Over the weekend, new Californians Prince Harry and Meghan Markle sat for over three hours in some unknown rich person’s lush backyard outside of Santa Barbara. Across from them, Oprah Winfrey (in her “So what is the truth?” bag) prodded them about their infamous retreat from England and the British crown for a CBS special.
As you no doubt know by now, the entire royal family came across terribly in the unprecedented interview. Someone in Buckingham Palace allegedly raised racist “concerns” about the skin tone of Harry and Meghan’s son, Archie. In particular, Harry’s older brother — and the future King of England — Prince William’s goodwill was guillotined: While neither Meghan nor Harry directly called out William for anything in particular, Harry did say they’re on “different paths” and that William was “trapped” into royal obligation. (This is a surprising development for a pair of brothers who’ve largely appeared inseparable for two decades.)
Twitter was quick to compare Harry to his brother (and alleged cheater) William, who seemingly lacks understanding of institutional racism or, indeed, his role in a family founded on colonialism.
He also, as it’s been made clear, lacks hair.
Based on Harry and Meghan’s testimony, William certainly deserves critique, but it’s disappointing, if not entirely surprising, to see the emphasis put on slamming his receding hairline, rather than his alleged philandering, or failure to stand beside his sister-in-law. Consciously or not, we erroneously associate hair with goodness because there’s this archaic idea that the manliest men are hairy: “A ‘good head of hair’ is seen the world over as a sign of virility, of masculinity, of strength and athleticism,” as Daniel Skomer wrote on the Medium blog Invisible Illness in 2019.
But bald-shaming is body-shaming: It’s that simple.
Based on the millions of photos taken of him since the day he was born, William has clearly lost almost all of those once thick golden tresses. But he’s certainly not alone in this: Nearly 80 percent of men will lose their hair within their lifetime, and new-to-therapy Harry could well be one of them. Given the sheer number of men experiencing hair loss, and the amount of time such hair loss has been a thing, there shouldn’t be any acceptable reason to continue lambasting their bodies — especially since bald and balding men have made it clear time and again that they would prefer you not comment on the state of their scalps.
Just last year, someone posited in the Unpopular Opinion subreddit that making fun of people losing their hair is a form of body-shaming: It clearly wasn’t an unpopular opinion, because thousands of people commented, including many men sharing their hairline insecurities and hurtful experiences of being shamed for balding. “Nothing feels better than showing up to a family gathering and the first thing your sister-in-law says, ‘Wow what happened to your hair? Maybe [Rogaine] may help?’…good to see you too,” one redditor offered sarcastically.
Another commented that they started losing their hair at 18. “It was gradual at first then it just all fell out by the time I was 21. I felt extremely self-conscious and people mercilessly teased me about being bald all the time,” they wrote. “Felt terrible. I started shaving it and have a beard, which is a good look for me now, but it took me a long time to accept it.”
They added, “Lots of years of hiding under hats to keep secret something I had no control over. I think it sucks to be judged for something you can’t stop.”
A third guy took this shame to its logical extreme: “I am willing to lose an inch in my penis just [to] not go bald,” they said.
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So, no, we shouldn’t be shaming people for what they can’t control — and that includes William and his hairline. It distracts from the seriousness of what allegedly went on in Buckingham Palace, and for what? To score cheap internet points for something not even related to his questionable character? It seems likely that he failed to condemn the racist treatment of Meghan by both the British tabloids and “The Firm” (not the Tom Cruise movie — the Deep State-esque organization that runs the British crown and allegedly removed Meghan and Harry’s security detail after their move across the pond). That’s surely more deserving of scorn than a genetic trait he has no control over.
Lambasting William for his hair isn’t just petty, it runs the risk of making us sympathize with him — after all, he can’t help being bald. Instead, let’s hold him accountable for what he can change.