Friday, October 24, 2008

Ishwar Mahtani's Hairy Issue

Okay, I don't think this will be published in the newspapers (Oct 27 edit: It was published... WTF!). When I read the article, I was going "what the fuck". Of course, "what the" went to the letter writer, and everybody's favourite four-letter word went to the Straits Times. Of course, that hasn't stopped me from writing 3 letters to the forum in the past 3 days (which is only a matter of probability I get published).

I mean, we have a recession and a sex education problem, plus a population problem ("we need more sex education" versus "we need more sex"). Surely there must be something really engaging and newsworthy to talk about... Hmmmmmmm... LET'S TALK ABOUT LONG HAIR!!! WOO HOO!!! WORLD PEACE!!! NO MORE POVERTY!!! EVERYBODY GOT BACK THEIR INVESTMENTS!!!

Yes, hair's the way, my friend. Lim Swee Say (off-centre parting) and Tony Tan (comb-back) are probably the longest you can go.

Long hair = women? Next thing we know, we are told to give our kids manly or womanly names, so people like the letter-writer won't get confused. I wonder what Vivian Balakrishnan will say about that.

Whatever the case may be, Ishwar Mahtani fully has the right to express his opinion and deserves to be heard. This also gives us the right to criticse, but of course, I have yet to go as far as Mike Loh (very venomous and hilarious retort), who laid the cyber smackdown on everybody's favourite moral crusader George Lim.

Ishwar Mahtani's Hairy Issue

Dear Editor,

I refer to Ishwar Mahtani’s recent criticism of long-haired male television personalities (ST, Oct 24, 2008) and also 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 that they are threatened.

Long hair, while being associated by the authorities in the last millennium with gangsters and crime, is now no longer aesthetically and morally exclusive to women. Likewise, women too 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 the programme that ultimately 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.

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 is unreasonable, illogical and unjustified. I still believe, as I did, that achievement, excellence and a fair sense of morality are all independent of hair length.

At the same time, I believe that men who sport long hair should also be responsible for their own hygiene.

Being male and sporting long hair does not make a man less moral, less productive or less Singaporean.

Ho Chi Sam

Letter by Ishwar Mahtani (nice name actually) published in the Straits Times Online Forum, Oct 24, 2008:

Male TV personalities should have neat haircuts and not sport long hair

On Tuesday night, as I tuned in to watch a TV talk show on the recent DBS investment crisis, I could not figure out if the presenter was male or female. I soon realised he was male, with long hair.

Personalities who appear on TV should always ensure they have a neat haircut and present themselves well. Appearing on TV with such long hair does not send a good message to viewers.

It was not long ago the Government used to warn males who appeared with such long hair in public places, for often they were associated with gangs.

I find it strange that MediaCorp allows a show with such a presenter to be aired. I hope it will look into this and ensure all presenters appear with neat and decent haircuts.

Ishwar Mahtani

-after thought-

To use the environmentalist lingo, the younger generation has to clean up the mess of the previous generations. Here, meanings attached to "long hair" are changing, but we are held back by such persons, who are further aided by the mass media (which amplifies their opinions).

Unfortunately, bigotry and mindsets have to die, given they cannot change. The only way for them to continue (in spirit) is through the institutions we have created for their continuation, for example the schools, media and other ideological state apparatuses. In that sense, values don't die, but the people who hold them and want them to propagate are mortal. Sometimes I feel we can only wait, because we fight a losing battle against these guys and the institutions that support them.


Ishu Mahtani said...

Dear Ho Chi Sam,

Glad to know that my letter aroused some readers to make their contributions too.

I guess that's what its all about...letting others know how you feel about this and that in life.

We live in one world, and I guess we will have to educate one another in some way or another.

Personally, I think any long haired guy I meet on the street reminds of a there you go...I am kinda against long haired men...

Have a nice day... :)

Sam Ho said...

hi, thanks for making the effort to comment. really appreciate it.

as i said, it's important to get heard and everyone deserves to have their say.

i'm a conservative person myself, and i personally like to keep my hair short (because i play sports, and that i find it easier to maintain) but i hope that you will find that long-haired men can be gentlemen too, and that not all long-haired men are effeminate, but can be "macho".

my only problem with long-haired men is those who can't keep their hair neat, tidy and in a hygienic condition. moreover, in our climate, it's not easy maintain long hair.

despite my stance being what i deem as conservative, i feel it's important to continue to question my and other people's beliefs, because it's a beautiful thing to learn and know more and more. that is why issues such as gender norms and cultural norms become my interest.