By Bailey Brockett
When I was in 6th grade, I cut my hair short for the first time in years. I had been discussing the idea of donating it with my mom, and it was finally long enough. After weeks of asking her to cut it, she took me to a hole-in-the-wall salon that offered the cheapest haircuts. I was so excited and nervous that I was shaking. The stylist began to trim my hair into a very blunt A-line bob. I didn’t ask for that part, but I figured I wouldn’t say anything. I told myself to be excited, especially since Mom looked excited, and Dad said it was cute. The next morning, I tried to get ready for school with a positive attitude, but I could not tame my hair. One side was curly, and one side was straight. One side flipped out and the other side flipped in. I didn’t have anything but a butterfly barrette to keep it flat against my head, but that failed about 15 minutes into the day. The next few months consisted of tear-filled mornings as I could not style my hair the way I wanted to. Perhaps the worst of it all was that there was not one other girl in school with short hair. There was not a single part of me that cared my hair had gone to someone who needed it far more than I did. I wanted it back.
My hair eventually grew out, and I kept it as long as possible for the remainder of high school. Even the idea of haircuts made me nervous. I fried my hair to a crisp with a straightener every morning just to emphasize the length. I could live with the split ends as long as my hair was flat against my head and the boys thought I looked pretty.
The next time I cut my hair was this last summer. It was unintentional, and a bit of a funny story. My best friend and I decided to cut each other’s hair, and she snipped a bit more off than I was expecting. In a “why-the-hell-not” moment, I had my mom snip off the remainder, and I was left with a pixie cut. Now I’m battling with the idea of keeping it short, or growing it out, but I’ve realized that every time I consider growing it out it’s to make up for the femininity I’ve convinced myself I lack.
This brings me to the question: Does your hair length define femininity? Society and media have bought into the idea of gender roles and have taught us that, yes, the longer and shinier your hair, the more of a woman you are considered to be. There are so many articles that teach women how to “look feminine” in short hair, and we rarely see female celebrities sporting short hair cuts. When we do see them shaving their hair off or cutting it short, the first headlines to come out consist of the words “mental” and/or “breakdown.” Take Britney Spears, or Miley Cyrus for example. When people and the media refer to 2007 Britney, or Miley’s Bangerz phase, they’re typically referring to periods of time when their choices weren’t considered admirable. Both of these women had short hair during these periods.
We’re even conditioned to see longer hair as desirable from young ages. Just think: What do all Disney princesses have in common? They have long, shiny, easy-to-blow-in-the-wind, hair. Even our Barbie dolls, and American-Girl dolls have long hair that we can brush and braid. Through this type of exposure we, as females, are indirectly, and sometimes directly, told not to cut our hair.
Many women, including myself for a while, make the decision not to cut their hair because of stereotypical gender and sexuality roles. They don’t want to be mistaken for a boy, or (insert dramatic gasp here) a lesbian. There are a number of things wrong with this thought process, the first being the association between negativity and lesbians or boys. Kat Lazo states in her article, “3 Bullsh*t Reasons Why Women Are Taught To Not Cut Our Hair Short (And Why You Can Do It Anyway)” that, “Being a lesbian is only thought of as negative in our society because it challenges hegemonic masculinity. The idea that a woman can be happy with another woman is threatening to male dominance and power. So why take it as an insult?” She also states very eloquently, “Gender is a social construct. And it’s complicated. Besides, it’s my choice to express my gender in whichever way I choose.”
Even now I still worry that my short hair is unrepresentative of my womanhood. I often find myself trying to exaggerate my femininity through other materials, like large earrings, makeup, and trendy fashion, which is all fine and dandy. However, something I’ve learned is that it’s incredibly liberating to break society’s construct for what defines my beauty as a woman. It has led me to reconsider many of the stereotypes I associated with femininity, and what it really boils down to is that it is your hair and can do whatever you please with it. You will be just as beautiful of a woman with or without it.