I don’t like my hair. This is not novel or unique; it seems like most people dislike their hair. People don’t usually get why I dislike my own, though, the same way I raise an eyebrow whenever someone with seemingly flawless hair complains. I always wished it was thicker, fuller, less curly, more manageable, more tamable.
Back when haircuts were a thing you could get regularly without breaking quarantine, I used to dread them. I never knew what I wanted or what I should ask for, and I inevitably hated the result. It always felt unflattering or stupid (at no fault of the stylist; what are they supposed to do about an anxiety-prone client with no clue what she wants?).
I tend to keep my hair short. Manageable and minimized. My ex was always quick to let me know how unfeminine and unattractive this was. As if this was A Very Important Detail I needed to be aware of. He always said it like he was doing me a favor by letting me know what criteria I was coming up short on. As if my hair and appearance were a public commodity that needed to appease others rather than realms of my own body that fell under my jurisdiction.
My ex certainly wasn’t unique in his shitty opinions. The world is full of cis men who feel it is their duty to vocalize their opinions about women’s bodies as loudly as possible. Whether it’s hair or tattoos or clothes, there will be men fighting each other over how “objectively attractive” these things are.
In January of 2014, Tuthmosis Sonofra published on article called Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged on Return of Kings, a website with strong incel vibes that encourages hostility against women/femmes. In the first sentence, it becomes clear what the author’s gripe with something as innocuous as a haircut truly is: “No woman in all of human history has ever looked better with short hair than she would with a head full of healthy locks.”
Sonofra’s thesis statement is that short hair makes a woman “damaged” because she is “objectively” (ha) less attractive. Damage here translates to “possibly unconcerned with what a whiny man on the internet thinks about my appearance.” A woman who isn’t preoccupied with fretting over how desirable she is to men she has never met is “damaged,” according to Sonofra, my ex, and a deluge of other incels floating in the manosphere.
To these men, women are a commodity. Their opinions about attractiveness morph into these black and white blanket statements that define all women as either beautiful or ugly, undamaged or damaged. Sonofra talks about women’s hair the way other people talk about their favorite place to get takeout ramen.
This could be the part of the story where I defend short hair. I could talk about how cute pixie cuts are, or how sexy a shaved head is. I could attempt to thwart the assertion that short hair is unattractive.
But honestly, fuck that.
Because how pretty short hair is on women is not the core of the issue. The real problem here is the assertion that women should cater their look to please all these men.
My appearance is my appearance. I am not put on this earth to look a certain way to satisfy others, and neither is anyone else. That’s why, a little over a year after I kicked my ex out, it felt so good to shave all my hair off.
He’d always wanted me to have longer hair, but it made me too anxious to grow it out. I built up to the act all day. I trimmed my hair myself, cutting it a little shorter each hour or two, working up the nerve to get out the electric razor. I won’t lie about how scared I was; society places a lot of our value on our appearance, and for femmes, there’s a lot of pressure to invest a lot of time and energy into our hair. Not to mention, what if my skull was just shaped weird?! I couldn’t know until the deed was done!
And then, I just did it. It took less than five minutes, and my lifelong source of stress was lying on the floor in curly twists. It was cathartic to just let it all go.
More importantly, I liked my shaved head. It accentuated my thick eyeliner and stretched lobes. It made me look powerful. I felt powerful.
I kept it shaved down for a long time. Sometimes, I’d bleach it and have a dome of peach fuzz. Other times, I’d let it grow out until I could see the hint of curl, then cut it back down. And even though I’m growing it out again, I’ve still got the electric razor at the ready in case the urge takes me.
Not everyone liked my shaved head. I was told my face was too plump for it. That I looked like I was grieving. That I looked like I was dying (yes, really). But that didn’t matter. I liked it.
And if I have to choose between pleasing myself or pleasing a bunch of obnoxious strangers, well, that’s not much of a contest, is it?