When people shave their heads, there’s usually a radical reason. They want to support a loved one going through cancer. They want to express a sentiment of hate towards a different race. They have become a devote of Krishna. When a feminist shaves her head, it’s because she’s rejecting the patriarchal suggestion of the feminine ideal to please the male gaze.
Well, I’m a feminist. And I shaved my head… but not like that.
I think shaving your head to reject the expectation of what a woman should be is just as limiting as wearing lipstick just to fit the feminine mold. And I think most feminists agree that that idea is a little outdated.
Last night a woman at the Oak Street Art Market asked me what my version of a Feminist Manifesto would be. I told her it would be about options. That every woman and every human be free to make the choices to live the best versions of their lives. That we be free to present our outward appearance in a way that makes each individual feel the most empowered. If covering your body’s shape makes you feel empowered, then do that. If showing your body makes you feel empowered, do that. If dressing like a “man” or a “woman” or an “alien” or a “cowboy” or a “business person” or whatever makes you your best self, do that. If you feel called to work in a specific field or position, work hard at it and do it. If you feel called to stay home and take care of the kids, or to reject convention and travel the world or live as a hermit, do that. And have whatever it is that you do be valued because what you are DOING is valuable. Not because of the “value” of the body parts that the person doing the work was born with. The option to mutually give and receive love to who you want in the way that you want. The option to not be confined to body parts at all, or the labels associated with them.
Ok, those are some first world options, but let’s talk about some real basic options… freedoms that should exist world wide, but don’t. The ability/freedom/option to have clean water. The freedom/ability/option to have healthy food. Health care. To be able to care for your loved ones. To chose what happens to your body and when. To chose who you spend your life with. To chose what you do with your life. Where you live. What you believe to be true.
I shaved my head because I wanted to. And because I have the option to do so. Sure, I did think about if I would still have my job(s) after I shaved my head. (I have really cool jobs and really cool bosses. It’s not an issue. Not all women in America have that luxury. I’m guessing there might be a trade off though. If you have a job with healthcare, you might not be able to shave your head. If you can shave your head at random, you’re probably like me and don’t have healthcare.) I’m even a little embarrassed to admit that for a second I wondered if the man I have a crush on would think I’m attractive and still want to see me. (He’s really cool too. And if he can’t handle a month or two of little to no hair on top of my head, then I need to find someone who has values that are a little more aligned with mine.) So as a feminist, I exercised my right to shave my head. Not to reject any sort of ideal. Just because I can, and because I wanted to.
And the response has been pretty radical. Everyone is telling me how brave I am. My friends are telling me. People that I see around town that I only say hello to on occasion are telling me. Strangers are telling me. Tourists are telling me. And it bothers me a little bit. Sure it was a little scary taking an electric razor to my head. Yes, it’s scary going against the commonly accepted standards of beauty. (And yes, I really like hearing people tell me that I’m brave.) But it’s hair. It grows back. That’s it.
I think it’s time that we all take a step back and look at what it really means to be brave. What are the true threats to livelihood and life itself, and what we can do to overcome those threats? I’d like to take a second to honor the true bravery of heroes big and small, noticed and unnoticed, who take real risks to make the world a better place. And I’d also like to suggest that everyone take some time to think about an act of bravery that they’d like to offer to the world. I’m still trying to figure out what brave thing I can do to make the world a better place. I’m open to ideas.
Ok, enough of the serious talk. On to answering all of the questions that I’m sure you’re all dying to know the answers to:
Q: Why did you shave your head? A: Because I’ve always wanted to. Ever since I was a kid. And I figured it’s probably now or never.
Q: Were you nervous? A: Yes.
Q: Are you glad you did it? A: Yes.
Q: Do you like it? A: I like that I did it. I’m happy with how it looks, but I’m looking forward to having my hair back soon. I already googled how to make your hair grow one inch per week. But first I’m going to have some fun being bald. A friend of mine told me that I have to experience a straight razor shave. She said it’s orgasmic. And you know I’m not about to miss out on an orgasm reserved only for people with shaved heads. I’m also looking forward to trying out all of the different hair styles as my hair grows back out.
Q: What does it feel like? A: It feels like I have Tiger Balm on my head 24/7. When I touch my head, it feels like an alien.
Q: Do people react to you differently? A: Other than telling me that I’m brave, no.
Q: Does it feel funny? A: Yes. I laughed the first time I took a shower.
Q: Anything you’ve learned from this experience? A: Yes!
- I have a purple triangular birthmark on the back of my head. Somebody told me that birthmarks are remnants of wounds from violent deaths in past lives… something like a gunshot or stab wound.
- A lot of people have thought about shaving their heads, but have never done it.
- People have told me that I look wiser, less skinny, less young (which is different from looking older apparently), and beautiful. When taking photographs, I was told to try to look mean.
- Before I shaved my head, I thought I would wear more makeup, but I’ve actually stopped wearing eyeliner.
- I look exactly like my brother and I like it.
Taken on iPhone 6. New Orleans, LA