Tag Archives: Baldness

St Baldrick patron saint of subservience

What is the point of shaving one’s head in the fight against cancer? You raise awareness of the continuing plight of cancer victims? Adbusters You show solidarity with those afflicted? You normalize what kids can only regard as the stigma of chemotherapy? I’m not exactly sure. To be crass, I wouldn’t jump off a bridge just because my friends are suicidal. I’m not sure shearing one’s hair is not a more profound abasement than it looks.

Raising money for cancer feeds three coffers: medical care, medical research or media advertising. This year our local St Baldrick’s has set a goal to raise $150K for the cause. That’s a lot, considering these are pledges based on goading your friends about whether they will or will not dare to go bald. Let me ask you however, $150K buys a fraction of what in the medical world? It buys how many seconds on TV?

What is fund-raising for cancer but a secondary tax for funds to support a health care system, and no funds still flowing to the patients?

I’m sorry to be disrespectful of cue-baldness, or to exacerbate the stigma, but what do shaved heads denote historically? Captive peoples? Prisoners, soldiers, eunuchs, slaves. Today we explain it as a hygienic necessity when concentrating people in close quarters, or for spartan utilitarianism. But there’s a solitary reason people’s heads are shaved who have no say in the matter. Control. They are easily identified en masse, and their individuality is not only demeaned but effaced.

Chemo patients who lose their hair are thereby marked for their involuntary subjugation to man’s imperfect medicine. More instructively, they are victims of our imperfect, reckless, even murderous technologies. Should we not fight against the toxic causes of cancer, sooner than symbolically queue into the ranks of its unfortunate collateral damage? And how can we fight this foe with our highest potency?

Since ancient times, slaves were shorn to prevent them from blending in with free people. Shaving has served that function ever since: to preempt thoughts of escape, desertion, or assimilation. Early religions stressed letting your hair be. He who retained their hair retained their power. Even today, politicians and celebrities fare much better who have a full head of hair.

Many traditions still call for beards to be grown unrestricted. This de-emphasizes the individual by appearance at least. Similarly women are expected to cover themselves to varying degrees, also perhaps to equalize their haphazardly distributed differences.

I personally prefer a society of revealed and clean-shaved faces because it allows for people’s unique identities. Scientists might argue that craniums are equally unique. I suspect that’s true, most appreciably to biometric scanners. I’m unsure about the benefit to the community of man of appearing uniform, yet having individuals detectible at security portals or by surveillance cameras. You want unanimity among people except to their overseers?

Since the Enlightenment, the west has been enamored of its face. These days with makeup, chemical or scalpel, we can augment our face to suit us. Hair is where we have daily autonomy over how the world perceives us. It can conform or not, complement us or disguise us. Where our bone structure might be God-given, a hairdo, wig or hat is entirely ours to command.

Modern culture has accepted the shaving of facial hair such that we barely see it as an obeisance to the new norm. That Samson lost his strength owing to an involuntary trim, is not to me an abstract lesson.