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Elizabeth Houle

The Sexual Politics of Hair

Prior to buzz-cutting my hair, there were often days when I wouldn’t bother putting on makeup, dressing ‘nicely,’ or shaving my legs because my long hair was enough to define me as a hetero-sexual woman.  After cutting my hair, my past habits did not feel adequate in expressing my gender and sexuality (I identify as a heterosexual female).  I felt this way for a good reason, too:  I have had my hair cut for two years, and have been publicly berated with homophobic slurs on three notable occasions. Women with short hair face many social stigmas; they are categorized as tomboys, lesbians, or radical feminists. As feminist Susan Wendell explains, “under the disciplines of femininity, women must fear becoming less feminine,” and after some of my social experiences, I absolutely did. In order to avoid situations like these, I have become almost hyper-feminine in most aspects of my appearance.  I generally wear makeup when I leave the house, I wear dresses, and I shave regularly.  Even after making all of these ‘bargains,’ I still feel as though I do not have as much sexual currency as my long-haired friends.  At bars I notably attract less male and more female attention, and have been mistaken for a man more times than I can count. I do love my hair, but at times I find myself questioning our standards of beauty simply due to the reactions that my hair incites. Hair is one of the first things that we notice about a person.  Does one have long hair? Short hair? Dyed hair? Natural hair? Is it styled? Is it in dreadlocks? There are many different styles, textures, and lengths that hair can take, and each one holds its own meaning within Western society. What does it mean to partake in the beauty… Read More