Millions of people worldwide are affected by Alopecia, an autoimmune disorder. It’s a lot more for many women, especially Black women. It’s not about race or beauty, but about culture and the uncertainty it creates in people’s self-perceptions.
The 94th Academy Awards ceremony was held on Sunday night. When comedian Chris Rock made a pointed joke about Jada Pinkett’s hair loss, some felt it was insensitive. This event revealed many layers of feelings for people who struggle with the disorder.
It also brought attention to the disorder, which is not well-known but very common and affects many people, including children.
Will Smith, an actor, stunned millions by his performance when he walked onto the stage and slapped Rock for the joke about Pinkett Smith.
These are some things that are worth knowing about alopecia:
What’s it like to have Alopecia?
Rock’s joke was hard to hear for Sheila Bridges, a New York interior designer.
Rock interviewed She about Black culture’s importance of hair for his documentary “Good Hair”, 2009. She spoke about her shame and humiliation at losing her hair to the disease, her relationship with her race and her loss of femininity.
Bridges was left with conflicting emotions after the Oscars slap: She condemned Smith’s attack on Rock, sympathized and was deeply disappointed with Rock.
Bridges stated that it is difficult for women to live a life without hair, and in a society obsessed with hair.
She doesn’t like wearing wigs and hopes to normalize and de-stigmatize baldness.
Bridges admitted that even after going bald in public a decade ago, it was still hard for others to accept her decision: “I rarely make through the week without somebody saying something very, very insensitive.”
It’s not clear if Rock knew about Pinkett Smith’s diagnosis. However, hair can be difficult for Black women who have been expected to change their hair texture for a white standard of beauty for generations. Even famous Black actresses claim it can be difficult to find Hollywood stylists who know how to style their hair.
According to a 2019 study done by the Dove personal-care division of Unilever USA, Black women are 80% more likely than white women to alter their natural hair in order to conform to social norms at work.
According to research, black students are more likely to be suspended because of dress code violations or hair violations than any other students. This was according to the U.S. House’s vote earlier this month to ban discrimination based upon natural hairstyles.
Bridges stated that the Oscars slap was “the only positive thing that can be taken out of all this”
WHY HAIR IS SO IMPORTANT FOR BLACK REPRESENTATIONS?
Many Black Americans are conscious of the importance of styling their hair. They want to be different from what society considers acceptable. Black hair is more than just a fashion statement.
Black girls and women of color who were present at the Supreme Court confirmation and nomination hearings for Judge Ketanji brown Jackson stated in interviews with AP that they were moved by the sight of someone wearing her hair in ” sisterlocks”.ascends to such a prominent place. This style uses natural hair that is woven into microlocs. It’s well-known for its versatility.
Jackson’s willingness to embrace her natural hair and not conform to society’s beauty standards served as a reminder for girls and women to not shrink in order to be successful, they stated.
Black women can lose their pride and representation through their hairstyles, which can increase the professional and personal challenges associated with hair loss.
ALOPECIA: WHAT IS IT?
Pinkett Smith’s autoimmune disorder, Alopecia Areata, can cause hair to fall out of the scalp in small patches. It can also affect the eyebrows, nose hair, and other areas of the body.
According to Brett King, a Yale Medicine hair loss expert, alopecia can happen quickly and is often unpredictable.
He said, “Imagine if your eyebrows were missing half of the time when you wake up today.” “This unpredictability, which is so mentally treacherous because you don’t have control over it… it’s an illness that strips people from their identity,” he said.
Although it is rarely discussed, it is the second most common cause of hair loss after male and female pattern balding. It affects about 2% of the population It is not painful and can sometimes disappear on its own.
WHAT IMPACT DOES IT HAVE ON WOMEN? WHAT ABOUT KIDS?
The hair is an important part of any person’s appearance. For women, it is tied up with cultural ideas about what makes them feminine.
William Yates, a Black Chicago-based certified surgeon for hair loss, stated that most women expect to have great hair. They are well aware that men lose their hair gracefully and go ‘bald gracefully’, but losing your hair as a woman is devastating.
People are more likely to be affected when they’re young. The majority of people are diagnosed before 40 years old, and approximately half are children when the condition first appears. Christopher English, a board certified dermatologist at Intermountain Healthcare Salt Lake City, stated that this is a common diagnosis.
The condition can be especially difficult for teens, who are already suffering from peer pressure and appearance anxiety. Gary Sherwood is the communications director of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. A 12-year-old girl suffering from the disorder, took her own life in Elkhart, Indiana. She was bullied at school. Her family said.
Sherwood, Yates and others stated that some studies also showed the disease is more common among Black and Latino individuals. According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects both men and women of all races and ethnicities.
Sherwood stated that Rock’s joke was “not uncommon”. “This joke has been around for as long as humans have existed on Earth…for centuries people wouldn’t talk about it.”
He hopes that the Oscars will bring more awareness, education and empathy.