I consistently strive towards a balance due to my zodiac: Libra. To reach equality and balance might be a personal obsession, however it is also humane. For centuries, the world has strived towards the goal of equality, whether it is with race, gender or age. The issue at hand changes, yet there continues to be a focus on achieving equality. Perhaps, equality and balance may never be in our grasps. When women and men do reach some balance, the scale would tip and men might fall or it might return to its previous state. If it did occur, it would only take place in a sliver of time, at a different pace for each region, and might perpetuate a state of universal imbalance for some time as different regions tip back and forth between possibilities. Of course, this is a defeatist perspective but isn't is alright to accept the unacceptable? Isn't it humane to do so, instead of fighting for a lost cause?

What do you think? Leave in the comments below.

*Author owns rights to all photographs presented on this article.

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