Let Felicity be a lesson: American culture has long had a problem with women with short hair.
In 2000, the season after Felicity Porter had her locks shorn in front of a shocked nation, viewership of the eponymous show declined by half. The character, as well as the star who embodied her, Keri Russell, faced a torrent of backlash to the short 'do.
We do know how this ends: More than a decade later, women are still mocked, harassed, chided and derided for cutting their hair. Vice co-founder and infamousThought Catalog troll Gavin McInness even "jokingly" equated women who have short hair with rapists and men.
McInness' piece is an extreme example of the vitriol women face for doing things to their bodies that patriarchy has a problem with. How dare she flaunt her agency? How dare she challenge the feminine status quo as a woman?
Here are a few things women with short hair are tired of hearing:
1. "Are you gay?"
While short hair is a stereotype of gender nonconforming and genderqueer women, having short hair does not make you gay. It's important to remember where this stereotype comes from: Short hair reads as masculine, which some people then equate in women with homosexuality. This, however, is quite simply not true. Look no further than the numerous straight women — Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry and Robin Wright, just to name a few — who rock short haircuts all the time.
2. "Are you heartbroken?"
Heartbreak may offer a moment in a woman's life to re-evaluate her priorities and to spend more time focusing on herself. This may include a new haircut. But this whole hysteria over "breakup" hair is mostly overstated. While cutting your hair is certainly one way to regain control after a tough situation (like a bad breakup), sometimes a haircut is just a haircut — no over-analysis necessary.
3. "Are you having a Britney-breakdown?"
Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes aside, the decision to shave one's head or get a short haircut isn't a sign of the desire to self-mutilate, nor is it a symptom of a mental breakdown. Oh, and women with short hair aren't "damaged" either. It's bad enough that we clearly don't know how to address mental illness in America, creating illogical physical stereotypes only serves to further stigmatize people in both groups.
4. "Don't worry, it'll grow back."
Any iteration in which one voices disapproval is unnecessary. No woman asks for your unsolicited comments, nor does she need your approval. Interjecting your opinion in this context is ultimately a backhanded compliment — that is, no compliment at all.
5. "It looks... cute."
Speaking of backhanded compliments, this hesitantly articulated comment, with an emphasis on the "cute," masks a clear attempt by the speaker to find a way to say something — anything! — kind about a haircut that they disapprove of. But this isn't just an issue of an awkward friend. In some contexts, the use of the word "cute" can be a way to infantilize and belittle, suggesting that a woman's decision to cut her hair wasn't hers at all but that of her inner child.
6. "Do you want to be a man?"
Having short hair does not automatically signal a desire to go through a gender transition. In 2014, it's pretty pathetic that people still have to be told this. Whether or not short hair has culturally been perceived as masculine in modern culture, the assumption that anyone with short hair is masculine and, by additional slippery logic, desires to be a man, is ridiculous and insulting to pretty much everyone. Having masculine qualities is not the same thing as being a man, nor should they be undesirable. Men, like the guy at this blog, are merely threatened by women with short hair because they feel an infringement on their man-power.
7. "Sorry, I only date women with long hair."
It's not only men who create these stereotypes, of course: Women can be just as guilty. Case in point, there is a stereotype among some in the lesbian community that long hair connotes being a pushover in bed. At the same time, long hair has also been used to suggest a very different aspect of a woman's sexuality, her sluttiness. As Laurie Penny writes at the New Statesman, "The 'manosphere' really hates short-haired girls." She explains that beyond this logic, "men like long hair," and they become irate over short hair, which suggests a woman's lack of desire to please a man. And "what sane woman would ever want to do anything that decreases her capacity to please men?"