The Washington Post has an excellent column today by Robin Givhan entitled “In her latest act of defiance, Hillary Rodham Clinton gets a new, longer, hairdo.” The whole piece is worth reading, and there’s a good slide show, too. Givhan points out the not-so-subtle cultural pressures on women to have “age-appropriate” hair, and how HRC’s new ‘do goes against the traditional “mommy chop” associated with powerful career women, especially those over 40. Givhan writes:
Clinton’s hair, now creeping toward below-the-shoulders territory, is practically radical for Washington’s seasoned female power elite. Good for her.
In our cultural vocabulary, long hair signifies youth, femininity and sex appeal. By contrast, shorter hair is serious, sophisticated, strong.
Cultural pressure to submit to the scissors after a certain age seems rife with an unkind and unspoken subtext that because long locks are a sign of vibrancy and sexiness, it’s a social contradiction to see such styles on women who have wrinkles and crow’s-feet.
When I was 15, I cut my long hair because I wanted to look serious, sophisticated and strong. I wore it that way for almost 20 years, sometimes in a cut so short that even my lesbian boss referred to it as “butchy.” Then I dated a man who loved long, Barbie-style hair. He encouraged me to grow out my chin-length bob. Unfortunately, his campaign for longer hair felt controlling, so I rebelled by keeping it short. When our relationship crashed and I started dating again, I grew it long. (Why yes, there was an element of “fuck you” to that decision. How’d you guess?). Now, it’s halfway down my back. But will I have to cut it short again someday to conform to society’s stereotype of middle-aged women?
Judging by this week’s FFT, we’re all quite proud of our glorious manes. Feel free to weigh in on long vs. short and whether “age-appropriate” applies to hairstyles.