Cutting My Hair: A Feminist Act?

My hair has always been much more than just hair to me; it's been a symbol of femininity, of health and recovery, and a security blanket, for as long as I can remember. 

When I was in the midst of my eating disorder, my hair was frail and rough. It was a reflection of my mental health. I developed trich habits (hair pulling) which were an external manifestation of anxiety, and my poor hair became weaker. In turn, my self-esteem plummeted. 

Through recovery, getting my beautiful, long, shiny hair back was on my list of to-do's. It took three years, but my hair finally grew back - and longer! - full and healthy. But now, my self-consciousness settled on another aspect of my physical appearance: acne. I used my long hair to, in a sense, hide myself from the world. 

 Photo: Nate Gaffney

Photo: Nate Gaffney

Then, about 10 months ago, I started reading into feminist theory. A friend had shared some articles on her Facebook page, and it was one of those moments were I became fixated on an issue. I spent 2-4 hours every day for months, reading studies, articles, and opinion essays on everything from sex work to workplace inequality. 

Feminism gave me confidence.

First, It ripped my head and heart in a million ways. I became angry. And then very angry. And now, motivated. 

I have always valued the ability to think critically. I began to analyze aspects of my life, work, relationships, and self through a feminist lens. But mostly: self. 

It hit me like a brick.

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My hair was not only a security blanket because of my relationship with it, through mental illness & recovery. It felt safe to me, because I have been told - through movies, media, and from men - that long hair is feminine and beautiful. That in order to be those things - feminine, and beautiful - long hair was a point on a checklist to be crossed.

So was cutting my hair a feminist act? An act of self-love? 

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Maybe neither, maybe both.

There is comfort in rebelling, not only against patriarchal norms, but against your older self. 

Hair is just dead cells anyway. 

- K

Kayley ReedComment