Earlier this week Courtney wrote a post at Feministing about her most recent haircut , and how it made her consider the kinds of assumptions bound up in one’s choice of hairstyle. This idea in particular jumped out at me:
I would be remiss if I didn’t do a bit of gender analysis here, of course. I also think that having long hair, as a cis gendered, fairly straight woman, feels safe in a certain kind of way. There are men who really like short hair, but in my experience the majority of men like long hair. And in the larger culture, of course, long hair denotes femininity and youth and other things glamorized and glorified in our gender binary culture.
At various points in my life I have marked transitions by making a change to my appearance – most often with a haircut. Yet, the hairstyles I’ve chosen haven’t been all that different or remarkable. Whether my hair was cut short to my jawline or below my shoulders, the actual style was always safe and generally feminine. I think it was my way of hiding – unless you looked closely, I could blend in to the sea of brown-haired girls that surrounded me. Although I desperately wanted attention, I feared the ridicule/criticism that attention might bring. When I saw women with really short hair, styled in unusual ways or dyed unnatural colors, I looked at them with envy and awe. I wished that I had the audacity to stand out.
…Ok, so I still do that. Every now and then I indulge in a fantasy about getting myself some Manic Panic and dying my hair something completely unpredictable. But what color?? I never get past that question.
A year ago this month I cut my hair shorter than it had ever been. I summoned my courage and picked a style that had way more personality than any other I’d tried and then went to a stylist who adapted it to fit my features. I was really happy with the results, and I’ve kept that same cut for a year. None of the bad things I’d feared ever happened; if anything, the people around me responded positively to the change. I don’t feel any less feminine for having short hair, and every time I see it I feel proud of myself for having had the confidence to try it.
In truth, this hairstyle, which still feels so radical for me, isn’t all that extreme. And yet it represents a huge step in self-acceptance. Guys – take this into account next time you ask a gal with short hair if she’s ever considered growing it out. Perhaps she cut it short for a good reason.