Sam Holstein

4 Things People (Wrongly) Assume About Women With Short Hair

4 Things People (Wrongly) Assume About Women With Short Hair

As of right now, your author has nearly shoulder-length hair. Occasionally it falls in large graceful curves and looks beautiful, but most of the time it looks a bit like Hermione Granger’s hair from their first year.

However, I am considering cutting off my hair again.

I started growing out my hair two years ago, but for most of my college career, my hairstyle only came in two options — short and shorter.

I also did not follow the advice of my hairstylist and fashionable friends and did not offset this hair length choice by wearing flowery dresses, headbands, or other adorable accessories. I just wore what I wanted, when I wanted. (How dare I).

Your author was often mistaken for a fanatical socialist or a lesbian

In fact, I’ve had almost every type of short haircut, running from the bright-blue hair tuft to the almost-mohawk to the severe undercut. And while I had fun playing with my hair throughout college, the most educational part of that experience was what other people thought of my hair.

People’s opinion of my hair was often indicative of the kind of people they were. And here’s the kind of assumptions they made…

These assumptions are less common in blue states or in urban areas, but even in these liberal environments, people made them frequently.

1. People assume you’re a lesbian

As we all know, regular, normal, healthy women always have long hair. Especially if they’re under thirty. Anyone under thirty with short hair must be making some kind of statement. And they assume that statement is that you’re a lesbian.

This assumption is remarkably persistent. Even if you say out loud “I am heterosexual, I want to have sex with men,” people will still think you’re a lesbian — just one who hasn’t come out of the closet yet.

Most interesting is that actual lesbians never assumed I was a lesbian. The people who were assuming I was a lesbian were usually older, usually male, and sometimes offended by my theoretically lesbian presence.Actual lesbianscould tell in an instant I was not one of them.

Exception: If you constantly wear dresses, dangling earrings, and other hyper-feminine clothing options, people will not assume you’re a lesbian. They will, however, assume you’re a manic pixie dream girl.

This always led me to think it wasn’t really about my sexual orientation, but about outdated ideas people had about gender presentation.Obviously all straight women have long hair (unless they are over thirty and thin, in which case they may adopt the tasteful mom pixie), so if you are a woman under thirty and do not have long hair, you are obviously not straight.

2. People assume you’re a lefty

Sometimes, though, the lesbian theory doesn’t pan out. When I went in public with my then-boyfriend, people were forced to acknowledge I was not a lesbian. Why then, would a regular woman have such short hair?

Obviously, I was not a regular woman. I was a crazed socialist.

As we all know, all Good, Christian, American Women have long hair. Therefore, if you have short hair, you must somehow not be a Good, Christian, American Woman. Perhaps you do drugs. (I didn’t do drugs). Perhaps you’re a lesbian. (I am not a lesbian). Perhaps you are a raging lefty.

I have no problem with raging lefties. I am currently a raging lefty. But at the time I had short hair, I was not a raging lefty. In fact, I was a Republican journalist for Campus Reform and The College Conservative. When I attended CPAC 2016 as a reporter, a conference where Republican primary candidates speak, people assumed I was from a Democrat or Socialist magazine and probably a crazed socialist. When I first started growing out my hair and it was still rather short, a man I started seeing told me when he first met me, he assumed I was a “psycho feminist.”

If you are actually a serious lefty, this is not much of a drawback for you. But if you don’t have strongly held political opinions, be careful, because people might start assuming you do.

3. People treat you less kindly

Most young women in America, regardless of how attractive they are, are given a certain level of preferential treatment as a result of existing in a body that is also a desired object. People smile at us, policemen are forgiving of us, and older male store managers give us discounts or free items.

Once you cut off your hair, though, many people stop giving you these kindnesses. After all, given that you are now likely a lesbian, maybe a crazy lefty, and definitely not a fuckable object, there is no reason for anyone to do so.

I had short hair for long enough that I’d honestly forgotten what it was like to have long hair. But once I started growing out my hair, the change in the way people treated me was remarkable. People started smiling at me in the street. They started telling me about what a lovely young woman I must be. They started giving me discounts in stores. (This is even more interesting given that my clothing style got progressively more masculine and aggressive over this time period).

