Women's Hair Loss from the Perspectives of Body and Gender

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 3:15 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Sayaka YOSHIMURA , 23/09/2013, Japan
This research aims to pursue the social cognition on women’s hair loss (women’s baldness) due to alopecia, and to clarify the structure of oppression on which they were placed from the perspectives of body and gender. Through this study, I want to point out that women’s hair loss should be argued as a sociological object than just a medical disease.

Until recently, hair loss was mainly identified as alopecia in a medical or psychological research. By the previous studies, mental difficulties of women with alopecia are clarified[EckertF1976, Van der Donc et al.F1994], and the usefulness of wearing wigs as the ways of coping is shown [Nakajima, Nakayama:2002]. However, in these researches, it isn’t clarified about the problem experience after wearing wigs.

So, this research uses Goffman's passing theory [Goffman: 1968] and analyzes the narration of 14 bald women with alopecia areata who wear wigs.

This study draws the following discussions. Firstly,the point of view of the concerned individual, wearing a wig is itself a disability for bald woman and it’s based on the cultural norm which considers hair as the symbol of feminity.Secondly, one reason behind the production of the disability as being the existence of “close others” (family), who force or encourage the individual concerned to wear wigs. As the encouragement by society and the intimate sphere to wear the disability fits with the gendered body’s accepted norm, it is one reason why the individual continues to wear the wig.

In conclusion, women’s hair loss is seen both as a physical abnormality (disease) and as a deviation from the gendered body’s norm, and that these two consequences place the issue in a structure of double oppression.