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BlogNew Organizing Project (NOP)

To Shave or Not to Shave?

By August 18, 2011One Comment

By Joyce Yin
New Organizing Project blogger 



(Photo Credit:


For the longest time, I’ve thought about shaving my head. I keep telling myself that I’ll do it but I always end up chickening out. I don’t know why I have such apprehension about it – it’s just hair, right? It’ll grow back. Why am I so attached to it?

As I talked with other women and mentioned to them that I was thinking of shaving my head, many of them were surprised that I’d want to do such a thing and would follow with ‘why?’ They couldn’t understand why I’d want to do such a thing. Even when we talked about getting short haircuts, like chin-length or maybe a little shorter, many of my friends couldn’t fathom doing it. They just couldn’t comprehend it.

Truth be told, I can’t quite understand it either. I’ve always been a little more sensitive than usual when it comes to my hair. It’s played a sizable role in shaping my understanding of my identity as an AAPI woman and while it took some time, I’ve come to embrace my frizzy, out-of-control waves as they are. When I wear my hair in its natural state, for me, it’s like a middle finger to beauty corporations that constantly tell women that straight hair is the ideal that we should all aspire to.

So maybe that’s why I’m so hesitant to shave it all off. It’s my political statement. It’s inherently become who I am. To get rid of it would be [temporarily] erasing a part of me and that’s a little scary. And I’ll admit, I think a part of me is entrenched in the line of thinking that in order to ‘be a woman,’ then you need to have at least some hair on your head. No hair [or even short hair] must mean you’re trying to be a man or you’re just butch and ‘real’ women aren’t supposed to do that. I hate myself for thinking that way but when you’ve been socialized your entire life to think this way, it’s a long process to disassemble those ideas. This doesn’t justify it but it’s hard to tell yourself to stop doing something that you’ve been doing for a very long time.

But at the same time, there’s something that seems so…..powerful about being a woman and shaving your head. It’s a pretty big statement, no? Think about it: what are the thoughts that run through your mind when you see a woman with absolutely no hair on her head? For me at least, admittedly once I get past the initial shock, I think about how badass that woman is. It’s like she’s saying, ‘F- you’ to traditional notions of femininity and it just shows confident and comfortable she is in her own skin.

As I did some Googling about shaved heads, I came across some rather interesting backstory about this particular hairstyle, if you can call it that. History shows that a shaved head holds a lot more significance than one might think it does:

The bare-headed Christian or Buddhist monks told of their devotion or a renunciation of worldly pleasures. More commonly, shaven heads have been associated with trauma, brutality and the loss of individuality or strength. In biblical legend, Samson was deprived of his incredible power and killed when his hair was cut off while he was asleep. In ancient Greece shaved heads were a mark of the slave. Shorn hair is inflicted on the sick, and has been deployed by armies to both dehumanise their own soldiers and punish their enemies. In the second world war, the heads of French collaborators were shaved as part of their public humiliation. Among skinheads, a shorn head was a symbol of aggression. Among lesbians, a shaved head, or short hair at least, came to be a symbol of their abandoning of traditional man-pleasing femininity.

(via The Guardian)

In the modern day, not much has changed. For men, shaving their head is still a sign of masculinity, toughness, that you’re starting fresh. For women, buzzing it off must mean that you’re a lesbian. Or you’re a cancer patient. Or you have gone clinically insane. And why in the world would you want to be any of those things?

A prime example of this logic is when Britney Spears shaved her head. Remember that? The media and fans of Britney almost exploded with questions of ‘WHY?’ and ‘what is wrong with her?!?!’ Granted, at that point, it did seem like Britney’s life was slowly spiraling out of control. But I found it interesting that for many people, this specific incident was what ‘legitimized’ all the speculation about her [in]sanity. Clearly, by shaving her head, she really had gone off the deep end.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I still can’t decide if I should go through with it or not. I feel like it would be great to be free of my twenty gajillion pounds of hair [trust me, this is not that big of an exaggeration] and it would be super empowering but I don’t know if I could bear to part with something I’ve only recently begun to embrace.

What do you think, readers? To shave or not to shave?




One Comment

  • hairyasian says:

    personally, i find it sexy. not in the physical sense, but b/c it does show a lot of strength and independence. and that’s a very good thing. either way, whatever you decide, decide for yourself 🙂