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Archive for the ‘femininity’ Category

Long hair is a physical characteristic associated with both “femininity” and “masculinity” conventionally defined.
It is a pervasive Western (patriarchal) norm that women grow their hair long and men maintain their hair respectably short(er). Revealingly, men retain a great deal more freedom in hair length normativity/social expectation than do women.
There are exceptions to this norm, but deviants of both genders risk being socially ostracized by defying hair length normality. In United States history, noteworthy examples include:
-The “Flapper” movement of the 1920s in which women adopted a short “bob” cut and took more “lenient” positions regarding the woman’s proper relation to sex, drinking, partying, dancing, and “masculine” activities such as driving cars and smoking. The Flapper was consequently ostracized by “society” (or “Society”) due to her deviation. This movement all but disappeared with the coming of the impoverished Depression 1930s as opposed to the opulent economic conditions of “the Roaring 20s” that gave rise to such feminine liberation. (this is an interesting correlation to bear in mind: whether economic comfort lends itself to greater opportunities for women liberation? There is–or is there?–a connection.)

-The 1960s ushered forth a social rebellion against established norms. The youth population expressed its discontent with US foreign policy and stifling social expectations by being socially reactionary. Men wore their hair long–whether in protest against norms or simply to “conform” to the non-conformist hippie movement. Long hair was “liberating” but also stigma affixed itself to wearers of long hair and this trend (as a trend) died with the end of the 1960s. However, the 60s men wedged their foot in the door of historical norms, thus allowing for men later in US history to wear their hair long and not to be regarded as a “savage” or space alien.

-The 1990s-today allow for many hairstyles that defy normality. Women with short hair and men with long hair can readily be found. However, social and gendered/sexed significance is still attached to one’s hairstyle, indicating that we haven’t moved nearly as far from Victorian ideas as we’d like to believe. A woman can shave her head, but that MEANS something. A woman can leave her hair long, and nothing more is thought of it. We’ve not escaped foolish hairstyle norms.

One is left wondering: why should hair say anything about what’s in between my legs? And the answer is: it shouldn’t. Frank Zappa once remarked, in an exchange with an interviewer:

Interviewer: “So Frank, you have long hair. Does that make you a woman?”
Zappa: “You have a wooden leg. Does that make you a table?”

(NOTE: this is a severely inadequate history of American hair length–particularly because the women and men involved were all white and middle to upper class in social standing. But, then again, isn’t that the typical historical subject of American history? If anyone has other ideas about hair length and historical normativity, please add!!!)

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Norms are expectations set by people in a society that express that societies values, beliefs, and traditions. (more…)

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