"Petals falling off a rose": the effect of hair loss on women's identity performances
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This dissertation analyzes twenty-six interviews with women who have temporary hair loss, thinning hair, or alopecia to gain insight into how hair loss affects women's identity performances by drawing from the work of Goffman (1959; 1963) and Foucault (1988; 1995). This project examines how these processes differ for women depending on the type of hair loss they have and their consequences for identity. For women with temporary hair loss, the issue of temporality is critical as they wait out their hair loss by trying to look healthy and feminine while wearing wigs until their hair grows back. Women with thinning hair find their hair loss disconcerting as it marks a change from their earlier appearance and sense of self, focusing on looking professional, acceptable, and presentable as they try to come to terms with their situation. Women with alopecia focus on controlling their appearance by hiding their hair loss from others as well as meeting social and cultural norms of gender, femininity, beauty, normality, and health in order to protect their image they portray to others. This project concludes with a discussion of how temporality and diagnosis can help us understand women's experiences of hair loss as well as what this study tells us about what it means to have a healthy identity.