Recently, Millie Bobby Brown has stated that she wants to shave her head again. This is reflective of a growing trend amongst girls and women in the limelight, from Anne Hathaway to Rose McGowan, forgoing wrestling with long locks and mane-like extensions to give it all up and chop it all off. Worryingly, as with almost every aspect of the media’s treatment of women, this cannot be simple. A hairdo cannot just be a hairdo and women doing anything that pushes the boundaries of classical standards of beauty has to warrant an outcry on social media and countless news articles.
Women doing anything that pushes the boundaries of classical standards of beauty has to warrant an outcry on social media
The media’s treatment of women with short hair is extremely similar to that of women wearing suits. Blake Lively has recently been pretty much living in suits, and who can blame her? They’re practical, they look put together and she looks damn good. This sparked much comment in the media, including ‘An Investigation’ from Glamour magazine. Lively responded to this on Twitter, shrudely pointing out the double standards between the reporting of men and women and stating that she wanted to ‘encourage women to do what men do without being teased for it’. And yet, even in their article praising Lively’s response, the Metro referred to her favoured garments as ‘power suits’, an extremely gendered and sexist term in and of itself.
This all boils down to a simple truth of how our society views women: in order to be powerful, we need to look and act like men. We all too frequently see this trope play out on screen, and often on red carpets as well. Too often is this attributed to a political statement rather than simply a women’s personal preference. In imposing a feminist statement onto a woman’s style choice, you actually take their voice away from them. Not very feminist.
Of course, fashion can be an incredibly powerful tool for social activism and I am not looking to deny what any individual women does or does not find empowering. So often on red carpets celebrities make choices with their outfits or their styling to make impactful statements on a number of issues ranging from feminism to the environment to current affairs, and this is incredibly valuable. Just this last week, Lady Gaga spoke about how she chose to wear an oversized suit in order to ‘take the power back’ as part of an incredibly powerful speech addressing sexual assault. Equally, Millie Bobby Brown tweeted that for her shaving her head was ‘the most empowering moment of [her] whole life’. The important thing to remember is that in both these instances, it is the individual who set the terms of what their fashion choice meant to them, and whether there is a political message behind it or whether they simply prefer it their choices are equally valid.
it is the individual who sets the terms of what their fashion choice meant to them
Personally, I’m just tired of it. I’m tired of the predominant image of ‘empowered women’ in the media being a classically beautiful woman with short hair, or a statuesque, slender woman in a form fitting and often revealing suit. Blake Lively’s suit does not empower me, her incredible charity work saving children from sexual abuse does. Millie Bobby Brown’s shaved head does not empower me, her way of handling the media as a young women in a famously misogynistic industry does. The attribution of empowerment to hairstyles or clothing is just another way of reducing a woman’s meaning to her appearance, and we are all so much more than that. Also, trousers are comfortable and short hair is easy, so let us rock them in peace.