There is a meme making the rounds at the moment. It reads, "The future is female and it doesn't have time for styling products," and it's accompanied by four photos of shaven-headed women: three fictional characters from Black Panther, Mad Max, and Stranger Things, and activist Emma González.
The meme, which seemingly originated from a tweet by Vanity Fair's Joanna Robinson, reminds us how political our hair can be.
Hair being a political issue is nothing new. From the liberated women of the '20s chopping their hair short, to '80s punks rocking their mohawks, hair trends often reflect political statements, whether intentionally or not. The long, flowing hair of the '60s was a direct response to women becoming more active in the workplace, and the more recent dip-dye came as a response to the recession.
It's no surprise, then, that when watching gun control advocate Emma González give a voice to the thousands of angry students in America, the world was also fascinated by her shaved head. González has said that her haircut had nothing to do with her politics; her long hair was simply “a pain in the neck...cumbersome and very heavy,” but there is no question that the image of her, giving that speech, in this political climate, Emma’s look means more than the simple rebellious act against her parents who’d told her no. Her haircut is now synonymous with her political call to action.
When UK style blogger Chloe Helen Miles announced to her 100k+ instagram followers that she would be shaving her head bald for charity, the comments quickly filled with well-wishers, “So inspiring!” and “What an incredibly brave and selfless thing to do." It begs the question why a woman shaving her head is so shocking that people are not only willing to donate money, but see the act as brave and "an amazing act of kindness"?
Women often claim that shaving their hair off is "liberating." Great British Bakeoff alum Ruby Tandoh offered an explanation as to what women who shave their heads are liberating themselves from, in an interview with Elle after her own shave. She wrote, “it's never just a damn haircut, really. Least of all when that haircut goes against the grain of the pliant, feminine gender-presentation that's expected of women.”
Unlike Emma, Chloe and Ruby, I’m only three-quarters a baldy. I got my first undercut shaved in almost three years ago, and I don’t think a single person who knew me imagined that I’d not only keep it, but make it even larger. It started lower down, a couple of inches above my ears. After a while I took one side up much higher, and grew out the other side. But that itch of rebellion returned, and I added the other side back in, leaving me with my little patch of hair on top, as I have it now. I shave it down to zero with the clippers, every couple of weeks.
The emotional response I have to my own shaved head is similar to that of vlogger Breeny Lee when she shaved her own hair off. She said she wanted to say, “Eff you, beauty standards," and I feel empowered by my head too. In a small way, I’m reminding myself, and showing the world, that I am challenging what society tells me I need to be.
I have a confession to make, though. For almost two years, I’ve worn wigs almost every day. My current count is 26. My almost-bald head rarely see the light of day. Does this mean I’m failing in my feminism? That I’m not quite ready to break societal norms completely? Perhaps. However, I’d like to believe it’s because I’m a multi-faceted woman, who creatively plays with her own image. One day I can be wearing long mermaid locks, and the next a sharp bob, and still enjoy the ease of a shaved head. I'm a woman who wants it all.
Has shaving my head made me a better feminist? It’s certainly no coincidence that I shaved it during a time when I became more politically engaged, and it has allowed me to reflect on my own sense of beauty. It’s still unusual to meet women who choose to shave their heads, and we’re still met with judgements of potential illnesses or presumed sexualities.
Every time I visit her, my mother hopefully asks me if I’m growing my hair out and the answer is always no. I'm enjoying walking the tightrope between masculine and feminine expectations, and I’d be lying if I said my shaved head didn’t make me feel pretty kick arse. I may not be ready to shave it all off completely, or to wear it bald and proud day-to-day, but I can’t see me growing it out anytime soon.
Not quite product-free
While a shaved head will certainly need far less products than you’re used to if you have long hair, you’ll still need a few items to care for your newly exposed scalp. The most important is sun protection, as the skin won’t used to be direct contact with UV light. I particularly love Frezyderm Velvet Face SPF 50+ as it’s clear and matte, meaning no white hue or shine.
You’ll want to make sure you’re moisturising your head too, as it can get dry and itchy. It doesn’t need the high quality skincare products that I’d recommend for the delicate skin on your face, so a simple one like the SAMFARMER Moisturizer is ideal.
Just because you don’t have much hair, you’ll still need to use a little shampoo to wash it, rather than a bodywash, as these can be drying. As you use so little, you can even treat yourself to a fancy one.
top photo: Black Panther
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Having had a colourful career history, including teacher, librarian, lipstick brand creator, salon owner, social media creative, writer and public speaker, ReeRee Rockette keeps her fingers in as many pies as she can. In her free time, she fosters cats, volunteers, visits the gym and drinks really sugary coffees. Follow her at www.rockalily.com, on Twitter @ReeReeRockette and on Instagram @rockalily.