Asking about how qualified someone is in academia always brings to mind how a hairdresser discovered how Roman hairstyles were done when many thought the portrait styles were just idealized fancy.
Stephens, a hairdresser based in Baltimore, took a trip to the Walters Art Museum back in 2001 and learned about the intricate hairdos worn by Vestal Virgins so she could duplicate them herself. But she ended up delving further into the fashion and art history books than she’d anticipated. Four years later, Stephens made a phenomenal discovery that she says “essentially changed the field of classical hair studies.”
While reading Roman literature, she stumbled across the term “acus” which has been translated to “hairpin.” But Stephens’ experience with embroidery sparked the theory that these ancient hairdos were actually created using a needle and thread — which was pretty convincing. Her findings were published in the 2008 edition of the Journal of Roman Archaeology.
"That quote everyone was referencing for centuries, but no one took it literally until I came along," she said. “Maybe that was the naivety in me.”
When she’s not cutting, coloring and highlighting at Studio 921 Salon and Day Spa in Baltimore, Stephens is practicing what she preaches by recreating ancient Roman hairstyles at home. Her YouTube channel includes tutorials featuring background on the women who wore these intricate hairdos, insight on their hair textures, the types of styling tools used and how they’d maintain these looks.
But of course HOW DARE SHE QUESTION THE “ACCEPTED FACTS”, RIGHT?
Y’all help I can’t stop watching these ancient roman hairstyling vids.
1. dang they had crazy hair ok?
2. SEW THAT HAIR
3. Who thought up these hairstyles like seriously it was some sort of party where they tried to build houses with hair or something
4. Someone thought this hairstyle up. Now Janet Stephens recreates it. At the end of the vid she even shows how to do those weird curl crowns that look like headbands but nope it’s hair.
SERiously!!!! I think people are underestimating just HOW COOL THIS IS:
THERE ARE SIMPLE ONES, TOO!
^ I would even do that!
Like, okay I’m not angry, because i know and understand that this is what you learned in class, and this is why other people send angry asks about my qualifications like this one about how Wrongety Wrongsauce I am about everything ever.
I have written so much about “color conventions” and gender and how utterly outdated all of this is, along with the fact that I cannot find anything to really support this assumption other than “a Victorian guy made this up in the 1800s”. and everyone after that just decided to agree.
Here’s an image from a post slated to go out a bit later today of another, very similar funerary stele of a woman giving birth (because she died in childbirth) with (GASP!) brown skin (along with another of her female attendants):
Also, the thing about Egyptian Art and skin color/gender conventions?
I find it fascinating that the only time this comes up is when there’s some kind of investment white/western culture has in claiming an ancient culture as its own. Go ahead, read a whole article on it. Bend over backwards to try and find a “reason” why diverse skin colors would have been depicted in ancient art. Here’s another post with some replies and analysis (although it’s gotten a bit garbled in the html attributions, sorry about that), but this debate about skin color as an abstract artistic symbol versus skin color as skin color probably jumped the shark at least 20 years ago.
You talk about the color/gender conventions in ancient Greek art as if they aren’t a real thing, but they are. There’s recent scholarship (terrible, I know—gatekeeping elitism, etc.) on the subject.
Moreover, the stelae that you’ve posted are Hellenistic, so attempting to make the connection to the Aegean Bronze Age, which ended at ~700 prior depending on whom you ask is difficult at best.
Since you haven’t asked any questions this time, I’ll provide some! It’ll be just like Jeopardy!
Why are you so invested in analyzing periods in a vacuum, as if they have nothing to do with cultures that existed before, or were influential toward things that came after?
Why aren’t you interesting in analyzing how and why the skin color=gender convention is used in application to (according to you) such dissimilar periods? What purpose could that serve?
Why are you overstating my position about color conventions and symbolism in art (as if I’m stating that they don’t exist)? Could it be because you’re overly invested in things you learned in class that your professors presented as unchallenged, and yet is actually an academic debate with yes, lots of recent scholarship?
Why is it so un-possible to compare the same practice from modern historians being applied to different eras or geographical location and try to find a pattern? To do a cross-analysis on how this bust of Memnon was received by modern historians? To do yet another analysis on why so many scholars try to find an “explanation” for the Black Madonnas of Europe? Maybe wonder what this could mean about academic attitudes toward skin color in general, and the investment in symbolism versus literally any other interpretation?
To maybe think about why they would do that? Or to re-asses the credence we give to modern interpretations of ancient evidence, or at least acknowledge that we’re reading INTERPRETATIONS and not some kind of perfectly preserved Absolute Truth from that time?
I think it’s really important for people to see and really look at how these kind of debates take place, and think about why they happen. About who is seen as “legitimate” and who is not.
What is “Expertise”, really? How do we decide? Who should we listen to, and why? Who is allowed to criticize institutionally accepted interpretations? And is anyone ever Qualified Enough?
this obsession with determining the racial identity of a culture with no concept or social organization of race is truly disturbing, especially as it rests on using modern terminologies to analyze ART and depictions in fucking ART and the way you think about ART TODAY is not how people in Bronze age Crete thought of “art” nor were they trying to fulfill a quota in representing diversity
americans are truly fucking disturbed
Here we see medievalpoc accusing someone else of analysing a situation with an anachronistic viewpoint
^ I think anyone reading the above criticism should take the opportunity to sort of compare it with the discussion that just took place about Sleeping Black Man, how how our modern views of race 100% inform how we see race in Art History, even Ancient Art.
