According to Refinery29, a 18-year-old Japanese public school student has filed a lawsuit against her local government for ¥2.2 million (R268 751) for not allowing her to attend school if she wore her hair in it's naturally brown colour.
She says she was repeatedly forced to dye her hair black – the most common hair colour for Japanese teen girls at this school in Osaka – and claims the excessive hair dyeing has caused harm to her scalp and hair.
The school’s policy stipulates that students have black hair and according to the Japan Times the student’s mother alerted the school to the fact that her daughter has naturally brown hair before attending the school in 2015.
Still, teachers allegedly repeatedly gave orders that the teen’s hair be dyed black.
After many treatments, the student says she developed a rash and scalp pain.
Refinery29 also notes that “60% of public high schools in Tokyo request that students with brown or light-colored hair provide “proof” in the form of childhood or junior-high photos to verify that their hair colour is real.
The publication says that this practice is in place to protect students by preventing schools from ‘scolding or humiliating’ those whose hair is not naturally black, because it seems unusual and is therefore treated as strange.”
We’ve seen a similar act of homogenisation last year at Pretoria Girls High School and recently with the less publicised Kempton Park hair controversy where young girls were allegedly sent home from school for having ‘inappropriate’ hairstyles, saying they looked ‘unkept’. These were natural hairstyles such as bantu knots, afros and braids.
Is preaching homogeny under the guise of ‘preventing humiliation’ or ‘neatness’ not just another excuse and means to control?
The power balance in these two cases are very different, especially as the Kempton Park hair controversy has elements of deep-seeded racism – automatically equating natural hair with being ‘unkept’ – but the message remains the same.
Like fascism, when we are told to conform and pressured to the point of being forced to shed ourselves of our own ideas, hairstyle/colour or identity defining characteristics, we become slaves to a system that controls us to believe we will have less power outside (and even within) its sturdy structure.
I won't say adopting an attitude of 'stick it to the man' will be helpful in everyday situations, but the awareness of how power and control is exercised is crucial for self-development.