Gray Matters: Aging in the Age of #grannyhair
Giles, Sarah Elizabeth Tally
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Drawing on previous literature in cultural gerontology, ageism and age relations, and cultural appropriation this study analyzes the recent grannyhair trend on instagram. Recently, younger women have been coloring their hair combinations of white, silver, and gray and posting images of their style on instagram with the #grannyhair designation. In this study we use an intersectional approach to age and gender relations to explore this phenomenon. Previous studies show that women's behaviors and presentations of aging are policed by cultural standards of age-appropriate appearance and performance, particularly in regards to their hair. Qualitative content analysis of #grannyhair images are examined to assess the extent of age-based stereotypes and policing of age-appropriate behavior and appearance. This study found that instagram users engaged in this trend did not challenge age relations. Rather, boundaries of age-appropriate behaviors enacted in the #grannyhair trend are largely set by younger users. The ways in which young users utilize ageist stereotypes as a way to emphasize the contrast between their stylistic choices and their status as young attractive women framed the #grannyhair trend as one of appropriation. That is, young women adopted gray, white, and silver hair as a cultural symbol and changed its original meaning as a marker of old age. Conversations among both young and old instagram users echoing previous literature that details the contentious relationships old women have with their aging bodies, and hair specifically.
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