Hair may seem trivial at first glance, but its appearance communicates a message in most modern societies be its scrutiny obvious or not. The ways women have styled their hair, in particular, have always been influenced by a woman’s perceived role in society at any given time, in any given place.
Shorter hair on women/femmes has historically served as a reflection of what was considered fashionable during a specific time period, such as, the “boyish bob” or Eton crop and pixie cuts of the 1920s. But short hair has also been an act of rebellion against conventional beauty standards ever since long hair was conflated with the concept of ideal femininity.
So, it’s no surprise that many women view their long hair as a marker of their beauty that is directly tied to their confidence or comfort. I say comfort because, while a woman may not always feel confident, her hair can still function as a protective security blanket. This was the main category I fell into in my younger days, even when I decided to cut my hair into a bob, I ensured it would be long enough for me to hide behind. It was my shield.
A Majestic Mane (and Pain in the Neck)
My hair was long prior to the May of 2018. I had been growing it out from the chin-length cut I had had in high school and it was almost long enough to cover my chest. But after two years of not doing much other than combing it in college – I was OVER IT.
I have thick, heavy, and oily hair that looks nice and luscious when maintained but it was not a priority of mine amidst my stressful college schedule. And unlike my enthusiasm for makeup, hair just wasn’t something I cared to play around with and style.
I also hated the amount of time it took to wash and dry all the hair I had and wanted a look that would allow me to simply comb and add some hair wax before walking out the door to class or work while still looking presentable. My long hair, as pretty as it was, just didn’t fit with my lifestyle which is something you should consider when it comes to any hair change you’re thinking about.
F the Male Gaze
Allow me to first clarify that just because a woman has long hair does not mean she is doing so to appease patriarchal beauty standards. It is still an inescapable fact that longer hair is viewed as more feminine and shorter hair as more masculine within a larger societal context that is influenced primarily by what men have considered attractive.
Thankfully, this is starting to change with not only the expansion of female voices but also those of multi-cultural backgrounds. The more hair is thought of and seen through a worldly understanding the more evident it becomes that hair is capable of so many more variations of expression than the limitations of misinformed gender stereotypes.
In many places and cultures around the world, for example, men have worn their hair long in order to style it in the ways that signify their role and or status in their society and social setting.
Amongst the Western culture I have grown with, the image of an “attractive” woman has been one with long, un-textured hair. When I was initially toying with the idea of cutting my hair into somewhat of a pixie cut, I was told that men wouldn’t like it as a reason to deter me from making this decision. And being the stubborn and proud, small but mighty mujer that I am, I resolved to chop most of my hair off.
I detest the feeling of being controlled or swayed by any externally patronizing source in general but the second I detect an inkling of male gaze influence I will dig my heels in. As someone who developed a shapely body at a very young age and was relentlessly policed for what I wore because it was “my responsibility to make men less creepy” – I react very strongly whenever the opinions of other men are presented as rationale more valid than my own for what I should and should not do.
Long Hair ≠ Femininity
Hair seems simple on a surface level but it effects the outside world’s perception of us and how we feel in our own skin. I think every woman/femme who has ever felt like their femininity was even partially reliant on their attainment of long, silky hair should absolutely try a short cut!
It’s an empowering process of untethering yourself from one of the most commonly advertised beauty standards that has been perpetuated with every long, shiny haired doll sold to children and smoothening shampoo commercial marketed toward women. It doesn’t take a lot of digging to come to the conclusion that long hair is a part of the “ideal woman” persona that has been packaged and force fed to us as a sly strategy to influence our purchasing decisions as consumers.
If hair product and service companies can convince you that your hair is supposed to achieve a certain look regardless of your personal needs and hair story, then they can also convince you to buy what they’re selling. The truth is long hair is not synonymous with femininity – it’s just hair and you can do whatever the hell you want with it and still be feminine.
Before You Cut Your Hair
If you do want to make the chop, then below are some things to keep in mind to fully be able to embrace the change:
- Incremental haircuts – if you are really unsure about going short, try cutting your hair in separate incremental salon sessions to allow yourself a smooth progression. This will give you plenty of time to get used to your new look if you’re questioning it.
- Consider your face shape – if there is already a cut you have your heart set-on by all means go for it (that’s what I did), but if you consider what would best compliment your bone structure when choosing a style than odds are you’ll be a lot happier with the end result.
- Match your cut to your lifestyle – be sure to research online or ask your hairstylist about the kind of maintenance that different short cuts will require to make sure that it’s going to fit with the amount of time and effort you want to dedicate to styling it on a day-to-day basis.
- Consider your hair type – is your hair thick, thin, dry, oily, textured, straight? All of these factors and more will affect the way short hairstyles will look on you, so be sure to pick a cut that will cooperate with your hair’s qualities.
Short hair significantly minimized the amount of time it took me to wash, dry and style it which was a much welcomed change from the work it took to manage my heavy, thick, and oily hair when it was long.
It has also forced me to present myself to others without my childhood security blanket and to redefine what makes me feel both beautiful and like a womxn. So, have fun with your hair, chop it all off, and you might just discover something new about yourself.
And, if you decide it’s not for you, no worries – it grows back!