Short Hair Women, Short Of ‘Femininity’. For Whom Are We 'Feminine'?

I'm aware the ratio of long-haired women is way bigger than that of short-haired women in India. Though a lot of women had short/non-long hair at my ex-workplace, most of the women on the buses/trains have long hair. Women I see in the hair salons only get the edge of their long hair trimmed. When a Bollywood actress gets her hair short, media makes a big fuss.
But it was only when I saw this vlog that I realised of the pricking criticism which short-haired women daily receive in India:


It was a wake-up call for me. This time, I considered about the short hair of women.



WHAT PEOPLE SAY TO WOMEN WITH SHORT HAIR

So the criticism/questions short-haired women receive from people (even from strangers) are like:
-   Too Westernised
-   Do you have cancer?
-   Do you have any issues like hair fall?
-   Are you a lesbian?
-   Looks like a boy
-   Girls look nice with a long hair
-   Your boyfriend/husband thinks long hair is more attractive
-   Short hair doesn’t suit traditional clothes
Familiar with these?

image of a short hair woman looking confused

 

HOW IT IS IN JAPAN AND HOW I DID IN JAPAN

In Japan, women’s short hair is very common. But Japan is still a highly monocultural society. If you go blond or dye a colour which is not dark brown, or go bald or Mohawk, it would become almost impossible to get a ‘normal’ office/sales/service job. Even if not bald, if you cut it very short like crew-cut, some people might think many of the list above.

I’ve had a short hair whole life except for 5 years when I was learning Bharatnatyam. I grew my hair that time to attach the head decorations properly for concerts.

I have gone bald as well. Everyone asked me ‘What’s changed in your life?”. For my case, it was actually for a change in my life. I had just quit a job which was extremely stressful and pushed me to the early stage of depression. That was the time I faced my life, asked myself what I want to do (or rather, what God is telling me to do).

In my primary school days, my hair had been too short ‘for a girl’. Besides I never wore skirts. So people always mistook me for a boy (and my brother for a girl). I liked it. Do you ask why?
In retrospect, I think I had a feeling of disgust towards ’girldom’. I thought the image of a girl as ‘sweet’ ‘frills-and-pink-loving’, what society expects from girls, is yucky. I didn’t want to become “a girl who wants to present herself as a ‘sweet girl’”. But it's not that I wanted to actually become a boy. I started sewing which ordinary boys never do, I collected cute stationaries which ordinary boys never touch, I loved ‘jump elastic-band’ which ordinary boys never play. 

image of a girl and a boy in matching outfits(This photo reminds me of me and my little brother in our childhood)

 


DO WE NEED TO BE 'FEMININE'? DO WE NEED TO ATTRACT SOMEONE?

While listing the criticisms which short-haired women face, I picked up the points:
1.   Society is scared of women becoming ‘unlike women’ or ‘unfeminine’
2.   The priority for men’s view, like “women should look attractive to men”
3.   Sexuality and outfit are connected based on the blind assumption

Femininity (automatically, masculinity as well) is defined by society. A feminine person look like this, they behave like this, and women should be feminine.
But being a woman and being feminine often don’t go together. It depends on the individual, mood, etc etc.

Why does the society want women to be feminine? And who are the ones that want to connect women's attractiveness and femininity? Especially when elements of femininity often imply vulnerability or mildness or submissiveness? Let's keep thinking who wants us to stay feminine.

OK, suppose many men like long-haired women (putting aside the question ‘what of long-haired women do they actually like?’). Why should women have long hair because of that? Why do we think ‘how should I look to be picked’? Do many men think like 'how should I look to be picked by girls/women'?
WE women also pick men (or women, or… whatever the gender you desire!). WE choose whom we like. Why do we need to be flowers waiting for the bees to come?

First of all, why do we need to make efforts for other people to judge us as “looking attractive”? For whom do we present ourselves?
When Rihanna had her hair very short, a TV host tweeted as “Rihanna needs to grow her hair back. Fast”.

