Judging on Appearances

A dancer and fellow art nude model has a shaved head.  Pretty cool, right?

Here’s the problem: she gets a lot of negative feedback from people about her decision.  And people aren’t just saying they think she’ll look prettier with long hair (although they say that a lot too).  They’re saying that it will affect her work as an artist.  That she can’t shave her head and still dance, or that she’ll get less work as a model.

It's pretty obvious that shaving her head is not going to affect her physical ability to dance or pose.  So what exactly are these people saying?                                                          

It sure seems like they’re saying her art will be better received if she looks like how they think she’s supposed to.  They’re claiming that her audience will vote with their eyeballs and their dollars based on her appearance, and not just her skill.

To an extent, that’s true: modeling is all about appearances.  All of my skill in posing is meant to affect how I look in a picture. 

And I do make choices about my body for the same reason.  I keep my hair long, I don’t tan, I don’t get tattoos or piercings.  There’s nothing wrong with these; they’re just different than the aesthetic I’m trying to create.  If I changed my appearance, I could pose for different images—but not worse images, and not fewer images either. 

However, there are also some things about how I look that are beyond my control.  People tell me that my nipples are different sizes (I know) or that my eyes are too big for my face (I mean really, what kind of back-handed compliment is that?).  No matter how well I pose, I can’t change these things.  I can’t control the size of my eyeballs; I can only change the expression on my face. 

Sometimes, being a female artist can mean having constant, unsolicited feedback on how you look, and not what you’ve done.  It puts you in the scrutiny of the public eye and makes people think they should have some type of say on your appearance.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again.  If you take a picture of a landscape or a sunset, people will talk about how beautiful the photograph is.  But take a picture of a woman, and people talk about how beautiful she is.   There’s no mention about her skill in posing to create that image, or even the photographer’s ability to capture it.  Suddenly it’s not about the art, or the artist.

Even when the response to your appearance is positive, it can still be crushing.  Imagine working really hard on a project, pouring your heart and soul into it, and having the main response be on your body.  You start to feel like you can't do anything better than growing a pair of tits.  

So yeah, I worry for my friend with the shaved head.  She can pose with it, but people are going to judge her on it, and not her posing.  Though if she kept her hair, people are going to judge on that too.

But we can all help make this better.  It’s just a matter of being aware that we’re doing it, and compensating. 

When you’re discussing a dancer’s hair instead of her performance, you’re missing the dancing.

When you compliment or criticize an artist, comment on their work and not their appearance.  Lets talk about models for their posing, musicians for their songs, and actors for their roles, not their looks.

This isn’t to say that talking about appearances is always wrong.  Discussing hair is fine, when the conversation is just about hair.  The problem is when you’re discussing a dancer’s hair instead of her performance, you’re missing the dancing.

So if you see one of my friend's shows or images, tell her how well she did.  Just please, whatever you do, don't comment on her haircut.