Hair. It’s with us from the first day we’re born. It comes in different colors, textures, but it’s with us all the same. These strands of protein gracing our crowns have so much meaning bestowed upon them.
But why? What’s the big deal? It’s just an accumulation of dead cells anyhow.
I shaved my head; just in time for winter. I had been thinking about it for a long time. In retrospect it wasn’t the wisest decision to do it when it got so cold, but I’m happy to say I went through with it. I took the time I needed to accept and come to terms with my decision before I had completed the act and that made all the difference.
So now I am bald and beautiful and my hair is growing faster than it probably ever has.
But now the big question from everyone is: Why? What prompted it? I’m sure the run of the mill responses pop up in everyones mind. Something along the lines of rebellion and experimentation, and they’d be right to a certain extent.
But really I did it to become more of a woman.
Let me explain. I shaved my head to become more in touch with my feminine side. By divorcing myself from one of the bigger physical identifiers of femininity I have challenged myself to become more conscientious of where I retain that element of myself in my personality rather than in my physique.
I wanted to challenge myself; I felt that my hair was something I used as a “sexual security blanket.”
I am sexy because I have long blonde hair.
If we’re judging by the media’s standards, blonde hair is the most desirable shade to flaunt. And the longer the better. The longer, the more feminine.
But mass media aside, cross-culturally there are many similarities as to how hair is perceived as well as the significance of shaving ones head. Before I sheared my locks I did a bit of research on the matter. I wanted to know the larger implications of shaving my head, the history of it, etc. The largest umbrella themes I found were:
- The strong correlation between power (sexual or otherwise) and hair.
- Hair associated with ego, status and identity.
- Historically, for women, shaving ones head is an act of public shaming.
While many of the different cultural interpretations were interesting, “shaving to shame” seemed like the most pertinent subject to address. It peaked my interest as one of the biggest separations between men and women when it comes to the subject of going bald.
Dating back to biblical times, women that were considered too overtly sexual had their heads shaved to imbue chastity.
For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
What the text means by covering a woman’s head is acting in a modest and what we know today as a “ladylike” fashion. So if you’re acting whorish you’re going to have your hair cut off so that everyone knows you’re immodest. SHAME.
Moving forward in time, this method of shaming continues into the modern day.
In WWII, French, Belgian and Dutch women who had collaborated or “had relations” with German soldiers had their heads shaved to mark them as traitors to their state.
Part of this was done to mimic the Nazi procedure of shaving prisoner’s heads in internment camps. However, the main point was to make “traitors” stand apart from everyone else and make their private acts publicly known. While I’m not condoning Nazi collaboration, the underlying message is the same. SHAME.
Even today, the shaming continues. Most recently the Japanese pop star Minami Minegishi shaved her head after being caught spending the night at her boyfriend’s house, breaking her band, AKB48's cardinal rule of no dating. The group’s management forbids the girls in the group from dating, lest they destroy their fan’s “illusions.”
Minami crushed some of her fan’s fantasies by simply living like a normal human being. Her punishment was self inflicted, but irregardless the fact of the matter is it was motivated by SHAME.
I find this practice disturbing as it is enlightening. It exacerbates the importance of hair and directly attaches a woman’s desirability, her virtue and her femininity to what is on her head- or rather what is not on her head. As if hair is the largest tool of seduction, and when used to the point of excess can be taken away like a toy from a child.
In other places of the world, shaving your head is seen as something much different.
In Indian and Hindu culture “tonsures” are performed in religious ceremonies. This symbolically removes the ego; the hair is then offered to the Gods, in exchange for whatever it is that the person is praying for. Also, after a death in the family, surviving members will shave their head in mourning.
I can’t say that I traded my hair for a prayer like Hindus do, but I was conscience to the fact that I was divorcing myself from my ego. I was divorcing myself from the blaring voice we all hear (especially women) that tells us to look a certain way. I was divorcing myself from the notion that I needed these strands of hair to be a woman.
In my baldness I am mourning the girl that I have left behind. Yet it is not a final death, but a re-birth. In changing my image I have shed a part of myself that drew in unwanted attention. It has been an interesting social experiment having short hair.
I am now more aware of the curves of my body, the sound of my voice, the way I dress, even the way I smell. Analyzing and inspecting each element of myself to discover who I am and more importantly who I can be. Searching for where I am most feminine, masculine and the nebulous unnamed qualities in between.
In some ways I expected some negative feedback, but in the end that was my own fears being projected and not the reality at large. In fact the responses I have gotten have been nothing but complimentary. Random people come up to me on the street and tell me I’m gorgeous. (Hello confidence booster!) I’ve been told how european I look, and have been introduced to a whole new genre of guys who prefer short hair.
Many people have asked me what I did with my hair, and to be perfectly honest, I’ll admit I still have it. Sometimes I get a shocked retort: “Why haven’t you donated it??” The answer to that is, I’m shaving my head to be bald, because it’s ok for women to be bald without the weight of past stigmas or the assumption that women with short or no hair are sick or in the army. If I give my hair to someone that “needs” it, then it goes against the very purpose of my actions.
Because in the end, it is just hair.