4. People give you backhanded compliments (unintentionally)

When I show people photos of what I looked like with a buzz cut, the most common compliment I receive is “You can really pull that off,” followed closely by “You have the face for that.” The phrasing of the compliment always implies having short hair is some kind of a cost, but that I am so beautiful that I can bear it.

The fact that we see women with short hair as less beautiful (and men with long hair as less masculine) is not the result of some kind of biological reality. What constitutes ‘appropriate’ hair length is a cultural construct. Whether we are able to perceive people with ‘inappropriate’ hair as attractive has nothing to do with our biological sexual drive and everything to do with the attitude we take toward people in our lives.

Honestly, this point extends further — most of what we consider ‘attractive’ is culturally determined. Right now, thin muscular white women with long hair are the “most attractive” type of woman, but there are moments in history where that wasn’t the case. Several decades ago, being thin enough to warrant dietary intervention was considered the most beautiful. Several centuries before that, having a full figure was most beautiful.

Young Woman In A Blue Dress, Jacopo Negretti

People’s backhanded compliments were always completely ignorant of this reality.

I never hesitated to correct people. Another thing people say to women with short hair often is “That looks great on you, but I could never pull it off!” Here is what I would always say in response:

There are no fashion police, no cultural dignitaries walking around judging our adherence to this fashion rule or that cultural imperative. The reason I pulled off short hair is not that I have enough natural beauty to “overcome” the short hair or because I had “the right facial shape” or “the right hair texture” or any of that other crap people say. I pulled off short hair because I wanted to. It’s that simple.

Also: Fewer men are interested in you

Last but not least — when you are a woman with short hair (especially if you don’t dress it up with hyper-feminine accessories like heels and hair accessories), fewer men are interested in you.

The reason for this is simple. There are a lot of men who just scan their environment, looking for any woman which fulfills a pretty simple set of characteristics (thin, long hair, girly clothes, etc) and flirt with any woman who meets with these criteria.

If it sounds like I’m being harsh, consider the opposing stereotype: a woman who only dates men who are tall, at least somewhat muscular, who wears flannel, and who possibly drives a truck.

A man refusing to date a woman with short hair is the male version of a woman refusing to date a short man.

When you don’t have long hair, you fall decisively out of the running for these flirtations, leaving you with only the men who are interested in who you actually are as a person.

All that being said, I’m still considering cutting off my hair again. Having long hair may get me the sympathy of police officers and discounts when I go shopping at small businesses, but honestly, it’s a pain in the ass.

It’s constantly in my face, I have to buy and keep hairbands in all sorts of random locations, it requires an ungodly amount of shampoo, and it takes hours to dry (meaning no more spontaneous pool or river swimming), and I can’t put the windows down in my car during the summer.

People say “just pull your hair up,” but then I have this weird knot in the back of my head so I can’t put my head against the seat (making it difficult to do this in cars), I have to wear a headband as well so the little flyaways don’t take their revenge, and leaving my hair pulled up for more than an hour or two hurts. I literally don’t know how other women do it.

Most importantly: Long hair isn’t me.

If we lived in a world where short hair was the norm and long hair the aberration, there is no way on God’s green earth I would even bother trying to maintain long hair. I only started growing it out because I caved to the cultural pressure for women to have long, beautiful hair.

I wanted to be beautiful.

But what, exactly, does it mean to “be beautiful?” As we established earlier, beauty isn’t an inborn biological reality. What society considers beautiful is a construct. Trying to be beautiful, then, is merely an attempt to conform onesself to a cultural construct in order to reap the societal benefits.

I understand the allure of doing this. People who fit into society (read: young, attractive white people) are treated a lot better than those who don’t. For people who almost fit in — heavier white people, nonbinary + gay white people, minorities (possibly trans or gay) who could pass as white with the right cosmetics — the temptation to do what it takes to fit in can be overwhelming. If all that stands between you and preferential treatment is a few distasteful fashion decisions, it’s difficult to say no.

But every time we do what it takes to fit in, we reinforce these cultural standards. Instead of representing everyone who has ever felt different, we’re just representing the standard making us feel different in the first place.

Bet you didn’t think I could get this political about women’s hair.