It’s just really weird to me that so many people seem to have a problem with my analysis of a situation that already exists, rather than that situation existing in the first place.
It wasn’t MY idea to assign everyone who ever lived a race. I’m trying to document how those races were assigned and why.
I never claimed to understand what people in Ancient Crete thought about anything. That’s not what we do here. We talk about how we view art today, as modern people, and how our views are filtered by our modern ideas and attitudes.
Is this really that hard to understand?
Also, “fulfill a quota in representing diversity”? I think there is something wrong here and I do not think that it is this blog existing. :|
I don’t even know what’s happening anymore.
I hate that I am ever surprised that people want to keep history as white as they can.
The lengths people will go to.
To make sure nothing of beauty, grace or import in history happened involving people of color. More so if they are Black.
A couple nights ago I attended an interactive talk about African Americans in Oregon history that a colleague and friend offered at the Oregon Historical Society here in Portland.
The interactive part meant I had to turn around and talk to a retired white, male historian sitting behind me about who we were and why we were there. Within 15 minutes he had called me a “snob” for living in Portland and not the small, conservative town where I teach; accused me and the young woman of color sitting next to him of being “complicit” in the gentrification of historically black North Portland without knowing anything about my racial or economic background; incorrectly tagged me as the beneficiary of the privileges the US gave to elite, white Cuban immigrants in the 1960s; then told me that the idea that African Americans were not allowed to live in Oregon in the late 1800s was “inaccurate and sloppy”—they were publicly and legally whipped (often lynched), taxed, and put to work if they chose to stay in the state, which is “not exactly the same thing.” Pro-tip: it is the same thing.
He then proceeded to interrupt my friend’s talk with comments that began with phrases like “I believe you’re mistaken when” and “You’re overlooking the fact that.” For example, the speaker told us about how when African Americans, disenfranchised from the public schools in Salem, Oregon, finally raised the money to open their own school, the state waited 6 months then incorporated the school and used the facility to institutionalize racial segregation in the district. Our white historian man then raised his hand to express disappointment that the speaker had focused on the “negative” side of the story (apparently African Americans opening their own school is negative) and thought this was a “miraculous” example of white liberals finally organizing to provide blacks with an education in Oregon by “opening” one of the first publicly funded black schools. To the speaker’s credit, she laid it out real good (and polite): nothing happened until blacks opened their own damn school, and the talk is simply not about the positive contributions of white politicians but about the lives of blacks in Oregon (see the difference? I know it’s subtle). Repeated comments like these, which did not expand on the talk but ideologically disempowered a woman-of-color historian in a room full of white people, inevitably amounted to one basic grievance: he wanted the talk to be about the wonderful things white liberals have done for African Americans in Oregon, the same timeline of white achievements you can get at the historical society itself, at any museum, most history books, and on Google.
I believe he thought he was connecting with us. I believe he thought he was even modeling some kind of ethical scholarship. I truly believe he thought he was helping us by offering his “expertise” and what he perceived as constructive criticism. And this level of delusion about his privilege, his importance, and his superiority makes me even angrier at him than if he had just sat there and said “I hate black people.”
Undermining our work in the guise of an ally is the most covert and egregious form of racism. It digs right into the structures we’ve painstakingly built to repair centuries of economic, social and intellectual disempowerment and pulls them apart with surgical care, one piece at a time, so that the products of black and brown labor can be collected and added to the coffers of white cultural capital. The stealth racism of allies who feel they have more to teach than to learn obstructs, fractures, and undermines our lives and work in ways the perpetrators can’t even perceive because their perspectives are so aloft with a mistaken sense of wisdom and competence, so drunk with privileges they believe it is their job to mete out at their own discretion, so frenzied with panic over the dissolution of the structural superiority on which their entire identity is based.
Save for listening to and READING THE WORK OF people of color, I think for white, antiracist work, releasing one’s grip on one’s own authority and the impulse to exert this authority in black-led spaces has got to be the very first step.
I’m so grateful to all the Portland denizens who attended the talk to listen, contribute, take notes, and give my friend the respect she deserves as a teacher, historian, and anti-racist community activist. Despite this man’s comments, the talk was only derailed for a few seconds here and there, when the speaker was momentarily shaken by the man’s pedantic tone, but quickly recovered with facts, rhetorical calling out, and sincerity. The talk was amazing and I learned so much about Oregon, about teaching, and about dialogue in just a couple of hours. I guess I’m writing this not to give the man undue attention, but to start figuring out what exactly it is that power is doing in the room when white people do this, to give other people a working anatomy of this kind of interaction, and to continue the work of thinking about how to effectively respond and move on.
white people remain irrevocably untrustworthy and ridiculous, even—nay, especially— those who claim to be Otherwise Enlightened
I had a version of this guy happen to me on a panel I did about the Civil War and its aftermath. When someone says Jim Crow laws weren’t that bad since they came from the Black Codes all you can do is eat their face with facts & try not to jump out of your seat to forcibly eject them from the building. Through the roof. I applaud this lecturer’s restraint.