The long and the short of it

Last updated 10:29 26/06/2014

Hair. It sprouts in differing thicknesses and lengths from almost every surface of the human animal. It can differ in colour and texture but all of us (excluding those with alopecia universalis) have some.

It is a thoroughly mundane, and one would think, uncontroversial substance.

But not so. For hair is a highly politicised bit of the human body and the latest kerfuffle over schoolboy Lucan Battison's locks only proves this fact.

In case you missed it, Battison was recently suspended from St John's College, a Catholic boys' school in Hastings, for having long hair. Lucan and his parents are currently fighting this suspension in the High Court. Their argument is that with his hair tied back, Lucan adheres to the "out of the eyes and off the collar" rule that was in place when he enrolled, and that this is actually a tidier way for him to wear his hair than if it were short (anyone with an abundant head of curls will be familiar with the notion of "short" equalling "puffy mess"). 

In the court of public opinion much has been made of a school's right to make rules which students, for the sake of learning boundaries, and general orderliness, should adhere to. As well, this story highlighted the underlying sentiment that some people hold that young people, especially teenage boys, should just bloody do as they are told and not have tickets on themselves.

On the latter point, I can certainly sympathise. After all, teenagers are notoriously annoying creatures. I recall with no small amount of cringing just how painful an individual I was between the ages of 16 and, oh, about 25 was when I started being less embarrassing, but that's possibly just me.

However I can't get behind the notion that it's best for everyone concerned if we raise a nation of children who will blindly follow rules and are discouraged from trying to effect change if they see something they think is wrong. Unless we're comfortable having a whole different genre of sheep joke made about us.

If a rule doesn't make sense, it's far better that we question it than simply carry on toeing the line. If a rule (or a government or an argument) is robust it will stand up to questioning.

We question rules all the time in broader society when we revise old laws or devise new ones. For many people in New Zealand it simply didn't make sense that only heterosexual couples could marry, so we questioned that, the tide of public opinion not so much lapped gently at the toes of lawmakers as knocked them off their feet like a rogue wave... and now we have fairer legislation covering who can marry.

Jesus just before he got suspended from St John's CollegeIn this case, an arbitrary rule has been made based, I'm assuming, on the rather old-fashioned notion that long hair is "untidy" or is an indicator of a rebellious nature, cooties, or criminality and therefore not something that a nice, respectable institution would want associated with their school uniform. Even though it's a Catholic school and I've never seen a depiction of Jesus with a short back and sides ever*. What would Jesus do, guys? WHAT WOULD JESUS WITH HIS FLOWING MANE OF HAIR DO?

The long-haired larrikin stereotype simply isn't one that sticks terrifically well in the modern era. Oh yes, all right, Russell Brand but there's always one, isn't there?

And of course there's the underlying patriarchal BS at work here. Because heaven forbid that a boy should have hair that's a bit like girl hair. Euwwwwh. Girls are gross. Yuck. Boys must always only look like boys and girls must look like and behave like girls (with lipgloss and cooking and whatnot) and to allow anything else amongst our young people is to invite anarchy. Because if you let one boy have long hair at a school it's a slippery slope and before you know it no one will be following any of the rules even the ones that make perfect sense, like "don't put your face too close to the bunsen burners".

Um. No. Please check your unnecessarily narrow gender definitions and logical fallacies at the door, if you wouldn't mind.

I'm all for rules. Heck, I am committed stickler in many respects. But silly, nonsensical rules about hair? Not so much.

I imagine that there are a good many of you who disagree with me and, as always, you are welcome to make your argument in the usual fashion.

*Though I'll admit to not looking very hard.

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