Simone’s Beauvoir and Isabel Allende, acclaimed writers and feminist activists, have accompanied me with paragraphs and laughter on those quiet afternoons, where a novel is enough to escape routine. Without leaving aside the fact that her characters and plots have managed to inspire thousands of women around the world —including me—, on this occasion I will say that two of her phrases, captured in my mind, are the ones that today helped me in the process of creating a text on hair as a feminist issue. Those significant words, which you are about to read, helped me connect stories with which you surely relate and will also cause a scenario that is as real as it is emotional in you. Here they go with everything and history…
You are not born a woman, you become one.
This famous phrase of the activist and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, has a lot to do with hair as a feminist issue. Once we learn to differentiate between sex and gender, this statement makes more sense. The first is merely biological and represents the physical characteristics. Instead, the second has to do with social construction and what is expected of a woman.
In addition to behavior patterns, of course personal image is an important issue. And yes, with the passage of time it seems to some that we have broken the barriers of gender and what is expected of us above expressing who we really are. However, much remains to be done.
The act of cataloging short hair as a men’s exclusive style and the length only for women, it is very common. Also, there are certain styles that do not fit into the categories of sexy, feminine and attractive. For some, wearing very short hair (as a woman) is treading on dangerous ground.
“Feminism does not end, it only evolves.”
The second sentence and my favorite from Isabel Allende: “Feminism does not end, it only evolves.” And so it happens. So it has been. Barriers have been broken, but not all.
Summarizing the timeline, the first feminist wave began with Olympe de Gouges in 1791, when he wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen, which proposed equal rights for men and women. Women sought to free themselves from exclusive tasks for them, such as taking care of their home and satisfying their partners. They could not vote or make decisions.
Something similar happened in England and the United States: in the 19th century, suffragettes rose up in a second feminist wave, fighting collectively to get the vote, among other things.
The third wave comes with Simone de Beauvoir. Despite the fact that between the period of the First and Second World Wars some countries accepted the vote for women and incorporated them into the academic and labor world, people were just beginning to talk about the roles that society imposed on the female sex, also referring to the responsibilities attributed to both genders.
Later, between the 1960s and 1990s, the collective struggle was in favor of breaking with the patriarchal system, of uprooting the system that dominates women.
#MeToo, #NiUnaMás and many others hashtags have made themselves present in the 21st century. The needs now are different, we have done, undone and fought, but the fight is still on.
And let’s not forget what’s happening right now. This is where hair takes on a leading role. A part of the new wave feminist has supported characters like An San, archer and three-time gold winner at the Olympic Games. Despite her success, she received macho attacks and the public even asked her to return her medals. An was accused of hating the male sex and “being too feminist” because of her haircut. Next act: Thousands of women rose up in a media campaign, posting images of her equally short haircuts in defense of the athlete with the #women_shortcut_campaign. Isn’t it a shame that we have reached this point in the 21st century?
Another example that cannot be overlooked is that of women in Iran, who protest the police’s imposition of morality—which forces them to hide their hair under a veil—by cutting their hair short. This act demonstrates anger, mourning, and a cry to change cultural norms. “For women to cut their hair is an ancient Persian tradition… when fury is stronger than the power of the oppressor,” writer Shara Atashi wrote in a tweet. “The moment we have been waiting for has arrived. Politics fueled by poetry.
As a symbolic act of solidarity, thousands of women have cut their hair in favor of their (our) rights. They need freedom. We all seek freedom.
Of course, these are just two highly publicized and debated examples. And so, there are thousands of stories. There are even haircuts that have historical events behind them…
He bob cut is associated with the flappers, those women who freed themselves from macho oppression, tight clothing and long hair in the 20th century. Of course, at that time it was frowned upon by conservative social groups. Before the Bob It was synonymous with irreverence and rebellion. It was worn by alcoholic women who liked to wear the short skirt. The church saw it as a sin and was even related to health problems. Things have changed so much that it is now one of the most requested styles in beauty salons.
For his part, just like the Bob during the 1920s, the cut to la garconne appeared as a feminist manifesto. Short and rowdy, with a “masculine” air, this style was the one worn by the protagonist of a book (the garconne) published at the time. Monique was from Paris, from a conservative and wealthy family. You can imagine: they wanted to arrange a marriage for him. However, she decided to go the other way, cut her hair and become a successful businesswoman. She, without a doubt, represented the desire of women to be free, just like the haircut.
Other cuts like the so-called tomboythe shaved hair, the pixies and, in general, short styles, are linked to feminism. Listing them all right here could be a never ending story. However, notice how everything has a connector: the search for freedom.
The fight is the same for everyone. There are those of us who are fortunate enough to take to the streets every March 8, but there is the other side of the coin: while some of us scream, many do not return. As we march and see things from the outside, many suffer from conditions we can’t even imagine. Even every day, at all hours, somewhere in the world, there is a woman who decided to put her life at risk to defend the rights of all. Thanks to those who have fought, today we are where we are. But there’s still too much to do.
Going back to the initial question, is hair a feminist issue? Of course. Share your opinion with us at @allthingshairmx. We read you!