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Gray Hair Discrimination Between Men And Women

NBC's Today decided to delve into the topic of gray hair and whether or not attitudes about it were changing.

Celeb hairstylist Louis Licari who does all the Ambush Makeovers for Hoda and Kathie's fourth hour segment told Today that "gray hair on a man can give him a sense of authority.

On a woman, however, it can look like she doesn't fare about herself."  Louis famously colors the hair of women who've gone gray on the Ambush Makeovers.  One case was shown as an example while Louis discussed current opinions about men and women who go gray.

Although some men prefer to go gray gracefully.  Some men, even in their 40s don't like to go gray at all or before their time.  NBC Today interviewed a man in his 40s who said "it didn't really bother me until people started asking me if I was the older brother.  My brother's at least 12 years older than me."

It definitely is a double standard, which the Today Show study on gray hair trends and attitudes highlighted.

Lesley Jane Seymour, the editor of More Magazine said "in the beauty world there are a lot of things that are not fair.  And that's one of the things we have to get over."

Today went to Advance Focus and gathered their own focus groups of men and women on the topic.  When the focus group was asked for the names of some well-known men who have gray hair and wear it well the focus group named George Clooney, Sean Connery, President Obama, Bill Clinton and Anderson Cooper.

Women?  The groups had a tougher time naming women who are gray and wear it well.  They noted it was tougher to think of good role models but named Betty White, Toni Morrison, Jamie Lee Curtis and Paula Deen who they said was "pretty."  The also mentioned Queen Elizabeth but pointed out but she's an older woman."

For their next exercise the Today Team took photos of six Today staffers to pose for photos.  Some have gray hair and some do not.  They photo shopped a second photo either putting in or taking out gray hair.  They showed the photos to the focus groups and asked for feedback.

For two of the three men and two of the three women half of the group preferred the gray haired look.  The Today men who were actually selected are gray in real life.  For the two Today Women the gray was photo shopped in.

Vivian Diller, Ph.D.,  a psychiastrist and the author of "Face It What Women Really Feel When Their Looks Change" and Donny Deutsch appeared on Today with Matt Lauer.  Matt introduced Donny as "a guy with gray hair."

A Double Standard For Men And Women With Gray Hair?

Matt asked Donnie "is a double standard that exist" about gray hair. Donny said "of course there is."  He also noted that was interesting that none of the women in the focus group actually had gray hair.  He also noted that "many times what you say in a focus group" (he is a veteran of doing many focus groups) is "what you believe is politically correct and smart."

He continued "but many times when we look at real life unfortunately there is this double standard."

Dr. Diller said "this double standard has been in existence for thousands and thousands of years.  It's really in the original role that men and women played in life.  Looks were important.  Women were to attract a mate, procreate and then they died before they even saw gray hair.  Not that long ago.  100 years ago.  Men, on the other hand were about protecting their clan.  Being powerful and strong.  Gray hair actually enhanced that role.  They were seen as more senior, as leaders."

The Media Perpetuates The Double Standard

Matt pointed out that "through media and advertising we perpetuate" this double standard.  Donny agreed but he said that women also help to perpetuate opinions about women going gray.

Donny said that in a previous experience he had with launching a magazine for women over 40 when the advertisements showed women with gray hair, the women rejected it.  They instead wanted to see the idealized image of women looking younger.

Donny said "its the women who perpetuate more than the men."

Matt noted that it was interesting that the majority of the focus group members preferred some of the Today Show subjects who had photo shopped gray hair (when their own hair was not gray) over their photo without gray.

Eagerness For Authenticity About Aging

Dr. Diller said "there is a great eagerness for an authenticity about aging with grace and beauty.  Many women, 78 million baby boomers exist today and more than half of them are women.  We really do want to see gray as beautiful.  But I do really think we 're going to have to have the media and the onscreen models who demonstrate that there is a way to disconnect the old associations (of gray hair)."

Donny disagreed.  "I don't know if women want to see gray as beauty.  There's not one woman I know that when they describe coloring their hair - that's like putting make-up on.  Nobody, there's not even a remote taboo given."

Dr. Diller "what if white was a color you chose?"  Now that younger women are coloring their hair more than ever, what if we added white to their palette?

Do Men Discuss Their Hair Treatments?

Donny "The media is worse than ever.  We lionize young more than ever with hundreds of channels.  It's unfortunate, but that's the reality. It's not going to change" in the near future.

Another double standard?  Should men get their hair professionally colored?  The majority say no because it may be seen as vain.

Donny said that while men are more willing to go to the salon to get their hair colored or have manicures and pedicures they "will not talk about it."

So while men may be more willing to get their hair colored or have similar treatments, they will still not openly discuss it.

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