Why I Hate These Comments About My Hair

A few weeks ago, I gave myself a fresh buzzcut. This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve done it before, and I will do it again. I love the way it looks on me and how low maintenance it is. But this time, the chop got me thinking about all of the various reactions I’ve received when I’ve shorn off my locks. Here are a few of the winners.

Anything Implying That It’s a Feminist Statement

Cut the bullshit. A feminist statement? I don’t think so. I bet you imagine that the first time I cut my hair down to half an inch, I felt so empowered and free. But guess what? I did not feel that way. I still remember how fast my heart was beating and how nervous I was. I still remember crying and thinking I was ugly. I still remember trying again and again to grow it out, through all the awkward phases and the hot oil treatments and the special shampoos. It took me a long time to feel like myself in this hairstyle and to stick with it, because I realized that it was what I really liked. All of the fears I had had at first were related to how I thought people with different beauty standards would react.

That being said, even if I do feel empowered by this haircut now, it is not a feminist statement. I am empowered because of how I wrestled with my own feelings about my hair and my own internalized, misogynist standards of beauty. But cutting my hair off is not, in and of itself, feminist. A set of clippers is not going to dismantle the patriarchy.

In her book “Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto,” Jessa Crispin talks about this idea that personal choices are now so often thought of as feminist acts:

“But when the only authority you need to answer to is yourself, you create a feedback loop of logic. Everything is justifiable, everything somehow rendered feminist. And yet what is the point of having principles or a philosophical viewpoint if you don’t use them to live your life by, to move yourself and your society forward?” (52)

Crispin is right. There is much more to feminism than the trappings of individual empowerment. If this choice empowers me, so what? What am I doing to dismantle the systems of power that are already in place? I won’t detail my activism here, but I will tell you it has nothing to do with hair.

“What does your boyfriend think?”

This question is always accompanied by a concerned smirk. I really, really hate this question. I don’t know why you think I give a damn what he thinks, but the way you are cringing at me makes me think that you’re guessing my relationship won’t last much longer.

Have you ever stopped to think about what you are implying by posing that question this way? It’s as if you only thought I was dateable when I had a hairstyle considered traditionally attractive. It’s as if you think my sexuality followed my hair into the trash can. It’s as if you think I am less worthy of love because I don’t look like other attractive women.

Let’s get a few things straight about this. First, it really shouldn’t matter what my boyfriend thinks. If he would judge me for my hair (or lack thereof) he wouldn’t be worth being with. Second, I don’t need my hair to be pretty. If you don’t think I’m pretty without hair, I really don’t care. Keep it to yourself. It’s not my problem, even though you think you might somehow save me from the embarrassment of realizing that my preferred style isn’t sexy enough. Third, examine why you felt the need to ask me this. Does my divergence from traditional beauty standards make you uncomfortable? Do you feel like you are doing a good deed by reminding me to look good for my significant other? Does seeing a woman you think is unattractive in a happy relationship make you question your own ability to be loved? These are some tough questions, but if you ask me what my boyfriend thinks of my buzzcut with that look on your face, it would probably benefit you to sit with them for a while.

Oh, and my boyfriend is the one who gave me the haircut.

“Are you going to grow it out?”

When someone asks this, the direct translation is usually, “You really should grow it out.” It’s like if your friend was getting ready to go out and you said to them, “Are you going to change your top?” to which they would defensively reply, “What’s wrong with my top?”

And so I say to those who have asked me this gold-star question: What’s wrong with my hair?

Let me stop you before you answer, because it really doesn’t matter to me what you were about to say.