I read an article, more out of morbid curiosity than anything else, written by a man who said that women with short hair were “damaged” because they were styling their hair in a way that he, and therefore all Men, didn’t like. Women with long hair are attractive, he said, but women with short hair clearly don’t like men because…well, apparently they’re daring to do something that he doesn’t approve of. Therefore, all Men dislike it and it should stop, and women should focus on What Men Like. He claims that the only reason a woman would cut her hair short is to make an aggressive political statement and that “Short hair is a near-guarantee that a girl will be more abrasive, more masculine, and more deranged.” I feel weird even writing about it because it’s so ridiculous, and Rachael Acks has written a lovely rebuttal here: http://katsudon.net/?p=2727
The great irony is that I used to have waist-length hair, and my husband constantly bugged me to cut it, because he liked short hair. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t I guess. I eventually cut mine off when I had kids anyway, since I was tired of having it pulled and covered with glitter-glue. But it got me thinking about something that always bothered me.
When I was a teenager, I read a Dave Barry column where he asked why women bothered doing their nails. After all, he argued, no guy ever said, “Wow, look at the nails on her!” I and my mom were both put off by it. It implies that the only reason a women would ever do anything is to gain male attention. I have never once picked up a bottle of nail polish and said, “Oh, I know the men are gonna love this!” Every single bottle in my collection–and I have many–I bought because I thought it was pretty, and I like to paint my nails. It makes my hands look nice and keeps me from biting my nails, and they break less. I choose my clothes because I like how they make me look. I wear makeup to make myself feel confident, and I don’t when I’m too busy. I never once get done getting ready and go, “Okay, Kathryn! Let’s go out and see what the MEN think today!” I’m happy when my husband likes the way I look, but I don’t give a shit about the others.
I started being acutely aware of this in middle school, when the kids really start trying to date. Other girls would say things like, “I like your skirt–maybe someone will ask you out!” or “I heard Boy X likes purple eyeshadow, so we should all wear that.” I wanted a boyfriend, sure, but I didn’t want one just because I could buy a $3 box of purple eyeshadow. If all you have in common in eyeshadow, it’s going to be a painfully boring relationship. I railed against it, even when it hurt me. I did have a way, though–I wrote horror stories. Little gory serialized chapter plays, and I had a group of guys who loved reading them, and hung around asking for more. It didn’t get me a boyfriend, but it made me some actual friends and that’s even better. I started writing them for others, but once I got good at it, I wrote them for me. I kept hold of that all the way through, and yes, I was usually single, but I came to understand that I couldn’t live my life worrying about what other people wanted, or what other people thought I should have.
Another key thing I learned was in high school. There was a guy I liked, and he seemed to like me. I’d been refining my appearance a bit in hopes of catching his attention. I was working up the courage to ask him out when I overheard him in the hall once. He was saying to another guy, “Oh yeah, you could totally rape my sister. She’s such a whore, she’d love it.” It was like turning over a pretty rock to find it covered with maggots underneath. I certainly didn’t want the attention of anyone that would say something so vile, and I never spoke to him again. I decided that day to just do what I liked, and let them come to me if interested. I learned to ignore the idea of “what guys like” in favor of what I like. I’ve been fortunate that as an adult, I’ve found my amazing husband and groups of wonderful male friend; I attribute this to finding my own inner strength first.
Most women I know do things simply because they like them, or it makes life easier for them. Choosing a different hairstyle, make-up or no make up, skirt or pants, manicured or plain, does not make her aggressive or deranged. It makes her a woman like any other. It makes her a woman who doesn’t need the attention of a man who is so shallow he judges her on the length of her hair.