Friday, July 30, 2010

Drawing Strength From Going Against the "Beauty Grain"

Man, I'm exhausted. My inner-feminist got a good workout this week (even if I didn’t).

First it was watching an incredibly stereotypical episode of Disaster Date (see Cram another feminist stereotype in there, why don't you?), then it was listening to a bitter Youtubian trying to tell me why "women have it so easy in life," and then kindly reminding him why that wasn’t necessarily true. And now, go figure, a Facebook comment has got my vigilante juices flowing.

You see, I was making my usual rounds on Facebook (scrolling down the homepage to see if anything juicy was going on) when I noticed one of my classmates talking about possibly getting her hair cut. Now don't get me wrong, her hair is absolutely gorgeous - long, shiny, and black, the kind wig-makers would kill for - but I'm a huge fan of short cuts (no pun intended). Naturally, I chimed in with a good pat on the back and “atta girl,” but it wasn’t long before a couple of boys jumped in and disagreed, saying short hair most certainly wouldn’t be cute.

Miffed, I asked: "What's wrong with short hair?"

Nothing, apparently. Except the girl in question "wouldn't look as cute" with it.

"Well, it's not your decision to make!” . . . is what I would’ve said, if I weren’t such a civil person. (Facebook is no place for a fight. Back alleys are so much better . . .)

But seriously, this isn't a stand-alone case. Whenever a girl talks about getting her hair cut on Facebook (yeah, teens have too much time on their hands), it's always girls who show support, and guys who seem to have massive coronaries. I know it's a biological fact that men are attracted to women with long hair (you know, because it signifies "youth" and "fertility," stuff 16-year-olds really care about), but it's the 21st century for cryin' out loud! If we want to get our hair cut short - or do anything that contradicts outdated standards of beauty - what's stopping us?

In fact (and yes, this is going to sound really cheesy), I'm starting to realize the power one can draw from going against the grain. The beauty grain, that is.

For starters, my hair is short. Not a big deal, right? But you're talking to a girl who only had about three trips to Super Cuts in her entire childhood, and who had waist-length hair until the 10th grade. But I've never felt more alive since adopting a short do, and I couldn't care less what type of hair boys prefer. Because short hair - that I can tease mercilessly, that hardly needs brushing, and that creates the most awesome bed-head ever - makes me feel light, free, confident, and fierce.

Something else I've taken for granted until recently is natural beauty. I’ve always seen it in others, but when it comes to myself I’ve always felt the need to hide my imperfections (especially at school) with healthy doses of foundation and mascara. I can even remember the one time I didn't wear makeup to school (because I was so gosh-darned tired), and I ended up feeling self-conscious all day. It sucked big time.

But these days, seeing as I can’t get my license for another six months and my parents both work, I’ve been stuck at home all summer. In other words: no makeup.

Have you ever really looked at yourself in the mirror? I mean really looked?

Astrid Alaud posed a similar question when she asked if we’ve ever actually “tasted” a carrot. Not just ate it, but tasted it. She suggested that “we can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie,” and similarly, I think there’s no better time to marvel at the beauty of humanity as when we’re completely "natural."

I know (now) that when I look in the mirror it doesn’t matter whether my eyelashes are long and luscious or straight and stubby, if my complexion is perfectly tanned or perfectly pink, or if my blemishes are covered or just there. It really doesn’t matter. But when I take a minute to actually study myself, feel my face in my hands, or jack it up into an uninhibited smile, I see a girl who’s funny, and dorky, and smart, and corny, and above all passionate about a lot of things. And that’s when I think I know . . . scratch that, that's when I know what magazines are missing these days. Not just me, but us. The real us.

All I’m saying is: don’t let other people tell you how to live your life. Don’t shy away from getting your hair cut (or try to grow it out!) just because you think boys will like it, and don’t wear makeup because that’s what girls are “supposed” to do. Glam yourself up as much (or as little) as you want because it makes you happy, because it makes you confident, and because it makes you want to take on the world. Look in the mirror - really look - and be proud to see what you see.

Despite what Dallas Cowboy cheerleader and/or Hollister employee recruiters would have you believe, there is no single definition of “beauty.” So let's make up our own rules, okay?