Rihanna tweeted him back:       image of rihanna talking back to a stupid tv host

How we look/style our hair/dress are none of other people’s business. After living some decades, I am getting a conclusion that people look attractive only when they are happy with themselves and confidently stay how they truly are.

And… “Are you a lesbian?” is nothing but a crap, lmao! Why tf do they think so? These people don’t know any lesbians with long hair. Oh, many people still don’t admit that homosexuality exists anyway, so there’s a bit long way to go…
Traditional clothes? Like Mandira Bedi or Swastika Mukherjee nailing it in sarees (one of Indian traditional clothes), of course we all can nail it in any clothes with short hair.

And I must add here... Those who actually had to lose hair against their will, for cancer treatment etc.... I applaud for your bravery, for your great fight against the tough enemy. Please remember, you are beautiful because of your bravery.

Short/long hair is not a statement of political view nor feminist nor sexuality, but the matter of individual choice, like what we wear. If you have a short hair ‘like men’ do you get power, or is it a symbol of being a lesbian who don’t need to be selected by men? No. It’s the matter of freedom to be truly yourself, ignoring the categorization by others.

image of a short hair woman in bikini and shrug standing proudly

I'd love to hear how you feel about your hair, the situation around short-haired women, femininity, etc. Please leave comments!

After writing all these, I'm feeling like a very short smart haircut. Chalo, I go get my ‘boy cut’ done, hahaha!

 

 


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2 comments

  • Reply to Ms. Anuradha:
    .
    Whatever I wanted to write were written in your comment in such crisp and beautiful sentences (which I couldn’t do due to my ability of English ;) )! Thank you so much for your comment.
    People (including total strangers) think they have all the right to say anything about you. But these days more and more people (mainly women) are becoming conscious about the wrongness of it. In my youth, I had never heard of the concept of ‘body shaming’ or refusal for ‘innocent’ compulsions like ‘you would look nicer if you smile’. Somehow we’re moving forward. I think we can boost the progress by consciously choose every move in our daily life for our own comfort, and by sharing the thoughts.

    • Yoshiko
  • Hi Yoshiko San,
    I just read this article today and remembered with discomfort how two autowallahs in a small town in Tamilnadu made me feel weird with their question ‘are you a boy or a girl?’ as a ten-year old. Back then I remember having hated my mum for having put me through an involuntary haircut. Her reason was simple, ‘you seem to be unable to manage it longer and I refuse to waste time on it while rushing to work’. Fair enough. I grew my hair longer and stopped oiling it or combing it ( now my curls look defined as opposed to looking frizzy) and started leaving it down. Again on a shopping trip in TNagar in Chennai found random strangers – men, women with their families in tow, remarking loudly on how my hair looked like Maggi, or that what a sin it was to leave it down like that. It amazed me that some stranger could judge me by my hair – these people should do crystall ball sessions. Hair is such an important thing in India, the longer the hair, the more attractive a woman, regardless of how troublesome it is to manage it. People will give you free, unsolicited advice for everything, especially if you’re a woman – how to attract men, how to keep them happy, whom to marry, when to marry or have kids, how many kids to have, how to comb your hair, how thin/fat you look and what to eat to put on weight or lose it or to grow breasts or to lighten your skin etc., Our bodies are public property, right from the hair on our heads to the end of our toes. I think we need to step back and care less (so hard to do) and show them a callous, calm, subconscious or devious finger. It took me a while to feel comfortable in my skin and hair, and let my hair be itself. Do you think the need to advise women to bind their hair reflects a need to bind the spirit? Perhaps because a woman with short, unruly, non-traditional hair is a threat like a woman who thinks for herself…I had the accidental, and quite emotionally charged, fortune of another supershort haircut that has me looking and feeling freer than I have in years. And I agree, we are not honey to the bees, but we are who we are and it makes me happy to see these women affirm this. Thank you for this post!

    • Anuradha