Why a newspaper’s blame for female employees’ hair loss isn’t just wrong, it’s sexist

A Filipino paper has recently blamed a professor at Stanford for the internal hair loss suffered by its staffers in the lead-up to International Women’s Day. That day in March, the paper received more…

Why a newspaper's blame for female employees’ hair loss isn’t just wrong, it’s sexist

A Filipino paper has recently blamed a professor at Stanford for the internal hair loss suffered by its staffers in the lead-up to International Women’s Day. That day in March, the paper received more than 200 complaints from readers about hair loss caused by a button on the printer. The button had been “fixed” with “elaborate reminders” to attempt to maintain its function, according to the paper.

Several Times’ staffers went to seek advice from a university employee — who soon became the story’s chief source of blame: Dr. Carmen R. Lagman-Martinez, a clinical professor of dermatology at Stanford. The post was taken down this week after the Times’ own product review department reported that, in fact, the buttons are easy to remove, but can’t be removed from the printer entirely because they are designed to function in certain ways. The paper wrote:

“In every body, the hair changes as a woman changes her genes. As a consumer, that may bother you, but as a consumer of news, I don’t really care.

While this may not be the most relatable skin care or salon experience I’ve ever had, it’s something we all have to navigate just like hair transplants or getting our body clocks reset every few months, sometimes through social media support groups.

So to me, the Post’s take on this story is at best silly and, at worst, cruel, bordering on misogyny — erasing people’s personal beauty struggles in order to add a layer of beauty fiction. I appreciate that The Times is trying to keep a journalistic check on assertions of a hostile environment, however, I’d probably look to you for more truth and objectivity, since you’re not scientists, please stay out of this.”

Women and men alike have loved to find funny, personalized examples of personal insecurity on the Internet, but by doing so, many have created insecurity of their own that was never even true to begin with.

Other journalists have accused The Times of racist malice for criticising those who were fixated on hair to the exclusion of what’s happening to the people who wrote the article in the first place. How to not create the same problems we’re trying to avoid? We do it by shaming those who’ve already achieved success, uncovering secrets and then ignoring them when they get unmasked. Do we keep only half of the good news? Is a crisis really meant to elevate to something bigger?

Such moments provoke turmoil because the winners are second-guessed for what they didn’t do or for what they didn’t see or say. Or maybe we ignore the information and then the secret ends up getting revealed. Or maybe we just turn a blind eye. Is this the act of someone who shouldn’t have been won over and now doesn’t want to be deemed a loser? Is this the thing that they want people to find them wanting? Is this their new personality — we’re all desperate to find one and judge others to some degree for failing to have one?

And like most personality disorders, some of the people we meet have some definite self-destructive tendencies that don’t reflect very well on them, but rarely do we make use of it unless we also mask our deeper feelings.

As a sports photographer, I’ve always had the privilege of knowing athletes, coaches and other top-level, top-level-level athletes, and I can tell you right now that none of them are fanatical and obsessively worried about their appearance. Of course, a few are (maybe unfairly). But the vast majority of those athletes aren’t too concerned about their faces, earlobes, thinning hair, short crop or long hair. So how does this guy manage to equate the push to improve their appearance with any sort of struggle or at least keep that in the clear?

Without blame and shame, we would simply leave those with gray hair alone and let them bloom. By levelling the playing field, we perpetuate a confusion about who we really are and how we should live our lives.

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