So, I did this today:
I was going to do an exact before and after, but the after one didn’t actually show my hair properly therefore negating the entire point of it.
I have never been so terrified in the run up to getting a haircut despite the fact I have been dissatisfied with my hair for a long time. I am a staunch, openly-opinionated feminist (I know, you’d never have guessed). It was not a snap decision – I have been fed-up with my longer hair for over a year, because I swim a lot and it was in bad condition and because I felt it was dragging my face down.
But hair is so much a part of the identity of a woman, and I was and am steeped in the patriarchal feminine definition. I fight against it, but applying the fight outwards is very different to applying it to myself. I have to walk around in this face, hair and body. I can’t get away from how I have been taught and how I now see myself.
From my teenage years I have been larger than is considered acceptably attractive. From being called thunder-thighs, to being teased and looked at as disgusting for having hairy legs (as a result of which I, of course, started shaving them by age about 14), to having insults thrown at me out of passing car windows, to being called butch and likened to Pat Butcher and Bella Emberg (strong, successful women in their own right who did not and do not fit society’s standards of beauty), to never ever feeling feminine and therefore attractive, I have never fitted into the model. At least my heterosexual privilege meant it didn’t leave me terrified of my sexuality and fearful of homophobic abuse making my natural attractions to people… *sigh*
All this has left me terrified of short hair on me, yet I have always wanted it. I did have short hair nearly 20 years ago, and it was the aforementioned insults which persuaded me to grow it again. I bowed to social pressure and my own fears.
It is not external, this pressure, although it begins that way. After a while, it doesn’t matter what others say, the view is ingrained. I am a feminist and do fight against it. I neither see it nor apply it to other people. I need to walk the walk for myself but it is a clear sign of how strongly the patriarchal box of image is imbued in us that someone as steeped in feminism as I am finds it so very difficult to accept I am not how I have been defined.
So for those who may see me as butch, unfeminine and bolshy, I say I am cute, feminine in my own way (whatever that actually means and I reject that label, I’ve never naturally been that typically feminine in my personality anyway), intelligent and feisty.
I like me. I like my hair for many practical reasons, and I think it does suit me. If you think I look butch, that says more about you than it ever will say about me. It is my body, my hair, my choice. If you want to define me by my hair, then do so, but be careful because that definition you are imposing affects ALL women, cisgender and transgender and other-identifying. It says “this is what you should be and do” and restricts and oppresses. It inhibits a woman reaching her potential and therefore damages society – who knows what gifts are being suppressed and what achievements are being pruned before they had a chance to bud?
I fought my terror, which in the big scheme of things is not going to change anything other than my own strength. I am now buzzing that I have done this and am proud of myself for moving past the box I still feel I should fit in to become more of the woman I want to be.
I may have cut my hair but unlike Samson my strength has grown as a result!