Katherine Feeney June 08, 2012
Short-haired women can sure ruffle some feathers.
So she cut off her hair. And this is a problem because?
At first nod, this is hardly the most cerebral subject of discussion. Who cares about hair? It is something that grows from your head. You can brush it. You can colour it. You can cut it too. Why write a blog about hair, when it’s such a personal, mundane matter?
Because hair has cultural significance, is vastly symbolic, represents a multi-billion dollar industry and never fails to arouse debate. This is especially true in the context of sexual attraction. Because, vain little creatures all, we worry about how we look. We worry about what conclusions people will draw about our character based on our appearance. And, most basically, we worry about whether our new haircut will be a social hit or miss.
Especially, it seems, if you happen to be female.
Because, dear readers, we all know that when you’re born capable of carrying a child, it’s not what you do with your body and brains, but how you put it together.
And putting it together, when it comes to hair, generally means long, and preferably blonde, and usually free and flowing and ‘feminine’. Or so I discovered when I recently got a chop and a not insignificant rabble of stabby critics to match.
“Why have you cut your hair? You looked so much better before?”, “Where’s all your long hair? You should definitely grow it out!”, “Urgh, you look really ugly now – gross!”, etc, etc, etc.
Well, whatever. But what about why? Why the short-hair hate? Or, more specifically, what is so wrong with short hair on women?
Some scientists believe it’s an evolutionary thing. That long hair comes from a healthy body good for breeding, and so is most desirable. This might explain the long cultural history of heroines haloed by cascading curls. Cave paintings show early humans had a thing for ladies with length. The original I’m-on-a-horse sex symbol Lady Godiva was famous for her flowing mane. Lucrezia Borgia, renowned beauty and seductress, was similarly well-haired, and Natalie Portman lost a legion of fans when she, gasp, had the audacity to shave her chestnut mane for the sake of something as silly as ‘her job’. Guffaw.
In fact, looking at women who had short hair in Western culture reveals a lot about why long hair is (still) shorthand for sex appeal. Nuns sheared their tresses to signify their willingness to sacrifice everything, including their femininity, to God. Orthodox Jewish brides had their hair removed in the name of modesty and pious wifeliness. In other words, hair was so distracting, so mortal, so sinful and so sexually arousing, that it must be removed if she desired to serve a higher purpose and live life without the hassle of having to be sexy. Sexy in the eyes of men, that is. We all know all lesbians lose their hair when they ‘give-up’ on men...
But really, interesting as the symbolism of hair may be, in real life why should it matter how long or short a woman’s hair is? We know hair length can be manipulated by drugs, so goodbye biological imperative. We know that we shouldn’t judge a person based on their looks alone, so goodbye ignorance as an excuse for bad behaviour. We also know that no-one should have to have their body altered because someone else thinks they should. So when can we start acting like it?
When it comes to your hair, how much does it matter what other people think? Do you worry about how more or less attractive you are/look/appear the more or less hair you have? Have you had an experience like this when you’ve changed your chop and copped flack? And how did that make you feel?
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