I shaved my head during quarantine and it was a total feminist power move
You should do it too!
When I left university to return home for quarantine, many of my friends finished their goodbyes with “please don’t do anything stupid to your hair!” As someone who is known for her three AM fringe cuts and at home box dyes, my friends feared for my hair’s wellbeing as I strapped in for six months with nothing to do. And for six days of quarantine, I actually managed not to make any major hair decisions. But by the time day seven rolled around, I could feel my fingers edging closer towards the razor. That day, I shaved my head.
The big chop
While this seems like a drastic thing to do, shaving my head has always been something I’ve wanted to try. Whether it was during a mid-exam breakdown or a fight with a boy, going totally bald always seemed like a real possibility for me. I knew that one day it had to be done. Spending six months inside with no one seeing me but my parents seemed like the right time if there was ever going to be one.
Immediately after the cut, I was elated. I felt lighter, both mentally and in terms of the weight now lifted from my head. This was closely followed by the realisation that this was not going to be undone by a quick trip to the hairdressers. I had strapped in to spend the next year or so growing my hair back out.
Bald is different – and beautiful!
I was surprised by the initial response from others, many of whom were girls, who commented that the choice was brave. I’ve never viewed my relationship with my hair as one that defined me. As dramatic as it sounds, this raised questions for me about who I was, the person I had been presenting to the people around me, and who I wanted to be now that my hair was gone. My hair was such a large part of who I thought I was even if I hadn’t realised it. It was honestly quite confronting to see myself without it.
I discovered that my hair was a huge symbol of my femininity and something that had affirmed my womanhood. It made me feel more solid in the feminine elements of my personality. For someone who often chooses to dress in a somewhat ‘androgynous’ way, even though I have never questioned my gender identity, I feel suddenly insecure in myself like I never had before.
So much of our collective expectation of beauty rest on a woman’s head, even if we don’t realise it. I wasn’t aware of how much my own sense of attractiveness and femininity rested on my hair until it was all gone. Changing my appearance even slightly to something that doesn’t fully align with what is widely accepted as “woman” really opened my eyes to how our physical presentation can affect how other people see us on the whole
Femininity and societies expectations
Although I hadn’t realised it, I had been using my hair to make myself into what society expected of me as a woman. I have never taken my hair very seriously, keeping it in what I called my “Pulp Fiction” cut. But it wasn’t until I had no hair left at all that I realised just how much this was controlling me. I see now just how much of a security blanket hair can be for us. Right now, it is just me and my face against the world.
One comparison that was frequently made to my hair was that of Britney Spears, who shaved her head after leaving rehab in 2007. While many joked about this being my “breakdown haircut,” I started to wonder if her head shave was really a sign of a weak mental state. Maybe it was an attempt for her to take control of her own life and appearance?
These realisations helped me understand the power of women with a shaved head. After the shave, I became interested in seeing the women who came before me in shaving their heads, as well as the cultural significance this hair style has had. There have been many times throughout history in which a shaven head has been a form of punishment for women, including during the Salem witch trials, or obviously during the Holocaust.
The shaven head was actually reclaimed throughout the skinhead subculture in the 1960s (before the movement was taken over by racist and neo-Nazi groups) as well as during the feminist Riot-grrrls of the 1990s. People can make jokes about my shaved head but it’s come to mean more to me than an impulse haircut.
While the connotations of a shaved head may not be as severe for me as they have been for others in the past, I feel proud of myself for joining the badass women who have come before me with this cut.
So, is it worth it?
Even though there have certainly been mixed reactions to my new hair, ranging from wild support to dramatic horror, I am so glad I made the choice to go bald even after so many years and close shaves.
Shaving my head has been hugely significant for me. What started out as a haircut has become a source of personal discovery and feminist empowerment.
Girls. Do it. You know you want to.