Reflection 05: Tangled
This week’s reflection was inspired by Rathna Ramanathan’s From Vishnu to Vegas. (2019)
We live in a complex society. A few aspects of it get more so if the money is involved. Yes, it sounds obvious because we breathe Capitalism in and out every day. The net is so densely connected. The action of buying a product at the supermarket looks simple, yet numerous decisions and conflicts of interest are behind it. After experimenting with the current model for decades, consumers earned a new responsibility. “Be aware of what you buy.” There are boycotts, protests, or brand support movements mainly related to a moral standard. I do believe in the effects. It is not about devaluing the consciousness. However, there are so many traps because the information is not always accessible. This rule applies to human rights issues as well. Sometimes it is as apparent as the United Nations taking shady money to save refugees. Other cases are less obvious and more complicated.
Empowerment has different meanings in varying degrees. In some nations, women’s rights are about not being killed to protect family’s “honor.” For other women-identified people, having rights is about choosing what I want to wear. All fights are valid. What I want to address here is that there are natural drawbacks. Ramanathan’s writing shows how hair from a girl living in South India ends up in a Hollywood luxury salon. Even more, ironically, twin girls who donated their “virgin” hair to the temple got to purchase the hair for their marriage.
So here comes the problem. Hair extensions and wigs do contribute some parts in empowering women. It is their right to be presented in the way they want. The media supports you to be yourself. I do believe that this statement has freed a lot of souls. Once I saw a video about one of the pop stars sending support to a teenage girl who got bullied because of her hair extension. Except that people are extensively seeking endorsement from the media figures, it is not a bad story. Being oneself is not seeking feminity nor the antithesis of it. So be it. The trap is that the hair might be from a girl without compensation. (or in worse case, unwillingly) What if the information is available before the purchase? Would people still consume it knowing their empowerment are possible by exploiting the other women? Similar to many other modern-day problems, this is not a simple matter to blame one.
Let’s talk about contraceptive pills. They were developed based on the sacrifice of Caribbean women back in the days. The development, however, made women’s rights improve, enabling them to govern their bodies. I know it can be controversial, but how about surrogacy? The technology and medical support helped so many women. One thing is that this is also a financial trade. Pregnancy is hardcore. It is not much visible, yet people die from it. Then who would risk providing the service? A financially vulnerable female who is willing. So there is this loop. We can buy more consciously produce goods but can’t break it.
I know that how blaming everything on Capitalism sounds ridiculous. That is true. Some things are just what they are. Can I replace the system? No. Can you? Probably not. Also, we all already know that this cycle won’t stop until the hair becomes completely useless. (or lose its value) Then what is the worth of this discussion? As I noted before, when there is more information, consumers will be aware. Would people still be happy to attach a girl’s prayer onto their head? They might find a way to change the supply system if the needs are sufficient. It sounds idealistic, but transparency matters. It will be the minimum when it is impossible to mend the system.
Before wrapping up, I haven’t pointed out the greed of mediating business here. Patriarchy does play a role in this. It preys on women. Think of who is selling the stuff here. The doctor who developed the pills was a man as well. It does not always have to be the individual. The patriarchy forces women to sacrifice. Why girls’ hair is valued the most? So this part should be considered at the same time, besides the purchasing end. We belong to the system, but the relationship can be mutual. People are autonomous factors. We shall discover, investigate, and discuss. It is about maintenance since society is not a piece of machinery we can inspect and fix.