At the moment half my hair is dyed green. This is not a big deal to me, I’ve had unnatural coloured hair for over two years now, and for another year or so before that, my hair is part of my identity but at the same time it’s something that’s as unusual to me as my glasses. This is not true with a proportion of society, and for some reason the green really seems to attract much more attention than any other colour I’ve had.
Sometimes this attention is fine, overhearing a child on the tube ask her mum if I was wearing a wig, and when correcting announcing she wanted to dye her hair was adorable, and most of the comments I get are genuinely flattering. However, some of the time it is fairly obvious ‘I like your hair’ really doesn’t mean they like your hair at all, and it’s just like being a 15 year-old goth with men shouting at me out of their car windows all over again. The other one I get is ‘you’ve got green hair!’ Well, yes, I know. These I can ignore, my appearance has always got me more attention I’d rather not have.
Buying something in a shop and having the sales assistant reach over and touch my hair however, I can’t ignore. Ok, so she complimented my hair, but she also totally violated my personal space. At the time I was shocked, and a bit amused, now I’m really quite angry. Just earlier today I was sitting in a cafe at my uni, drinking tea, reading The Waves and listening to music, and some guy said ‘I like your barnet’, and it’s nothing, I just ignored him, but for me to have been able to hear it over my music he must have said it really loudly, because of course I want everyone to stare at me.
All these little events aren’t much on their own, but together they make me think how much my body is assumed to be common property, just because I stand out. It’s not always men of course, but it does often make me think of the theory of male gaze when it happens, and of the way women’s bodies are under so much scrutiny. I can sympathise with the way famous people have to deal with being told they look too fat, too thin, too old, but more I can sympathise with ordinary women who deal with this not because they choose to stand out in some way, after all I don’t always mind the attention my hair and clothes gets me, but because they happen to have large breasts or, worse, walk along a road. How dare they?
The second of those links I’ve only just seen, the timing of it is odd, and it makes me think maybe I’m getting off lightly. I think I’d rather be insulted than have suggestive comments made, maybe my punk-inspired clothes, glasses and perpetual pissed-off or terrified expression help me, they’ve always felt like a bit of a mask. Still, my immediate reaction on hearing a car beep shouldn’t be to swear at it, one day it will be someone I know.
Related to this is the case of Sophie Lancaster, kicked to death because she was a goth. I was lucky when I was a goth, I think the only physical thing that happened to me was having stones thrown at me on the beach, by kids from my school of course. Oh, and the very first time I remember going out in obviously gothic clothes, aged 13, I got ‘Pippi Longstocking’ shouted at me by significantly older boys because of my striped socks, I’d been told my dad had dies maybe ten minutes before. At least I had more important things on my mind than taking much notice of some idiots. The fact that nearly 9 years later I’m still taking abuse from people I don’t know because of my appearance is sad, as is the fact I don’t even really get angry very often now.
It seems that as a female who identifies as belonging to an alternative sub-culture I get to either be abused or leched at on the street. I refuse to change the way I dress, this is not my problem, this is the problem of people who think perving on under-age girls is acceptable, but I do wish I could think of some productive way to make them realise how unacceptable their behaviour is.