A recent reading of an article on a blog named Return of Kings waxed (you’ll see why this is a pun later) philosophical on the current trend of women cutting their hair short.
The blogger states he’s “no scientist”, and I’d have to agree with his statement based on the number of self-certified statistics, observations, and “truths” he’s placed in this article. Anyone who actually works in the scientific field knows it’s not about finding the truth: the point of science is to expand on prior observations using carefully controlled experimentation and statistical analysis in order to confirm that our data agrees with a hypothesis in a manner that is confirmed to be above chance.
But let’s talk about hair.
The article’s main hypothesis – to continue with a scientific angle – is that no woman ever looks good with short hair. According to the author, women are genetically programmed to tell other women short hair looks good in order to encourage them to make what is clearly the worst aesthetic choice known to man (well, this man anyway). In this way, women one-up other women in the mating game. The men who cooperate in this vast conspiracy by allowing women to make the chop are “cowardly and deluded”, or just gay with no right to comment on a woman’s attractiveness because, well…oh, never mind. The blogger goes on to blame Hollywood’s influence on this terrifying trend – for shame, Jennifer Lawrence, for shame – tunnelling (or rather spiralling) downward into his main argument:
Older women always have short hair in order to signal their fertile, buxom years are at an end, while younger women maintain their long plumage as a sign of health and reproductive fitness. So therefore, any woman who chooses to guillotine her luscious, vital locks is making a statement of rebellion. And girls who do that are deranged.
I hate to admit that this dude isn’t wrong – but he’s right for different reasons than what he thinks.
When thinking about how I might write this response piece, I got an image of an institutionalised woman with cropped hair. Trying to figure out why this was, I discovered that in fact women brought to madhouses in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries often had their hair cut short in order to cool their heads – their madness thought to be a product of frenzy and nerves that cold baths and an exposed scalp were thought to relieve. Having short hair signalled their “damaged” state.
Women were brought to madhouses for a variety of reasons, many of them probably due to the immense weight of responsibility placed on women to maintain households, care for elderly family members, raise children, and if they managed to receive an education, there was little to no opportunity to make it useful. Any deviant behaviour, such as refusing to conform to domestic expectations, or satisfy their husbands, or of course, homosexuality, would be enough cause to confine a woman to an institution. However, little cause was ever needed. A woman inheriting a large sum of money could be married, deemed insane by her husband, and committed by him with little fuss – all the better for him to enjoy her inheritance as he pleased. Historical views of women as the weaker sex and therefore more prone to madness shaped the field of psychological treatment at the time.
In this framework, a woman’s short tresses did indeed signal her unwillingness to conform, and in tandem her “madness”.
Let’s talk about a different kind of hair. The hair “down there”. Pulling the window toward modern times, what’s fascinating in relation to the Return of Kings blog post is this article that ran in the New York Times, which writes about how more and more women are no longer waxing their pubic hair.
The trend of shaving or waxing pubic hair has been related to how women are sexualised in modern culture as innocent, youthful, and vulnerable – and this is a demand many women have conformed to despite there being little personal reason to have a bare vagina. It’s all about the bikini line, how it looks to other people, and how it makes women look in sexual settings.
What’s fascinating is the apparent shift from women growing more hair down below while at the same time decreasing the amount of hair above. A woman having little or no hair on her vagina has been culturally approved, while the same on her head is considered deviant.
Can we hope to assume there’s a current reversal of this paradigm happening? That women are in fact reappropriating the short hair that once labelled them as deranged, while at the same time fighting back against modern sexualisation?
Let’s talk about hair. It could start a revolution.
(This is the first submission we’ve had in a while, and we hope to have more coming soon! Thank you Elena for this article, it’s simply phenomenal! Love Floss and Fia)