For the past couple of days, I’ve been dissecting/overanalyzing/pondering Kris’ performance/post “The Bald and the Beautiful.” What an inspirational and powerful piece! Like many great art pieces with a message, it made me think (and want to think) about key issues affecting our lives, bodies, sanity, society, etc. Most of all, it made me ask – what is beauty? Why are we obsessed with it? And most of all, why does the idea of beauty make so many of us feel so ugly?
As anyone with an Art History background can tell you, beauty “trends” have come and gone. The plump Rubenesque women are, for example, a far cry from the heroin chic waifs of the 90s. Yet, there is a “beauty standard” that transcends both time and culture, and most of all, there is (and always has been) pressure for girls to meet those standards. The only thing that has changed is the pervasiveness of the media and its reach. While two hundred years ago, the close knit community, including family, were the ones pressuring young girls to appropriate those standards, today the media hurls unrealistic standards at us as if taunting us with a better life. If you looked like me, they seem to say, you would have everything you ever dreamed of– but Kris is right, beauty is not happiness; being comfortable with who you are is. After all, what is beauty but a fleeting idea no one can ever achieve without a deep understanding of themselves.
And I think that is why chopping off your hair is so liberating. Long hair for a woman is one of those beauty standards that have transcended both time and culture. Cutting it off and basically saying “I don’t need this to be myself” entails a certain level of confidence that exhumes beauty. I’ve noticed that most men, especially the macho type, are threatened by that level of confidence. It’s not a question of “you don’t have hair anymore, you’re no longer attractive to me,” but more along the lines of “you’re not out there to please anyone but yourself, I won’t be able to control you, I’m out.” The reaction I’ve gotten from many men ever since I cut my hair has been along those lines; there is always a palpable, uncomfortable feeling, as if they now know something about me they didn’t before. In part, that is why most women (and gay men), I think, can appreciate short hair on other women – there is a sense of camaraderie, of wanting, yearning for that liberation themselves.
The topic of identity and the media is something that is close to me and has had a tremendous impact on my life and my identity. If any of you read about my antics as a five year old performing a Yoko Ono stunt sporting a yellow leotard and shaved head, you can get a glimpse into my life long obsession to tear away those beauty standards imposed on us by a patriarchal society. Yet, I fell into the trap as well – I had my foray into modeling and combatted an eating disorder as a teenager. If anything, it just made me stronger, made me realize that beauty that can be bought, sculpted, molded, airbrushed, is not beauty at all. Beauty must be earned; beauty is what we feel when we are finally at peace with the cards we have been dealt.