Why cutting your hair is a good thing: Miley Cyrus and her self-expression with scissors


One of the few spheres of personal beauty (emphasis on the personal) where stereotypical femme style is not a gasping matter is hair on cis men and women. Girls of all ages and colors grow their hair to long and beautiful lengths, or buy weaves that grace the seam where jeans meet shirt. Cis men can have shoulder-length hair (See: Johnny Depp) and it is considered sexy or suave. Some might make comments that it seems unruly or untamed, but no one would write a “news” article on it.

But this isn’t the only, or most glaring, difference between the two fashion choices. The response from the general public makes the difference all the more clear.

Miley Cyrus is the latest survivor of unfriendly and invasive criticism from anyone who has internet connection. The former Disney star wore stereotypical femme haircuts her entire career- long, layered, bangs, often blonde. Within the last week she did what I have always dreamed of: putting your hair up, closing your eyes, and hearing the satisfying schick of scissors as someone chops your ponytail off. No going back, no regrets- you have shed the organic accessory society has told you is essential to your gender.

What surprised me was what seemed to be the voices of haters conflating to send a deeper message: “For God’s sake, Miley…stay in your gender box.” People tweeted, blogged, and commented about how ugly or bad it looked. People made jokes- some jokes about how she was pulling a “2007 Britney Spears.” Yeah, because cutting your hair short as a cis and femme woman must mean that you are mentally unstable or having a meltdown, right? People even wrote articles about it on news websites and gossip websites. Some people used word like “controversial” to describe it. At first, all I could think was, It’s a fucking haircut.

But then I thought longer and harder. It became clear that it was another example of patriarchy policing women’s bodies. I read about people like Tyler the Creator (a man) who tweeted, “Your barber is an a**hole,” and then later deleted it. People could not wait find out “What Liam thinks,”- as if Miley’s looks might somehow negatively affect her fiance. Miley’s choice was no longer just about fashion. It was about expressing herself, and the rest of the world bringing her down for it. Specifically, expressing herself in a way that breaks down the gender binary. It is disappointing that it is still shocking and irritating to folks, in the year 2012, that a woman cut all of her hair off because she wanted to. People become aggressive and insulting when a woman makes a choice that, especially in the uncomfortably and overwhelmingly bright light of fame, does not fit society’s standards for a femme woman.

Miley gracefully responded that she didn’t care what people thought, and she tweeted: “Feeling so happy in my skin.” Miley is sending the message to young girls that they can express themselves however they want, and feel beautiful for the choices they make as well as the way they look. And kudos to her boyfriend for saying, “Her hair looks great. It’s a big change—it looks really fantastic.” Although it is exactly what he should be saying about the woman he loves, it takes courage in this society to support a woman for her choices at the risk of your bros saying something insensitive.

What can be problematic about her haircut though, is that it is a style typically associated with women of marginalized sexual orientations and women of color. These groups of people have worn hair like this for decades; when a straight white girl does it, it’s worthy of a celebrity gossip story (which I know isn’t saying much). However it does say something about the types of people we allow to dominate our pop culture and media. I can only hope that young girls out there, of all shapes and colors, see Miley’s haircut and admire her for it. Hell, even cut their hair the same way. Or at least be inspired to wear their hair in any fashion they think looks good on them. Oh, and if you already feel like a grade A b-hole for judging Miley and her new look, rumor has it she donated her hair for cancer patients. In the words of Janis Ian from Mean Girls, suck on that!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation