Posted by: julesejones | August 29, 2016

A Hairy Situation

A few classes ago, while we were talking on gender and the perception of femininity, we talked briefly about hair. I have found that, for some reason, so much of a woman’s identity is wrapped around her hair.

In January 2016, I decided one day to randomly shave off all of my hair. I don’t just mean boy short, though. I’m talking V for Vendetta style buzz cut.  It was pretty long before, and when we were through, it looked like someone had sheared off the mane of a lion.

People were utterly shocked, the hair stylist included. She was reluctant to shave my head, pausing several times to ask me if I was positive I wanted to make this change. I just shrugged and said “why not?”

The act of shaving off all of my hair wasn’t in and of itself painful, surprisingly. I felt so light and free, and there was something that felt good about starting over. It felt kind of earthy, kind of humbling. Looking at me by my hair alone, I didn’t feel like a woman–or perhaps, I should say that I didn’t feel like it mattered that I was one. I just felt like a person. (A person who no longer had to take such a long time to do her hair before class!)

The hardest part, for me, was my parents reaction. When I told my mom, she hung up for a few minutes. When she called back, she clearly didn’t want to talk about what I did. It stayed like that for a while afterwards–I think she felt like me shaving my head was symbolic of her losing some part of me, as if I weren’t the same person.

My dad expressed concerns about professionalism. He wondered if I could truly be perceived as a professional woman with a bald head.

For some reason, this topic resonates with me. Is a woman not feminine without her hair? Can she be professional still? Did shaving my head level the playing field at all? Did it help or harm my leadership–or rather, others’ perception of my leadership? How closely are gender and hairstyle associated? I think all are valid questions, and I think even the little things like hair, makeup, and fashion should be considered when looking at the perception of women and leadership.

 

 


Responses

  1. I too was struck by the relationship between feminity, identity, and hair when you brought up the topic in class. It’s fascinating how a cultural norm we barely notice (until it confronts our conceptions of feminity) has such a profound effect on the way others percieve us.

    The way you describe how it felt to shave you head emphasizes a key part of this relationship that I think we often overlook. Not only do others identify us by our phsyical appearance, but we also manipulate that appearance to reflect how we self identify. I think for many women, myself included, styling my hair is an important choice I make on how I wish to present myself to the world.

    I’m not sure if I think these choices impact professionalism or leadership, because I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen nontraditional female hairstyles in a professional setting–which I guess might be an indication in of itself.

  2. When thinking of femininity, I initially think of physical attributes: make-up, hair, clothing, etc. However, that is not what I believe makes one feminine. I think that by being a woman who chose to shave her hair shows boldness, bravery, daring and unconventional thinking- all wonderful things that I think are more subconsciously attributed to men than women. That being said, when entering the professional world, I think employers are looking for those very attributes.

  3. India wrote this song for/with Robin Roberts (ABC Good Morning America, also used to report for ESPN) when she had cancer/chemo and lost her hair…


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