The day I shaved my head.
Women’s hair have always been a synonym of beauty - a woman is supposed to wear it long to be seen as attractive. Despite all the examples of women with short hair, there’s always, in 2019 this unhealthy link between hair and femininity - which would be great to get rid of as soon as possible. Inès, 20 yo, talks about how she shaved her head, and the impact this choice had on her relationship to her own femininity.
“It’s a shame, you’d be so pretty with long hair”. That sentence came from my former manager. If it sounds shocking, it actually just is the vocalization of a general idea more or less expressed about “femininity”. If I put quotation marks around that word, it’s because since I chose to shave my head, my femininity has been questioned, has evolved and has at one point almost disappeared.
For the last year and a half, I had to answer to the “Why did you do that ?”, “I’m sure you cannot wait for them to grow back! “ and mostly to the “ Such a shame, your hair was so beautiful”. Here, a side comment is needed because that “ beautiful hair” has not always been accepted and appreciated. Us, women with curly hair, used to be constantly anxious when thinking about our hair curling, obsessed about having perfect straight hair, until women representing western beauty standards started to wear their hair the way we did, and made curly and afro hair “trendy”. My hair never matched with this accepted idea of femininity, on the contrary it was a source of oppression as it is the case for a lot of racialized women. To be considered attractive, you had to have soft, shiny, long and natural looking hair. And it’s from that imposed idea of femininity that I had the pleasure to detach myself the day I threw away my hair straightener and ask my hairdresser to cut it all. That first step made me realize something : women have for too long integrated western beauty standards. When I asked my hairdresser to shave my head, she looked confused and asked if I lost a bet.. I didn’t know what to answer to that so I foolishly laughed.. What do you want to answer to that kind of comment? When she finally decided to start cutting it, I remember having second thoughts and almost wanting to tell her to stop. But eventually, the more my hair fell, the bigger my smile got. For years I had dreamt to see my face cleared, with both my scalp and heart lightened.
At that point, my self confidence took a beating and I left the hair salon half happy, feeling a bit anxious, thinking that maybe they were right, a woman without hair is ugly and therefore not a real woman.
I scanned my reflexion in the mirror, for I had never seen myself from that close, never seen myself as entirely, as naked. For a second there, I liked it. And then regretted it almost instantly. How will I manage to look pretty without my hair ? I didn’t like my face, it looked way too prominent. That’s when I realized two things : first, that I was scared not to look pretty according to people’s criteria, and second that my hair was an other layer that allowed me to hide a complex. The first thing that I thought of, despite the fact that I liked my new hairstyle, was that with a bit of makeup, my face would look enhanced, that it would be less of a catastrophe. That was the beginning of an answer, not the right one but it needed to start somewhere : I transferred my desire for feeling feminine from the (long) hair to the face (full of makeup). The very fact of considering my choice as a catastrophe was problematic, and it’s only when I started looking for other beauty standards, other women who didn’t have long hair, that I finally managed to get rid of the anxiety. The problem was that by the time I shaved my hair, there was a huge lack of diversity in beauty representations. That’s only when I found some that I started to like my short hair, my nose, my skin with or without makeup. I quickly started to apprehend people’s look and men’s look most especially. Most of the inappropriate, and sometimes degrading comments came from men : between the assimilation of a hair style to a sexuality , with the classic “are you a lesbian?” - let’s stress the absurdity of thinking that a sexuality or a gender can be guessed based on a hairstyle - or the “are you doing this because you’re a feminist?”, or even that guy who you didn’t talk to who says “ you (women) can do whatever you want but I will always prefer dating girls with long hair”.
On one hand, these comments are inappropriate, and on another they show the fact that despite everything that’s happened regarding women freeing themselves from imposed codes, we still have trouble to live without our image being controlled, scanned, for it to fit in a predefined frame. And women are meant to stay in that frame, without forgetting to be attractive - but not too much ! - for men to enjoy. This pattern occurred in my family as well, but if anything it was mostly heavy handed. “It’s because you’re an artist” was their favorite thing to say, but they ended up liking it eventually.
If all these questions made me feel bad at first, they turned out to become a strength. I realized that I was stronger than these words, that I was the only one allowed to define my own standards. Since then, I’ve kept shaving my head for almost two years straight. I could give all the details about all the steps of this journey but I feel like the most important thing is that femininity doesn’t exist as a universal value. Today, I express mine through the way I perceive myself, the way I like my body and face outside of these established beauty standards. I express it through the feeling of being a woman, strong and attractive, no matter the way I dress, my hairstyle or my makeup. Having short hair doesn't make you less of a woman. For me it's a way to regain my femininity and make it independent of my gender and the useless stereotypes that are linked to it.The only reason why a girl with short hair creates such negative reactions is because she’s showing another way to be feminine.
by Inès. for SLAE. - translated from French by Jessica