  1. Nicely put.

    Though I must say the first picture you've posted is weirding me out. At first, I thought it was a barbie doll. And then I realized it was a person. And then I realized it was a person posed and designed to look like a barbie doll. Which just seems wrong. I don't know what it is, but that picture definitely weirds me out.

  2. i have recently (well in april so not that recent) cut my hair short. and i love it. i had long hair my whole life and was like ya why not. i was the only girl in my whole class with hair above my shoulders (i had an asymmetrical bob) and guess what. all the guys loved it. they said it was "so different" so "awesome" and they understood i didnt want to brush my extremely knotted hair anymore. many said "never grow it out again i love it short!" and although i was flattered i said "well ill probably grow it out again, then cut it all off, give it to locks of love, then grow it out again, cut it, etc." i told them i didnt cut it off to please any boys, or please ANYONE for that matter. my nana may not like it because as you said its not "youthful" but shes being stereotypical as often. so if you want short hair JUST CUT IT. it will grow back darling. and its completely worth it.

  3. @Kanadra - I know, right? That picture is seriously messed up. But I wanted to show how we're "constricted" when we try to follow set beauty standards. And what's more constricting than a doll tied up in a box?

    @Elise - That's awesome! I wish more girls would do things (i.e. cut their hair) to make themselves happy, and not worry about what other people would think. For example, when I was first going into the 7th grade I had a serious identity crisis. I bought "stylish" clothes and "stylish" shoes, and listened to the music that everybody else listened to . . . but I wasn't doing any of that for myself, I wanted to impress others. But in the end I realized that I felt even MORE awkward because I wasn't staying true to myself! Needless to say, all of those clothes ended up in the back of my closet :)

    ANYWAY, it's definitely a "teenager thing" to want to fit in SO BADLY that you'll do whatever takes, but I think we've both learned from experience that that's a load of . . . crap!

  4. Yeah! I have a poofy bob-ish cut that's kind of hard to describe, but overall I love having short hair! In fact soon I think I'm going to get a short, Twiggy-ish, mod cut. But personal ideas aside, I think that society portrays women with long hair as feminine/delicate and sexy, while women with short hair are considered fierce/striking/edgy and sexy. But the odd thing is how short hair is STILL considered "striking" and "edgy" for a woman. Since when do haircuts make someone striking or edgy? I mean, centuries ago men had to have short hair for things like war and labor, but today women are also doing those things.
    I guess the idea that manly men have short hair and delicate women have long hair has lingered for too long. It's why so many girls are hesitant to get a short cut. But if more girls did get those cuts, the stereotype would probably lessen a little.

  5. I agree completely with this post (and this whole blog, really... I'm glad I found it :D)! I currently have my hair at about shoulder-length and want to cut it shorter, and everyone's asking me why, like it's inconceivable that I don't want LONGER hair.
    As for the beauty standard, that might never totally go away, but it'd be nice if it could change more radically than it usually does and if magazines could stop airbrushing the shit out of everyone like we're supposed to think that perfect skin, hair and thighs are normal.

  6. @Rach - Yeah! If more girls felt comfortable making decisions (i.e. getting their hair cut) that contradicted certain stereotypes, those stereotypes would have to break down eventually! I think we're on that path already, but we still have a long way to go... ^^"

    @dothedevo - I completely agree. Have you ever watched those videos where they show HOW magazine images are manipulated? It's just sad...

    P.S. I'm glad you found this place too! It's good to have you here ;)

  7. I have long hair. Always have. I don't know why but I could never bring myself to cut it. But I hear what you are saying. The question I ask is why does everyone feel they have a right to voice an opinion about another person's hair, clothes, makeup, etc.

  8. @Ms. Moran - I've been wondering the same thing. But I honestly believe that people who feel they have the right to "change" people (or otherwise put them down) must be bored, or have an unfulfilling life in some way or another...

    By the way, I took a look at your blog and loved it! The first post (about the amusement park) really resonated with me. I can remember going to a theme park a little over a year ago with my (tiny) friend, and being horrified when the belt on the roller coaster wouldn't fit. The park attendants called me out in front of everybody. Everything worked out in the end, but I'd never felt more humiliated.

    Since then I'm down about fifty pounds, but I still have a long way to go. So anyway, I appreciate hearing from someone who's in the same boat, and who writes with such humor :)


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