Gender stereotypes are limiting

Katie Ward

Stigma surrounding short hair on females can create great insecurities

I spent almost a decade contemplating cutting my hair off before talking myself out of it.

I spent days upon days saving, liking, looking at these womxn who I thought held the exceptional confidence to go against what was considered the norm of a womxn’s appearance.

I spent years marking my calendar for the day I’d finally make the gut-wrenching step and cut it all off, because if I put it far enough away in the future, I’d be ready to finally go through with it.

I spent time trying to find the motivation to make the change, to complete that challenge in establishing my own self-worth, to become a more confident self. In an ideal world, nothing would stop me, not even the comments coming from boys or men that could potentially alter my self worth.

Recently, I spent the evening on a date. As we went on with our night listening to the soothing vocals and chimes from the jazz band echoing behind us, we proceeded to discuss the topic of first impressions.

He went on to slyly comment that his initial impression of me was that I must be gay and he probably wouldn’t have gone out with me if I hadn’t “proved” otherwise. In his defense, it is just the norm to see a girl/womxn with short hair and assume that she must be gay.

You see, too many times womxn are put into this bubble dictating how we should envision our ideal self.

The sentiment is everywhere, in advertisements, magazines, celebrities or the sly comment your uncle slips in through dinner saying you’d look just a tad bit prettier if your hair could fully tie in a ponytail.

It took me nine years to finally cut my hair to the length I had always envisioned.

While multiple factors played into why I went through with it, it was ultimately triggered after multiple experiences that led me to a realization that my hesitation was coming from the words of boys and men in my life, whose words of affirmation determined my self-worth.

In 2014, Tuthmosis Sonofra argued in an op-ed that, “Girls With Short Hair Are Damaged,” that womxn, in all of history, have never looked “better” with short hair than they would with a full head of locks, basically implying that a womxn’s beauty is only visible through the cut of her hair.

He proceeded to defend his misogynistic idea by saying that this phenomena of the femme gender cutting off their hair, whether to “bizarre semi-shaved heads” or pixie cuts, was ultimately done as an encouragement for being a political statement or is conformed to this idea of being more “masculine,” “abrasive,” and more “deranged.”

Though as we reach further into this progressive decade of creating and solidifying space to accept more ideas of individual beauty and labels, it continues to feel that the act of a womxn cutting her hair has to be done with the motive of going against the status quo.

“Hair, in the eye of the beholders — partly because it is so much in the eyes of the beholders — is, as it ever was, a political issue,” a NY Times columnist stated in regards to the comments on womxn’s representation of “quirky beauty” through short/buzzed hair.

For generations, men have felt this unnecessary discomfort and inadequacy based around womxn who choose to have shorter hair, an idea that they must be doing it in part of a ‘rebellious’ form of gender rejection.

There is this idea that womxn who maintain long, luscious locks of hair are ultimately superior and more fertile than the ones who choose to cut it off.

It can be traced even in discussing the instructions for proper worship, that the Bible goes to state in 1 Corinthians 11 that a womxn dishonors her head if it is not covered whilst praying and if not, it is basically the same as shaving it.

Because, in the words of the Bible, the act of a womxn shaving her hair, basically, holds the same level of sin as going uncovered.

Since the beginning of understanding females to males, we have rooted ourselves within these strong stereotypical ideas of what the “perfect” gender appearance is.

Men have long viewed womxn as inferior, responsive and pleasing to look at.

This isn’t to diminish the other long stigmatized stereotypes that have been created and pushed on to men; each side undergoes a lifetime of ideas and expectations one feels one must conform to.

The lines do begin to blur as society moves towards a more open, progressive climate of what exactly we consider the norm.

“Hair is intrinsically linked to assumptions about gender and power relations,” Erin K. Vearncombe, a lecturer at Princeton University, said in regards to the recent increase of womxn, especially famous ones, cutting or shaving their hair.

From the myth of Medusa (whose hair was made of snakes, and yes, turned men to stone upon one glance) to Hillary Clinton, model Adwoa Aboah and recent gun control activist Emma Gonzalez; womxn need not conform to the reality of men’s expectations of their beauty.

It’s nothing new to see a womxn with little to no hair; it’s been a trend of sorts for decades.

Whether it is done in light of self-expression, identity, as symbol of belief or power, short hair is not and can never be limited to one gender or the other. And hey, maybe short hair does invoke a wave of empowerment or a statement for a womxn who shaves or cuts her hair off, but if it is, so what?

The thing is, it really shouldn’t matter to anyone other than the person whose hair it is.

Katie is a senior studying communications.