I think she looks fabulous, but people sure have a lot of opinions about it.
My 9-year-old daughter has never been shy about her preferences and opinions. Right before she began kindergarten, she asked if she could cut her hair short. Since then, it has varied in style, but has stayed pretty short. Over the summer she tried to grow it out to a chin-length bob, but once it began touching the back of her neck she demanded the adorable pixie cut she’s sporting now.
I think she looks fabulous, but people sure have a lot of opinions about it. I recently had a fun run-in with Twitter’s merry band of MRAs, and they hunted through my social media streams and found pictures of her, talking at length about how I “dress my daughter like a boy.” Setting aside tired definitions of gender, my kid tends to prefer clothes in the “girls” section of most stores, often choosing things like pink leggings covered in kittens or tees covered in pretty flowers. So, really, I don’t dress her like a boy — she simply has short hair.
And it’s not just emotionally stunted MRAs who fixate on her short hair. As a semi-public web person, I’ve seen forum threads with comments from women discussing my daughter’s “awful” haircut. I’ve deleted comments on my Instagram account from women I know poking me by referring to her as my “beautiful son.” I’ve also had grocery store clerks say, “Oh, she’s a girl? But where’s her hair?”
It’s generally accepted that Caucasian women in the United States embraced short hair for the first time in the 1920s. Opera singer Mary Garden, famous for both her voice and her sense of drama, wrote about why she chose to bob her hair:
“When I consider the achievements of women in the past few years in the field of athletics I find it impossible to do so without taking into account the tremendous freedom-giving changes in fashion that have accompanied them. And enjoying the blessings of short hair is a necessary part of those fashion changes. To my way of thinking, long hair belongs to the age of general feminine helplessness. Bobbed hair belongs to the age of freedom, frankness, and progressiveness.”
Now I’m going to talk about the patriarchy. Because this issue boils down completely to the male gaze, and how women are supposed to be pretty in a certain way so men will find them attractive, and that way must include long hair. Long hair that also requires a fair amount of time, expense, and effort to make it “pretty” in the right way.
My personal shoulder-length, pink and dark brown tresses require an expensive triple dye process and take at least a half hour to style. Don’t get me wrong — I love my hair. But when my daughter asked me why I don’t get a pixie cut too, I blanched at the idea — taken down by my own internalized misogyny and my fear of looking, as a fat woman, like an engorged tick without my full and pretty hair. Ouch. I guess I find myself agreeing with 1920s film star Mary Pickford — known as America’s Sweetheart — when she discussed her choice not to bob her hair:
“Some gray-haired women look well with a bob. I think it depends upon the shape of the head and the size of the woman. If she is large, bobbed hair will make her head seem disproportionately small and will cause her neck to look too large for the face above it. After all, there is nothing more feminine than a beautiful head of well-cared-for hair simply coiled. Men admire it. They like the Greek line which some women are able to achieve with their smooth, shining coils of hair.”
Little girls are spared this to some extent — they are welcome to have shorter hair as long as it stays within the “feminine” style framework. My daughter’s pixie sweeps off her forehead at her part thanks to a cowlick, making her hair look very much like the standard boy’s short cut.
Fortunately, my daughter is incredibly confident about her choices and doesn’t care if people think she looks like a boy. I told her I was writing this article and she said, “You don’t need a whole article. Just tell them that people are stupid.”
She’s right, of course. People are stupid. Maybe I’ll get that pixie cut after all. But probably not.