What comes to mind when you think about your hair? Do you find yourself staring at your hairline? Do you spend time thinking about the long arduous hair care routine you’ve been following for so many years now?
Ever since I was little, I’ve been fascinated by hair. It started as a little protest against ‘apply oil and tie it in braids, not exceeding shoulder length’. Why should I? There’s so much that I can do - I can add orange and yellow and create a sunset with my hair; I can add neon and become a glow in the dark sticker; I can curl my hair and add blue to remind someone of water. I can dye it deep red and say, ‘redheads have more fun.’ I realised very early that I’d love to be contemporary Rapunzel’s daughter - not for the length, but for my relationship with my hair.
Hair is one of the most noticeable things about you. It’s simultaneously public (everyone can see it) and personal (it’s biologically linked to your body). The moment you start thinking deeper about your relationship with hair, the more you realise that there’s so much more than just setting it perfectly for a date. It is our bold way to make a point as people - to stand up for everything we believe in.
What my hair means to me as a feminist
Let us talk about the unfortunate Mahsa Amini incident that happened in September 2022.
The 22-year-old was arrested and badly beaten up by the morality police in Iran for allegedly wearing her hijab in a way that made some of her hair visible. She subsequently died after being in a coma for three days, while still in police custody. This incident triggered a series of events. Women took to the streets of Iran, protesting, by defiantly burning their headscarves, shaving their hair in public and chanting ‘Woman, Life, Freedom’. These women are cutting their hair to show that their anger is more powerful than their oppressor.
The 'long, thick, and black' association in the Indian household
The power that we can assert with our hair is not just in a political movement. Consider an Indian household, where traditionally, any choices that stand out are looked down upon. Women are still judged on the basis of how they look, where ‘long, thick and black’ is the norm, we’re collectively pushing back against a stereotype. We’re refusing to give in to being an ‘ideal woman’ that is defined by, well, definitely not us. When you colour your hair or go for a boy-cut, you’re creating a ripple of rebellion. Your hair becomes a symbol; a way to take agency of your own body back. Your hair becomes a symbol of refusal to comply with someone else’s terms, a refusal to allow someone else to police your body.
We’re choosing to be beautiful on our own terms and we’re bringing this with an add of lavender dye. This lavender dye now becomes a medium of self expression. You claim who you are even in the perception of a stranger passing by. It’s not just the dye.
Let’s think about the ‘long’ in the ‘long, thick and black for a moment. This ‘long’ has been seen as a symbol of femininity. It goes even a step further, where women letting down long, wet hair is seen as a sensual experience. Amidst these viewpoints of the world, short hair becomes your proclamation of liberty. You refuse to be defined as feminine on someone else’s terms. You challenge gender roles, one chop at a time. You decide that sensual, is not just ‘long’, and bring in #shorthairdontcare personality with you.
Breakup hair: the real deal
This approach is something we’ve often seen on our group chats. How many times have you come across a meme that makes a point about hair and breakups? Do you wonder why that is? Breakup hair has a lot to do with identity. When our partner leaves, we’re left with an empty void. There’s no one to say “brown will look better than blonde” // “you look so pretty with long hair.” Thus, a hair redo becomes symbolic of how you’re now calling the shots and taking control over yourself. A complete hair transition becomes an identity exploration - we figure who we are without them. Breakup hair also additionally signifies a new beginning and gives you a chance to feel something different. Hair, thus, becomes a unique outlet for expressing your personality, your mood and your opinions at a given phase in your life. You are allowed to show the world your shift and growth. Girls, you're Clementine from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, always remember that.
The narrative around hair is changing globally. Even until a couple of years ago, colouring your hair in a bright fashion invited comments like ‘it’s such a brave choice’. Today, we bump into someone who smiles and tells us about how pretty we look. The same shift is sensed in the corporate world - where certain haircuts and colours have moved from the ‘unprofessional’ category to an apprehension that a non-conformist rainbow head is just as ethical and capable of getting her tasks done.
You see, it’s not just about getting your hair set perfectly for a date. So, the next time you choose to DIY a melon shade or decide to go bald, know that I’m so proud of you. I’m proud of the relationship you’re building with your hair. I’m proud of how you’re making a statement and standing out. I’m proud of how you’ve finally started expressing yourself on your own terms. I’m proud of the conversation that you’re starting on identity. I’m proud of who you’re becoming. I’m proud.