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Beauty

How Letting Go of My Long Hair Transformed My Perspective of Femininity

Having a luscious head of hair is presented as an integral aspect of traditional femininity. A woman’s hair needs to be styled and neat in order to make her look professional or put-together, and long hair is always valued as more feminine than a cropped cut. Despite innovations in our current culture, there are still social pressures to fit into a standard idea of feminine beauty. When women make the cut (chopping their hair super short), they’re often asked if they’re okay, or if they’re made the chop because they'e secretly having a breakdown.

It’s infuriating to have anyone police your appearance, and this causes even more turmoil when you’re the one who’s most hung up on your hair.

Since I was young, I’ve always been incredibly proud of my hair. Although it’s not a particularly unique color, and it wasn’t flowy when I walk, I would get plenty of compliments on how long and lovely it was. It was my brown hair, and I loved it. So, from childhood onward, I decided that I would never, ever cut my hair off. I wanted it to be as long as Rapunzel’s. I was definitely influenced by her and the other fairy-tale beauties with long, flowy hair. When I went to the hair salon to get my ends trimmed, I would burst into tears when the hairstylist would show me the healthy amount to cut off.

Everything changed when I turned 12. I was still in love with my hair, but I decided I wanted to do something selfless with it. This decision caused me a lot of stress at first, but I wanted to positively impact the lives of other people instead. I decided to cut my hair so that I could donate it to Locks of Love, an organization with the intention to make wigs for kids with cancer who have lost their hair. I cut my hair myself. I couldn’t bear to have anyone do it for me. With my mom’s help, I tied my hair up into two pigtails, before snipping them off. I ended up donating 13 inches of hair, and I went on to do it twice more. In six years, I’ve cut my hair three times to ridiculously short lengths. Right now, it’s back to just about reaching my waist.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Related: I Stopped Thinking About Cutting My Hair, & Finally Just Did It

Now, with years of reflection behind me, I’ve tried to figure out why cutting my hair always causes me so much distress. I think some of it stems from the thought that I might look masculine if my hair is too short—but what does it even mean to look masculine? As a queer Latina, gender feels like something very distant, yet an intrinsic part of me. It feels distant because femininity is whatever you want it to be: you can be soft and powerful, you can be bold and fragile. Or, you can be anything from daring to strong, to a magnate, a tycoon, and hard. You can be whatever you want to be within your femininity and that doesn’t make you any less feminine (if that’s what you want to be). My femininity has evolved and that’s why the duality of gender feels like something I participate in but won’t let define me (as much as I can).

However, even while I try my hardest to be aware of the way in which gender shapes me, and while I try to break from the patterns imposed on me, sometimes it’s still incredibly hard to do so. Gender roles are very pronounced in my culture. Puerto Rico, especially in some of the older generations, holds onto cultural colonially-produced baggage that shapes a lot of the ways in which we act. As a culture, there is still a standard of beauty that is white, thin, and ostentatiously traditionally feminine. Having long hair checks off these boxes, and it’s definitely a beauty standard I couldn’t seem to break away from. And who would expect a ten-year-old to break away from something so pronounced? Slowly, I’ve come to realize that what really matters is how I see myself, and that beauty and femininity are rooted in the person I am, not my physical appearance.

Now, my femininity allows me to be free. I’ve come to realize that it’s a socially constructed ideal that I can deconstruct and reshape to fit my needs as I please. If I feel like wearing traditionally feminine things or styling my hair in a traditionally feminine way, great! If there are days when I simply don’t feel like sticking to those traditions, I just won’t do it. I’ve promised myself that one day I will finally shave all my hair off and I’ll finally feel truly free (which is what shaving my head has meant all along). I try my hardest to project confidence in who I am, in who I dress, and in what my gender means to me so that confidence will be returned to me two-fold.

Yes, there are days when it’s hard to understand who you are and what you want, but that’s okay. It’s alright to feel shaky and it’s alright to be confused. You can rework gender paradigms to make them fit into what you need. If you’re someone with the privilege to do so, go ahead, and try your hardest to help those who don’t have the privilege to feel comfortable within their gender.

Something like your hair shouldn’t have to intrinsically determine your self-worth (unless you want it to). The point is, you have a right to choose what actually matters in terms of your physical appearance. You can allow yourself to shape who you want to be.

Antoinette Luna is a Performance Studies and Comparative Literature major at the UPR. Her passions include writing, reading, and anything crafty. She loves to sew, write, and make things from scratch. DIY is the name of her game. Around campus, she is known as a bubbly young woman who goes by just Luna. Her future goals include traveling, traveling, and more traveling. Outspoken transfeminist, and wannabe activist, she's out to set fires.
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