Thursday, April 11, 2013

hair power.

i've been really angsty lately.

some of that could be my work load, which i'm totally ignoring right now. i'll probably blog about that later.

i have a lot of posts to crank out before i hop the pond and spend a blissful month in england where i won't return. at least not without a lot of kicking and screaming.

but as of late, i have been angsty.

this post is probably not going to be that funny. it's probably going to be full of angst, such as i am. it's also probably going to be vulgar. because you know what, sometimes i just have a lot of feelings and the only way that i can convey those with the emotion that i want is to just yell FUCK really loudly.

what have i been really angsty about?

hair culture.

this semester, i'm taking a women's studies class. WGS 101.01, to be exact. there are maybe... fifteen of us in the class. in the beginning, we all defined ourselves as feminists. two of us are guys. we spent most of the semester reading from this really big book called women's voices, feminist visions. it's full of articles about all kinds of stuff.

1. women's health.
2. reproductive rights.
3. sexual harassment.
4. women in the workplace.
5. women in literature.

stuff. about women. it's a women's studies class.

i love women. i'm a woman. i'm an angry feminist. this class has really helped solidify my hatred of patriarchal culture. and definitely opened to my eyes that postfeminism is definitely not a thing yet.

postfeminism: noun, the idea that feminism is dead or no longer needed.

i'm just going to say that THAT right there is bullshit.

so, for the end of the year (tomorrow is my last actual women's studies class) we have to write a research paper on a topic of our choosing. eight to ten pages. some form of issue in women's health, feminism, blah blah, whatever.

while in the course, i realized that there was a lot of talk about intersectionality, which basically means that feminism is about all women. ALL WOMEN. intersectionality includes poor women, black women, white women, old women, young women, poor women, rich women, women that live here, women that live there, women that speak english, women that don't speak at all. while i was reading about all of this wonderful intersectionality, i realized that mental health wasn't included in it. THAT is an entire blog post in and of itself, but i decided that i wanted to write my paper about how mental health is never mentioned.

eventually, my thesis got cut down to this basic premise: we live in a culture that sees hair as powerful. and for people with trichotillomania, like me, this is a BIG. FAT. PROBLEM.

if you don't know what trichotillomania is, click here and educate yourself.

to read about my struggle with trichotillomania, click here.

in my class, we read an article about hair as power. it was titled "what we do for love" and i didn't realize that it was going to be about hair. and suddenly i was headfirst into this five page article about hair and how women use it to do all kinds of fantastic things.

i was very uncomfortable with it.

mostly because it was absolutely and one hundred percent right. and now we get into the really angsty part of my post.

this is what it comes down to: hair. is. power.

in american society, women with long hair are more attractive to men. to test this theory, i asked a number of my guy friends if they preferred women with long or short hair. all of them said long, but they could find a few girls with short hair attractive if they could "pull it off".

men have hair color preferences, too. and hair color has ALWAYS had stereotypes, whether they're true or not. blondes have more fun. blondes are ditzier. women that have blonde hair are more likely to considered to be slutty. of the women that dye their hair, over fifty percent of them dye their hair blonde.

the rest dye their hair red, because apparently if you have red hair, you're wild, passionate, and intelligent.

the article didn't tell me about brown hair. i have brown hair that gets red highlights in the summer. i guess i'm boring and possibly passionate.

have you ever actually thought about how much power our hair has on us and other people? i mean, jeez, i spend time doing my hair every morning. i have a special hair stylist named cheryl, and she's super great. women dye their hair. they cut it, they mouse it, they braid it, they tease it, they frizz it, they do anything and everything on this green earth to their hair.

they do it for themselves and they do it for others.

haircuts totally change the way you see yourself and the way you see other people. one time my mom cut my bangs wrong and i thought i was going to die. granted, i was in eighth grade, but at the time, it was horrific. i don't leave my room unless my hair is done. some of my sorority sisters spend forever on their hair; blowing drying it, curling it, straightening it, puting it up, leaving it down, i mean, the possibilities are endless.

for girls with long hair.

if you have long hair, congratulations, you've followed society's standard for beautiful and feminizing hair.

