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Reclaiming Identity: The symbolism of the “big chop” in women’s lives

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCT chapter.

If you are anything like me, you have had the urge to go through some drastic change, particularly during life’s more challenging moments. This always comes to me as the impulse to cut my hair. Despite constantly having this urge, I have never done it, not because of a lack of desire but because of the societal pressure to conform to certain beauty norms. This article aims to delve into the symbolism of the “big chop” and its significance for countless women. Through this exploration, I hope to inspire us all to embrace our impulses, without fear, the next time we feel the urge for change.

1. Breaking societal norms:

Conventional societal standards have determined that a woman’s hair should be a certain length or style for a woman to be categorised as beautiful. This places so many women in a box and forces us to attempt certain styles that do not suit us or simply damage our hair in an attempt to conform to these standards. The “big chop” challenges these standards and allows us to redefine beauty according to our own terms.

2. New beginnings:

It’s often said that “hair holds memories,” encapsulating experiences, moments, and significant events throughout various stages of our lives. This is why it is no surprise that some women opt to cut their hair after a traumatic experience. The loss of hair can help in the healing process and is often a symbol of liberation and starting afresh.

3. Embracing authenticity:

Authenticity: the quality of being genuine or real. Going through the “big chop” tends to be a personal and introspective journey. It is a literal shedding of layers that one no longer desires to have, whilst simultaneously the embracement of change. Some people tend to hide themselves with their hairstyles, such as getting bangs to hide a forehead which they are insecure about or even keeping long luscious curls to hide the acne on their neck. However, cutting your hair allows you to embrace all your beauty and embrace the features that make you, you.

4. Redefining beauty:

Society has a very narrow definition of beauty that often excludes women with short hairstyles or hairstyles considered unconventional. The “big chop” challenges these perceptions and allows beauty to be redefined in all its diverse forms. It allows for individuality to be celebrated and ultimately encourages women to accept themselves and express their beauty as they see fit.

5. Cultivating Confidence:

Embarking on the “big chop” journey itself takes courage. Deciding to step out into the world with a new look further embodies this courage and self-assurance for the world to witness. Women can present their inherent beauty and cultivate confidence from within. This confidence is a reminder of our ability to face change with grace and poise.

6. Inspiring others:

All it takes is seeing someone rocking their short hair and how comfortable they are in their skin to get us thinking we could, too. This has been evident in recent years with people like Zozibini Tunzi, the longest-reigning Miss Universe, and Shudufhadzo Musida, Miss South Africa 2020. By embracing their natural looks, they became catalysts for change and inspiration to others. They have encouraged many women to break free from societal barriers, embrace their authenticity, and live unapologetically.

In conclusion, the “big chop” transcends its physical act and becomes a symbol of empowerment, self-expression, and liberation for women. It is a transformative journey that challenges societal norms, celebrates authenticity, and fosters confidence. By embracing this symbolic gesture, women reclaim ownership of their bodies, redefine beauty on our terms, and inspire others to do the same in a world that dictates otherwise.

Information Systems Student | Writer & Creative Committee Member. When not immersed in coding, or data analysis, I’m a lover of art in all its forms. So you will probably find me reading a good book, journaling, taking pictures or purely gazing at art. If not, catch me at the nearest mall indulging in some retail therapy :)