Chris Rock’s Alopecia Joke Was My Worst Nightmare Was My Worst Nightmare

Sadly, the most famous moment at this year’s Oscars was when Will Smith walked on stage and assaulted Chris Rock for joking about Jada Pinkett Smith’s hair. As Smith himself admitted in his public apology to Rock, “Violence in all its forms is toxic and destructive.” The incident caused confusion for many observers, but it was not about the haircut. Jada Pinkett Smith suffers from alopecia areata due to an autoimmune condition. While ridiculing people’s looks and bodies are always shabby and Rock may not know about Smith’s condition, there’s something strange and dark about the treatment of women’s hair loss in society. .

While other celebs are said to have suffered from hair loss, what sets Jada Pinkett Smith apart is her courage to speak openly about her battle with the condition. In the past, she has described it as “scary.” Cutting her hair (objectively, it looks amazing) wasn’t a simple choice — it was a styling decision caused by an illness.

Her condition, alopecia areata, is one of a group of autoimmune diseases that can affect men and women of all ages. Areata involves the loss of patches of hair on the head and is often associated with stress and hormonal changes in the body. The patches can grow so that the condition develops into generalized alopecia (hair loss on the scalp) or, more rarely, generalized (body-wide) alopecia. Other forms of medical hair loss include hereditary hormonal alopecia or age-related alopecia, which can begin in the patient’s twenties.

While there’s no shortage of expensive supplements, shampoos, topical ointments like minoxidil, and snake oil sold on the internet that help with hair regrowth, they’re almost always ineffective. More successful options include injecting steroids into the scalp (I take it out, pretty annoying) and oral steroids. A new class of JAK inhibitors (immunosuppressants) are currently in various stages of research at Columbia, Yale, and Mount Sinai. Dr. Emma Guttmann, chief of dermatology at Mount Sinai, is currently testing the eczema drug Dupilimab with great success. There’s no new treatment for the faint of heart: JAK inhibitors increase cancer risk and sometimes produce temporary results. Dupilimab, although safer, is given as a weekly injection under the skin. Then there’s the cost: these drugs are currently used off-label to treat hair loss and are, therefore, not covered by insurance.

This seems like a lot for the hair. When insurers vehemently argue against covering skull prostheses – i.e. wigs – for people with alopecia areata, it is “cosmetic”. Who would increase the risk of cancer just for the hair to grow back? Well, to be honest, I did. I have struggled with hair loss for many years and I have tried many treatments with varying degrees of success. I am struck by the ways that alopecia areata affects me differently from my other medical conditions. I wrote about the fact that I had a kidney transplant that – in the words of an emotionless TSA agent – made me “disfigured” but I was proud of my scars. But with alopecia areata it is different. I am comfortable with my condition now but I have cried more tears of despair in my hair than because of the life-threatening illness that left me vulnerable to blood vessel blockages, chronic pain, loss of chance of having a baby and will shorten my life. That is the wrong thing.

You might think, wow, she’s really delusional. In my case, you may be right, but I’m not alone. For women in particular hair loss feels shameful. Social media has provided an opportunity for members of the hair loss community to meet and share stories and this is clearly something that a lot of people have had to deal with secretly for years. Instagrammers like bellamabella have talked about being made to “feel like I don’t look like one” and being told by former partners that “no one wants a bald woman”. Others, like sheeridanruth, expressed that hair is not just “your appearance, it’s your identity.” Many others spoke of feeling ugly, unpopular, less feminine and less likable. The fear of being ‘discovered’ prevents women with hair loss from swimming and participating in certain physical activities. There’s a great hair loss community out there, where advocates like Kim and Georgia, founders of Lusta Hair, and Australian journalist Kellie (hairlossboss) talk about their experiences, offering advice and support help others. And there are icons like Ayanna Pressley and Jada Pinkett Smith who are open about their feelings and journeys, but it’s still difficult and isolating.

In my own case, I keep silent because, as Professor Francesca Stavrakopoulou wrote in The Guardians, female scholars are considered to be interested in appearance. In the past, many academic colleagues have felt it appropriate to comment and evaluate my appearance. At least one brilliant female scholar, whom I have never actually met and is a self-described feminist, has publicly criticized me for dyeing my hair and keeping it long. When my hair fell out, I only told a few close friends because I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I don’t want anything to amplify my inappropriate body dissection in a corner of the world that is supposed to be on top of these. So, instead, I obsess about hairline and hair loss alone.

