I recently chopped off all my hair. I had let my hair grow for the past 5 years and after my wedding I cut off over 12 inches. It wasn’t enough, so then several months later I went to my stylist and asked for the “Gwyneth Paltrow from Sliding Doors.” He nailed it.
I have never been more complimented on a hair cut. It’s pretty cool since I have done all sorts of cuts and colors since the age of 12. I received a lot or “wow”s and “what made you decide to do that.” But the response my hair elicited the most was “you’re so brave!” It immediately rubbed me the wrong way. Brave?! I wasn’t brave just for cutting my hair. Brave is folks standing up for justice or a Disney movie about a red headed princess. Not me. And certainly not because of a haircut.
It happened so often that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The more I thought about it, the more it became more complicated. We live in a society that dictates beauty standards from the moment we’re born. Barbies have long hair. Disney princesses have long hair (remember that Brave movie I mentioned earlier?) Anyone considered conventionally beautiful typically has flowing locks. Not much has changed in the media in my short 33 years. Conventions of beauty and femininity have stayed rather stagnant. One of the many reasons I became a feminist in the first place.
When I was younger I was known for my long hair. It was down to my butt. My mom wouldn’t let me cut it. She did however let me color it which was the compromise. I rocked a bad ass blond streak in 6th grade. So naturally the second I got to high school, I cut it. My favorite was junior year when I did the “Claire Danes from Mod Squad” cut. Rebelling from my childhood I kept it relatively short for the next ten years. After college I started to let it grow again. In law school, I cut it again. You get the picture. But then I found myself single for the first time in 6 years. I would be lying if I said I didn’t start to worry that maybe I needed to keep my hair long in order to be seen as more attractive. Isn’t strange how lots of hair on a woman is seen as unattractive unless it’s on her head? Even as a feminist I am not immune to society’s pressures. So I kept it long. And it was fun for a while but also a lot of work.
Thinking about all this made me realize, maybe cutting my hair is brave. Anytime you step outside convention it’s brave. Anytime you do something to disrupt the patriarchy, it’s brave. It might just be hair but I’m a believer in tiny revolutions.