WORDS | Renata Hercok
Women have been cutting their hair short for years; just have a look at Audrey Hepburn, Jean Seberg and Mia Farrow. All three famous women cut their hair in a time when ‘big hair,’ beehives, and long, flowing locks were what was considered sexy and attractive. With that in mind, ‘pioneering’ may be a strong word to describe what myself and thousands of other women around the planet are doing at the moment. Yet long hair still at the forefront of the mind in terms of what is attractive for women to have; pioneering could be the right word.
We live in an age of fast paced living and change. We have email, instant messaging, Facebook and Twitter all encased in mobile phones, seemingly attached to our hands. However, in the same way that large and loud issues, such as gay marriage seem to be blocked from attitudinal change by a steel-reinforced brick wall, the attitudes relating to short hair on women encounter that same barrier.
Personally, I have been asked, by men and women, if I like girls, am I a radical feminist (who whips that one out in normal conversation, by the way?), have I lost interest in sex altogether, am I trying to prove a point, am I trying to repel men? Some might answer yes to some of these questions. I answer no.
All the women today who have cut their hair short, have an inherently personal reason for doing so. Maybe it involves their job (Charlize Theron), maybe their hair is dead and giving it the chop is their only choice (Jennifer Lawrence), or maybe they just want a change after years of having long hair (Emma Watson).
Another reason, often overlooked by many, is that some women feel it improves their own image of themselves, or takes their personal image in a direction more suited to where they’re at in their lives, and where they might want to go in the future.
Hair can do all that? The answer is yes. Just ask Miley Cyrus. Unless you’re ten years old, nobody thinks first of the squeaky clean version of Miley Cyrus that graced our Disney Channel television screens as Hannah Montana. We think of Miley ‘twerking’ it out on screen at the MTV awards, or of those first few Instagram and Twitter photos of her undercut hairstyle on that fateful day when we realised, that she wasn’t good old Hannah Montana anymore. In fact, if you want to mark the exact day when Miley shed her Disney image, you can look to that day. With her chunky Doc Martens, bum bearing denim shorts, and new, edgy undercut, she looked like a total rock star and totally not like the Miley we were used to seeing.
In a 2013 documentary by the ‘E! Network’, Cyrus concentrated on the new Miley that is saturating our news feeds and entertainment websites. Miley didn’t call it a change, and she definitely didn’t call it a replacement of the teenager with the squeaky clean image. She called it an evolution; an evolution from one stage of her life to another, like a caterpillar evolving into a butterfly, or a Charmeleon becoming Charizard (for all the Pokemon lovers out there).
I believe that this is why so many women are chopping their long hair; they want to evolve into another version of themselves. It may be a version they like better, that makes them feel more attractive, comfortable in their own skin, or it may reflect a version of themselves that they want the world to see. I know this is the reason I decided to chop my hair off. It was inherently personal and it was “freeing”, to use a word from Charlize Theron when she chopped
her locks. In the words of Halle Berry, my hair became an “accessory” that represented me, the stage of my life I was at, and my personality.
What people need to understand is that hair is personal, despite the fact that it is on display for everyone to see. People still seem to think that other people’s hair is their business, and, as a result, these shorthaired pioneers still face the same attitudes every single day. Why? Because people perceive things in a particular way based on what they have grown up with. The mothers of most twenty year olds these days have long hair. The girls we’ve all grown up with have mostly always had long hair. The porn stars that people watch on the Internet all have long hair. “Long hair is perceived as sexy.”
So why do we continue to persevere with short hair when it means we have to deal with ridiculous, often baseless accusations of homosexuality, dercharged sex lives, a lack of attractiveness, and radical feminism?
We persevere because we want short hair; it suits our lifestyle and our own sense of self, and we like the way we are with it. But more than that, pioneers change the deep-seated social attitudes that many of us have grown up with. We keep our short hair because it familiarises people with the idea of women having short hair. Familiarity creates comfort, which facilitates acceptance, and, from that, we hope that one-day our children and grandchildren will be able to step out with short hair, if they choose to, and not be met with the same attitudes and assumptions that the pioneers today deal with on a daily basis.