Hair: Long or Short and Who Cares?

I have short hair. Really short hair. Senior year of high school, I cut it all off and I have never missed the absence of length.

Since the cut, my family (and strangers for that matter) have asked me to grow my hair out again. After patiently listening and smiling, my sister recommended that I write a blog post about the issue.

What does short hair signify? What does long hair signify and does it even matter?

Hegemonically speaking, short hair is a signifier of masculinity and conversely, long hair is a signifier of femininity. My suspicion is that when these signifiers are misplaced (long hair on a man, short hair on a woman), discomfort ensues. This marginal and disquieting space maybe one reason why I am asked to re-grow my hair.

After watching the Golden Globes last night, I realized that the preference for long hair is not restricted to my inner circle. Becomegorgeous.com described women who came to the event with long hair as looking “glamorous,” “romantic,” “graceful,” “classy,” and “stylish.” All of these women have long hair and as such, they were defined as being classic beauties. Note that out of the eleven women highlighted on the website, none sported short hair.

One of the few women who did attend the event with cropped hair was Michelle Williams. The adjectives used to describe her hair included “adorable,” and “cute.” Now, I am not placing a value judgment on any of these descriptions. I merely want to point out that there is a stark difference in the way we, as a society, view a woman’s hair length. In my experience, long hair is currently socially privileged over short hair and the reasoning returns, once again, to the discussion of misplaced signifiers.

Hegemony dictates a restrictive template of femininity that must be followed, a standard which our media culture dutifully reaffirms. Personally, I think it is time we kick in the sides of the essential femininity box. Long hair, short hair, or no hair, womanhood is constructed and it is time we took back that construct and made it our own.

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This entry was posted in Body, Body Image, Feminism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Hair: Long or Short and Who Cares?

  1. Caroline says:

    You are lovely with short hair, because it makes your gorgeous face more visible. I’m not sure how anyone could construe that as unfeminine, but hey, the world is far from perfect. My own anecdotal evidence supports your theory: I received no compliments on my hair until I started growing it out and it reached my shoulders. Granted I don’t have the same elegant cheekbones going on that you do, but I think that by the time we reach the age at which we participate in the behavior of “compliment giving in a social setting,” we are already deeply socialized into the norms you describe in your post.

  2. Awesome article, I will write a longer comment tomorrow!

  3. RK says:

    Great post. It also made me think about the dichotomy of short hair – you can either be perceived as “cute” – i.e. “pixie-like” – thus infantalized. In this case, the woman with a pixie cut is not seen as a threat to hegemonic gender norms. But with others short hair can read as masculine, butch, thus threatening to the aforementioned norms…

    Of course, that dichotomy isn’t created with hair alone – everything is read with the overall “style” of the person. Anyway, lots to think about, and I’m glad you brought it up. Sometimes I feel bogged down about why I like to keep my hair long, or why I like certain items of clothing. But I think the most important thing is to recognize that our preferences and “styles” are constructs, and keep pushing our boundaries.

    • Hegemonic gender norms are definitely a part of this discussion. Long hair on a woman exemplifies heteronormativity, but again, as you’ve mentioned, it’s only one part of the equation. You are right: the comments made in the media about short hair do infantalize. We are constantly socially regulated and disciplined in order to present ourselves in a very hegemonically specific way. And indeed, we must keep challenging the ends of boundaries! Thanks for your comment!

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