I was afraid that men wouldn’t find me attractive with short hair, so I’ve always had long hair.
But more than having long hair, I had hair which, by our society’s beauty standards, was “beautiful” – long, silky, and straight.
I had people, even complete strangers, compliment me on my locks. Some people would even tell me how beautiful I was just because of it.
I would nod, smile, and say thank you. That’s what we’re taught to do when people pay us a compliment, isn’t it?
But inside, I had a secret. I wanted to cut my hair. And not just a little. I wanted a pixie cut. When I expressed this to people, they urged me not to go through with it.
“It would look so ugly.” “Why would you do that? You’re so beautiful.” “Such a beautiful girl like you, cutting her hair? Why?”
But in spite of everyone’s opinions, I cut off fifteen inches of hair last year, gifting myself the pixie haircut I always dreamed of. And I loved it. Cutting my hair was one of the best feelings in the world.
But it also got me thinking: I was always physically free to cut my hair, so why did it take me so long to do it? The truth was: I didn’t feel free. I felt like a prisoner to my hair. There was something much greater that was holding me back from cutting my hair – society.
What Society (and Media) Teaches Us about Hair
Whether it’s body shape, skin color or clothing choices, society has laid out a very clear and stringent rulebook regarding what beauty looks like for females.
And this rulebook of beauty ideals is shared with us at a very young age. After all, shouldn’t little girls learn first and foremost that they are prized for their beauty above all else? And the same goes for hair.
Jasmine, Ariel, Pocahontas, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel. What do all of these Disney princesses have in common? Long, silky, beautiful hair. And we all know that girls are supposed to want to be princesses, and that boys want to marry them.
But the conditioning doesn’t stop there.
Women are expected to be as feminine as beauty pageant queens and as sexy as video vixens. And in both cases, long hair has always been perceived as the pinnacle of a woman’s femininity and sex appeal. A woman who cuts her hair is cutting herself off from her own femininity and from being seen as sexual. And what good is a woman, in the eyes of society, if she isn’t feminine and sexual – if she isn’t built for the gratification of the male gaze?
Children of all genders have been force-fed uniform images of what women should look like. And when the media only shows one form of beauty, it limits our thoughts and views on beauty.
As women, we’ve been conditioned to think we are less “womanly” without long hair. And because men have been conditioned to think that femininity is associated with long hair, a woman with short hair is a direct threat to femininity – and that is a threat to masculinity. And the patriarchy hates that. So it’s no wonder so many women fear cutting their hair!