Two professors published an academic paper this week blasting cancer patients who wear wigs, arguing that they are brainwashed by cultural beauty normalities and consumerism.
The 26-page paper, entitled “‘Cancer Coiffures’: Embodied Storylines of Cancer Patienthood and Survivorship in the Consumerist Cultural Imaginary,” was published in the research journal Body & Society this week. The paper focuses on the relationship between female cancer patients and their hair.
The paper was authored by two professors: Seán M Williams of the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and Kari Nyheim Solbrække of the University of Oslo in Norway.
“Wigs have become staples of an alternative story of especially women’s cancer experience, one that contrasts with the advertising slogans of what has been termed ‘Cancer Inc,’” the paper reads. “But wigs are also a prop for consumerist self-(re)invention and can be appropriated stereotypically, with regard to stock gendered expectations – despite and alongside their subversive potential.”
“These master-narratives conditions our affective body image, especially given the broader context of consumerist cultures in global(ized) capitalism – with consumerism manifesting itself most obviously in fashions and self-styling of body image, but increasingly, too, in discourses surrounding health care provision and patienthood,” the professors continue.
The paper serves as example of the kind of stupidity that is exclusive to academia. The much more reasonable perspective on this issue centers on the reality that the loss of hair is typically the most apparent physical change that female cancer patients undergo. Patients who try to retain their pre-cancer physical appearance by purchasing a wig are motivated less by consumer culture, capitalism, and cultural normalities than by the tragedy of living with cancer. It is offensive to complicate this very human experience of the self-preservation of one’s physical identity with partisan sociological concepts that are thinly related to this issue at best.