When Keanu Reeves started dating the gorgeous, grey-haired Alexandra Grant, not everyone took kindly to it. Comments were shot off about how old she must be, or that he ‘could have done much better’.
Grant, an artist, is also considered a feminist, which is perhaps closely connected to the debate about whether to colour or not. Grant had been cautioned by people in the art world that by virtue of being a woman, her work would not be valued as much as a male artist’s work would. She decided to take the uncharted route. To just be. To fight the system. Also to go all white, when and if the time came.
White not right?
For Mumbai-based law teacher Sunita Masani, the reasons for embracing her partially salt and pepper look are many as she says herself, “I don’t like the chemicals in the dyes. I also have a desire to remain natural, and to accept myself the way I am.”
The concept of ageing gracefully, has been spoken about often and tied to it, is the concept of letting one’s hair and physical appearance remain as closest to its natural way of being as it can be.
“There’s also the monetary aspect. Dyeing and colouring the hair routinely can be expensive, and I can save a lot of money. Inconvenience is another element – to keep rushing to the parlour to touch up the roots when the greys appear once again.”
However, Masani tells us about how looking good is closely connected with keeping a job in the real world. “There is a real fear of losing your job and so you have to put up with a lot of stuff, like colouring your greys,” she continues.
Says independent journalist Mitali Parekh from Navi Mumbai, about letting her greys show, “I couldn’t be bothered. Getting greys a little earlier than other people my age was genetic.
I am no one to judge someone who is colouring their hair. If they like it they should do it. I’m only resisting a whole industry built on keeping women insecure.”
The trend, hearteningly is changing a teenie bit. Mumbai-based investment advisor Nandini Shah shares, “Today, many are choosing to be natural and let the silvers show. Also today many are greying earlier than the previous generation.
It is being on-trend, to accept your hair in its unedited shape and colour. I’m very comfortable being myself, and not colouring my whites is part of the process of self acceptance.”
Society’s beauty standards have been called into question more often than not in the recent past. In ‘Bala’, Ayushmann Khurrana faces flak from his new bride for having fooled her into marrying him, not revealing who he really was—someone with a bald pate. The film
ends with Khurrana throwing away his wig, letting go off his wife, and doing a comedy routine about how beauty is superficial, and how life is greater than the little concerns that may bog us down.
Says Renee Hobbs, Ed.D in Human Development from Harvard University, and a media literacy educationist in the United States, “Girls today are swamped by [ultra-thin] ideals not only in the form of dolls but also in comics, cartoons, TV, and advertising along with all the associated merchandising.”
The Encyclopedia of Gender in Media states that "the post-production techniques of airbrushing and computer-generated modifications 'perfect' the beauty myth by removing any remaining blemishes or imperfections visible to the eye."
A 2002 article in the Independent Journal of Eating Disorders states that advertisements for products "such as diets, cosmetics, and exercise gear [help] the media construct a dream world of hopes and high standards that incorporates the glorification of slenderness and weight loss."
Gurgaon-based writer Shivani Singh points out, “If you see the Oscar’s all the men have gone white, but the women are still colouring their hair. Colouring one’s grey hair is a mainstream concept. Often a woman gets her identity from how attractive she is.
She is seen as a sexualised identity. She’s not a person any more. These are male notions of beauty that women subscribe to, so that their men will not leave them. It’s important not to ever pick up that colour bottle. I would find such a woman impressive. Someone who never did it, ever.”