it's no secret that society prefers women with long, lustrous hair. and if you don't have it, your femininty is put into question. the article talked about how professional athletes, the big bulky women that can bench like, five times as much as i weigh, they all have long, blonde hair to make up for the fact that their bodies are less feminine.

that makes me sad. and really angry.

when i was in kindergarten, i used to stare at this girl that stood in front of me in line. she was taller than me and she had long, brown hair that was about the same shade as mine. she'd wear it in a high ponytail and when we walked down the hall to go to art or gym or whatever, i'd watch her ponytail sway back and forth.

and i vividly remember wanting my hair to do that. i've always wanted to have hair that sways when i move.

when i was in first grade, my mom chopped all my hair off. granted, i wanted her to, but she went a little overboard. in first grade i played soccer (god help us all) with my brother and one time we went to pizza hut still in our soccer clothes. the waitress said, "oh, your two little boys are so cute."

also in first grade, while i was walking into my elementary school building one morning, a boy came up to my best friend and said, "why are you talking to a boy?"

i am obviously not a boy. nor do i see myself as a boy.

and yes, these two things actually happened.

this is about as long as my hair got in elementary school.
i'm cute, right?

now that i'm older and i obviously look like a girl, people are always telling me that my hair is oh-so-cute. and you know what, to be completely vain and self centered, hell yes, my hair is cute. i love my hair. i spend a lot of time on it. i put bows in it every day. i'm very proud of my hair.

but what people always tell me is this, oh emily, your hair is so cute, i wish i could pull off short hair. you do it so well.

what is this "pull off" bullshit? anybody can have short hair. women aren't born with naturally and lustrous long hair to please men and attract them with the "bend and snap". we don't all naturally have long and gorgeous hair to fit your societal standards.

my whole entire life i've wanted long hair. i've always wanted to put it back in a ponytail and actually do things with it, but my hair just doesn't grow long. it genetically doesn't work like that. so it's always going to be short.

i'm okay with having short hair. i've gotten over all that angst about never having long, wavy hair that men will run their fingers through. i'm never going to get to use my hair power to attract men or to feel good about myself. i've finally accepted the fact that my hair is just short.

and all through high school people thought that i was a lesbian and that was bullshit on two levels because:

1. there's absolutely nothing wrong with being a lesbian so why would you even think that that's demeaning, and

2. what the fuck does my hair have to do with my sexuality?

nothing. absolutely nothing.

just because i have short hair doesn't mean that suddenly i'm any less feminine. i could be completely bald and still be just as feminine.

i have a lot of repressed anger toward hair and hair power. A LOT. the only reason why i wanted long hair in the first place was because society told me that if i had long hair i'd be prettier and more feminine and boys would like me.

i don't care anymore. i'll never have long hair.

i'm sick of society telling me that i can "pull off short hair." fuck yes i can. but i don't need society to tell me that i'm one of those special people that can pull off short hair, like i was supposed to be born with long hair and i've just decided to ditch the status quo.

fuck society. i'm done with this partiarchal bullshit.


even before i had trichotillomania, i've had short hair. now that i have trichotillomania, i understand even more about hair power. i have all this power in my hair, which isn't even that powerful because it's naturally short. but now that power is completely stripped away because i pull out my own hair.

and i pull it out. i'm stripping away my own hair power. and society is always telling me how fucked up that is, how fucked up i am, and that i should love my hair and myself.

i do love my hair. and i love myself. and you know what, i love my short hair. society might not, but i love it. i absolutely love it. and whether or not you tell me that i can pull it off, i'm going to keep having it.

society, it's also really hard to love yourself and when you're telling me that i don't have the beauty hair ideal that i'm supposed to have.

but i'm done with that. i'm done being insecure about the length of my hair.

i will always be insecure with trichotillomania. it will always try to make me feel worthless. i will spend copious amounts of time hiding bald patches and hair loss. that's not going to change.

but i'm over this patriarchal bullshit.

i have short hair. and i have trichotillomania.

society tells me that that makes me worthless.



here's a collage of the major hair points in my life.

short hair toddler.

short hair elementary school.
this is the longest my hair has ever been.
this is when i was thirteen right before my trich started.

high school hair. 
average college-length hair. 
i have learned to love my hair. i hope you can love yours too.

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