From “But I liked your hair longer” to “Guys prefer long hair, though”, remarks like this about short hair point to a lingering belief that long hair is the pinnacle of female beauty; that shorter hair isn’t to be aspired to.
Unfortunately, it seems grown adult women aren’t the only ones being confronted by this outdated, sexist standard.
Last year, Terri Peters went shopping to buy her four-year-old daughter a Rapunzel doll. It was a reward after she got her hair cut short after months of growing it out so it could be worn in a bun for her ballet recital.
During the shopping trip, a stranger commented on her daughter’s appearance, which Peters, a Babble writer, then recounted in an open letter:
“‘What a beautiful doll,’ you say to her. ‘Which princess is that?’
She looks at you with her silly, friendly attitude on display and says, ‘Rapunzel!’
And then, you look at my perfect little girl and say, ‘Well, her long hair is so pretty. You would be that pretty, too, if you had long hair.'” Watch: Mia Freedman is not stranger to short hair. Watch her latest cut. (Post continues after video.)
“You did not watch her sit still — and be very well-behaved for a four-year-old — while she got her new haircut. You definitely did not watch her look at herself in the mirror and smile when it was finished because she was so happy with her new look,” Peters writes to the stranger.
As any parent would be, Peters was floored by the remark — and worse still, it soon became clear the words had affected her daughter too.
"I see the wheels turning in her mind, wondering if she should have skipped the short haircut, wondering if she is beautiful like a princess," she writes.
"I see the shame and self-doubt that this small comment brings to her eyes, and I want to run from the store and protect her from the standards of beauty that our society wants to place upon her." (Post continues after gallery.)
When they left the store, the little girl remarked that she wished there was a Disney Princess with short hair like hers. Anyone who's ever seen a Disney movie knows the princesses are synonymous with long, flowing hair (with minimal variation.)
Peters responded by telling her daughter that all kinds of hair and people are beautiful — and by reminded her that by the end of Tangled, Rapunzel's hair was "short and brown" just like hers.
"My daughter and I drive home talking about the end of Rapunzel’s story — the way she stood up for herself, was strong and brave, took care of the ones she loved, and put other’s needs before her own — all while rocking a short, beautiful haircut," she recalls.
Ultimately, Peters is certain the stranger hadn't intended to insinuate that her daughter wasn't beautiful — but she urged her to be mindful of the subtext of her words.
"In the future, speak with more caution to the little girls you meet. Children soak up everything, even the voices their mummas wish they could shield them from," she writes.
This is an isolated example, but it's an important reminder for all of us.
Have you ever encountered a remark like this? How did you respond?
You can read Terri Peters' open letter in full on the Babble website here.