(Published - ST Forum, Online Story. October 27, 2008)
I refer to Mr Ishwar Mahtani's criticism last Friday of long-haired male television personalities ('Male TV personalities should have neat haircuts and not sport long hair') and thank The Straits Times for publishing such a baiting flame-magnet of a letter.
At times, our preconceptions and perceptions are challenged by images in the media. However, that does not mean they are threatened.
Long hair, while associated by the authorities in the last millennium with gangsters and crime, is now no longer aesthetically and morally exclusive to women. Likewise, women also sport short hair. Thus, long hair is not indicative of gender or sexuality.
I urge MediaCorp to continue portraying such diverse styles, because it is the quality and content of programmes that matters.
It must also be understood that neatness of hairstyle has nothing to do with hair length. Rather, such discomfort with men sporting long hair is indicative of the set of gender norms and expectations one subscribes to, which derives from a specific time in history.
A short and 'decent' haircut for a man does not transform him into a decent-charactered and law-abiding person. The minimal form of conformity you get from a short-haired man is his abiding to a set of aesthetics deemed 'normal' by an authority that has more than often gone unquestioned and unchallenged.
While schooling in the 1990s, I always felt the relevance of hair to discipline and academic performance unreasonable, illogical and unjustified. I still believe, as I did then, that achievement, excellence and a fair sense of morality are independent of hair length.
At the same time, I believe men who sport long hair should be responsible for their hygiene.
Being male and sporting long hair does not make a man less moral, less productive - or less Singaporean.
Ho Chi Sam