Is chopping off your hair a cry for help?

Miley Cyrus recently chopped all her hair off.


When I was about 18 – the same age as Miley Cyrus – I cut off all my hair and bleached it white. I’d just finished school and was working as a waitress, saving for a trip overseas. When my father walked into the kitchen and saw it for the first time he said this: “No Mia, that’s not funny” and walked out again.

“I didn’t do it for a joke, Dad!” I called after him, giggling. “It’s just my hair now.”

Needless to say, it wasn’t the smartest thing I’d ever done – a few weeks later I was due to start my trip in India and bleached blonde hair requires a lot of maintenance which was never going to be possible. And the regrowth was beyond appalling.

But who cares. It was hair. It grows back.

I’ve chopped all my hair off at least half a dozen times in my life, sometimes because I needed to shed some skin – like after I became a mother for the first time and somehow needed to ‘reclaim’ myself. Other times just because.

Yes, haircuts are often linked to emotional upheaval and a desire to make a statement to the world about a mental shift in  your life.

But sometimes they’re just haircuts.

After Miley Cyrus cut of her long blonde hair this week, Salon writer Mary Elizabeth Williams asked the question of whether a short hair cut signaled a cry for help. Think Britney in 2007. Often when celebrities like Michelle Williams and Emma Watson cut their off, they’re labelled as unstable.

But is that really true? And is it true of Miley?

Mary Elizabeth writes:

So few of our beautiful, desirable young stars make that leap – and when they do, they’re instantly vulnerable to snark attack. After Emma Watson cut her familiar long hair to mark the end of her life as Hermione Granger, she said that, “I had journalism asking me if this meant I was coming out, if I was a lesbian now… Some people just thought I’d lost my shit.” The gorgeous, multiple Academy Award-nominated, short-haired actress Michelle Williams has admitted that “Straight men across the board are not into this hair.”

Similarly, when a star cuts her hair for a role, it’s assumed – often correctly – that it’s a horrible sacrifice she’s making for her art. When Anne Hathaway recently cut her locks to play Fantine in “Les Miserables,” she told reporters that she went into “a mental-patient level of crying …. I was inconsolable.” Hear that? Short hair will literally make a woman nuts.

Long hair represents femininity and vulnerability and sex. It’s princesses and mermaids and porn stars. Short hair, on the other hand, says, “If you think I’m gorgeous, great, but this isn’t about you, pal.” Whoooo, scary! In an ABC interview when she was 15, Miley Cyrus showed off a photo of iconic British model Twiggy, all big eyes and choppy blond hair, and said, “One day I’m going to cut my hair like that. I know I am. I will.”

So she did. But in a culture where a female doing something just for herself – not her fiancé, not her family, not her fans – is seen as transgressive, that’s enough to call her masculine and shocking and unstable. And that’s not just sad, that’s totally crazy.


Some other women with short hair include…

Have you ever had a dramatic haircut or colour? What was the motivation behind it?

For more dramatic celebrity haircuts, check out this gallery at our sister site,

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