On TV lately, there’s been a spate of women “getting stronger” by cutting off all of their hair. Something traumatic has happened? Grab some scissors to gain power, preferably by yourself in a poorly lit bathroom with cheap mirrors!
The phenomenon didn’t really get to me until last night, when I watched Detective Olivia Benson, a heroine for the Law & Order ages, overcome her feeling of victimization in the season premiere. I grew increasingly uncomfortable as her trauma manifested itself into a fashionable bob. By having short hair, am I telling everyone that I’m irreparably traumatized? Even more important – am I?
Short hair, to me, always did go hand in hand with strength. I needed to do more pushups, more running, more hurting anyone who touched me. I needed to be less of whatever I was.
But as much as I want it to, short hair doesn’t transform me into an impenetrable badass. Like when you pretend a sheet over your body while you sleep will protect you from the intruder’s knife (it can’t be just me), hair seems to provide superficial padding from the world outside when you need it. Once, in a situation that seemed destined to explode into fatal violence, I lamented internally that my shaved and exposed head offered me no protection from a bullet fired at close range. Funny what the mind decides to clarify when it sees no escape.
It turned out I didn’t need Kevlar tresses that day, but neither my actions nor my hairstyle played a role in the outcome. More muscles, more endurance, more guns, more power – none of it would have made a difference. All of this stuff that we try to put between us and the world is a cultivated masquerade of pretending that we have any control over what other people do. The acting looks like victim-blaming, and it is, but it’s also how we try to create order in that situation that has none: life.
We’re supposed to learn how to love, how to communicate, how to contribute, how to be fulfilled, all while knowing it can be taken away by a car accident, war, bombs, gunshots, landslides, heart attacks, rabies, et cetera ad nauseam, and in some cases after it already has. If we don’t show our war face, we’re left with no defenses, imagined or not. How else does one live in a world that is fresh out of fucks?
Seriously. Let me know.