A week before I began my freshman year at Howard University in 2011, I went to my local barber, sat in the chair, and told him to cut off all my hair. After years of perms and hot combs burning my scalp and leaving me to equate beauty with pain, I knew it was time for a change. Amid the many stares of the men in the shop questioning why I would want to do that, I felt the buzzers on the nape of my neck and knew I wasn’t turning back. When I left the barbershop, I felt empowered and free; however, the consistent looks and accompanying commentary that soon came with it from people I didn’t even know made me wonder why seeing a woman with a short haircut was such a taboo topic. To be frank, I can count the times I was asked about my health status or sexual orientation — as if either of those were determinants of a woman’s hair choice.
But now more than ever, women are reclaiming their power — and the power that has long been given to their hair. In lieu of long, flowy tresses, many individuals are sporting short, cropped, or buzzed looks. Lest we forget, back in the late ’80s Sinéad O’Connorrebelled against the societal norms of women in the music industry by cutting off all her hair, and Grace Jones lopped off her tresses in an act of rebellion against how women were meant to behave.
It seems this moment is becoming longer than a running trend — celebrities such as Willow Smith, Keke Palmer, Kristen Stewart, Amandla Stenberg, Cara Delevingne, Sanaa Lathan, and the list goes on — have all rocked buzzcuts. Women like Amber Rose pushed the envelope before it became a “thing.” And who can forget even the moments that have forever been encapsulated in pop culture, like Britney Spears infamously shaving her hair off in 2007?
There are modern characters like Eleven from Stranger Things, the amazing Dora Milaje warrior women in Black Panther, and others who have reintroduced what it looks like to be a beautiful, badass woman without hair. Oh, and don’t mistake that the only ones making a difference are on the big screen — even in local communities, buzzed beauties are getting things done, like Emma González. González not only has become a symbol of hope for speaking out on gun reform after the Parkland, Fla., shooting, but also a symbol of female empowerment in her decision to shave her head as a marker of her preparing to continue war against those who uphold current gun regulations. As she puts it, “When you got work to do but your hair’s gettin too long #StonemanStrong #BaldiesGetTheJobDone #MarchForOurLives.” And while it’s not necessarily a political move, it’s still pretty bold.