In my intro to women's studies class last semester, we did a whole reading on women's hair. It was almost 30 pages on how women identify with their hair--pages about how it's a tool for sexuality, about how it defines us, about how black women feel inferior because they lack the western idyllic soft hair. And it went on and on and on. It fascinated me.
At that point, my hair had been bothering me for awhile. It was maybe longer than it had ever been before. And some nights I felt like I was whacking through the jungle with a sword trying to comb out all the tangles in my hair. I wanted to take a lawn mower to it some days. I knew it had to go when I couldn't make it through half an hour without this massive mass of tangles sprouting from who knows where all combining in a massive nest at the back of my head.
But after the surgeries and all that came along with it, my hair became this sort of security blanket. Something I had to hide behind, because it was the only part of my body that I could control. It was really the only thing I thought I could make beautiful, or sexy, or appealing, or whatever else you want to call it.
I was hiding behind my hair.
So I cut it off.
And yet, it didn't seem to be enough. It was too short for a pony tail, but still long enough to hide behind. When I admitted to a guy friend that I had wanted to get a pixie cut, but lacked the courage to go through with it, he consoled me by saying that it was probably for the best because it's a rare girl that can pull off a pixie cut.
You can imagine how that got stuck in my craw for a month or so.
So then I decided to cut it all off. Because I was tired of hiding behind my hair. I wanted to stop caring so much. And I realized that it was stupid for a hair cut to require courage.
Now enter in the F-word. Feminism.
Someone on my news feed posted something she'd written about Kirsten Dunst's latest debacle. This girl fiercely defended Kirsten's right to want a feminine lifestyle. As I skimmed through, I thought the post was interesting. I agreed with her defense of motherhood as the most important choice we can make (don't worry, I have a doozie of a post brewing on that very subject). But my heart stopped when she said that she wanted to defend her right to be feminine by being a stay-at-home mom, wearing skirts, and keeping her hair long.
I guess I hadn't realized that by cutting my hair short, all my feminine powers had drained from my body in a Samson-esque way. I suppose I didn't realize that because my hair is short, I have somehow lost all my nurturing abilities. Probably my womb is drying up and becoming barren as I type this, all because I cut my hair short. I suppose that even though I've preferred wearing skirts to pants for years now, I should just give that up too because pants are more befitting to my "masculine" hair cut.
Can you forgive the satire of the last paragraph?
But this is why I need feminism. It's why I need my religion for that matter. Because my hair doesn't define who I am and I shouldn't have to defend something so insignificant. Cutting my hair short doesn't make me more or less of a woman. My hair is not me. My body is not me. It is my actions that define who and what I am-- the combination of my body and spirit working together to perform and act as an agent unto itself. That is who I am.
I'm still working through this tricky business of gender roles, and maybe my definitions of who I'm supposed to be and the decisions that I make will change. But I do know that I never felt more feminine than I have these past few months than when I'm standing in front of a classroom helping a child to learn, soothing a baby's wearied cries, or rocking a toddler on the crook of my hip. I've never felt more feminine than when I created something good, be it a blog post or a delicious dinner. I've never felt more feminine than when I've engaged with the women around me as I've learned their ways and discovered their beauty beyond cultural definitions.
And you know what? These things have nothing to do with the length of my hair.