Jada Pinkett Smith attends the Oscars 2022 Vanity Fair held by Radhika Jones in Beverly Hills, California.

Photo by Daniele Venturelli / WireImage

For African-American women, the situation is particularly difficult. As Nellcoleman writes on Instagram: “Damn almost 49% of black women have faced hair loss at some point in their lives.” The stigma Black hair and the painful cosmetic procedures that exist to turn it into long straight hair that are supposed to be “better” are part of a gender norm that has been deeply racist to the detriment of all. women, especially black women. Much of this is discussed in the 2009 documentary Good hair Ironically, that was done by Chris Rock. Plus, many treatments to style tighter hair texture can actually contribute to hair loss (known as traction alopecia) and black women find themselves in a roundabout way. vicious cycle caused by sexist and racist cultural politics. I don’t want to tell the story of black women’s hair loss experiences and social pressures, but I know this: things are worse for women of color.

The historian in me knows that the stigma about female hair loss has a long history. Women’s hair has been synonymous with beauty for millennia. As Molly Myerowitz Levine wrote, the idea that our hair is synonymous with our identity goes back to the Romans. Baldness in men and women is not the same: male baldness is a manifestation of evil, female baldness is a manifestation of moral degeneration.

In his Amores Roman poet Ovid recounts how his girlfriend (probably Corinna) lost her hair because of ancient curling irons. He remarked unfavorably that he told her to leave it alone and now that she had ruined her hair, she must have forgotten how she looked completely. If she’s the victim, it’s just fashion. The idea that it is the vanity of a woman that is the cause of her condition is everywhere. Seneca the Younger wrote in a letter that women who drink, gobble up their meals, are sexually active, and otherwise behave like men who “end up suffering from gout and going bald.” . It’s their own fault: when women participate in these “evils, [they] have given up their sexual privileges; they have rejected their feminine nature and are therefore condemned as having the diseases of men”. Even the Bible speaks of this act: 1 Corinthians 11:15 says that a woman’s hair is her glory. If a woman doesn’t dress modestly to the point of letting her hair down in public, it’s the same as cutting her hair short.

In an exquisite article about hair published on Classic magazine, Nadini Pandey explores the ways in which hair is a symbol of dominance as well as beauty. “Hair,” she writes, “more than any other body part clearly represents gender, ethnicity, and even sexuality.” The Germans were famous for cutting their hair when conquered, making it and cutting their hair short a symbol of their own defeat. While some question whether the haircut was part of the ancient hair trade, in ancient Rome there were wig shops where wealthy women bought locks. the coveted gold of the “barbarians”. Women who engage in this type of consumerism are also trapped in a destructive loop: imported blonde hair dye from Germany can cause hair loss, thereby increasing the need for prosthetics. Pandey explained that Ovid made hateful comments about these women and that buying the hair, Pandey explained, was considered a scam. They are damned if they don’t hide their signs of hair loss and damned if they do. Even today, some women who wear wigs and caps worry that they will be seen as “catfish” and worry about when to tell a romantic partner about their hair loss. .

This highlights a system of exploitation that persists to this day: human hair is part of the body, and the trade in human hair is often exploitative. We shouldn’t imagine that blonde hair is filling the wig shops willingly donated by the Temple of Hercules Musarum in ancient Rome. Likewise, today most people whose hair is used for prosthetics are selling their hair for a living, sometimes for as little as $15. Some hair was stolen and much of it came from Temples, where hair was donated as part of a religious ceremony. People in the US and Europe who want to buy hair need to do thorough research and pay a premium.

Much of the industry, both ancient and modern, that profits from hair loss relies on desperation and secrecy. The shame and stigma associated with hair loss persists precisely because there is so much concealment and isolation. An evolutionary biologist might say that hair density and length are ideal as they are associated with youth and fertility, but let’s not use evolution to make ourselves lost. loose. These are social norms; We can change them. How do I know? Well, ironically, “hairpins” are now normalized for people who wear “hair extensions”. Although these extensions are made of the same hair as prostheses, they are marketed and perceived differently. No celebrity is ashamed to admit they’re wearing open tops or to be ridiculed for doing so.

What happened to Jada Pinkett Smith is every woman’s worst nightmare with hair loss. To be honest, I feel nervous writing this paragraph. The cultural conditions that force women to hide (and spend) are based on racial and gender beauty standards. Let’s hope this controversy forces us to confront the bare truth of how social beauty standards harm people. Chris Rock’s Alopecia Joke Was My Worst Nightmare Was My Worst Nightmare

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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