What I Learned From My First Bad Haircut

Bad Haircut

I’ve never been very attached to my hair.  Or so I thought.

For most of my childhood it was long and I liked it just fine.  By the time I hit middle school I decided I wanted something different.  I kept getting it cut shorter and shorter until one day I walked out of the hair salon with a pixie cut.  I loved it.  Having really short hair was fun.  And easy.  I didn’t have to do anything with it.  I kept it that way into high school, but then I got kind of tired of being mistaken for a boy so I decided to grow it long again.  By my senior year it was part way down my back and it had grown back curly.  I now had beautiful, long, thick, curly hair.  I loved it.  I could do all kinds of different things with it or just throw it into a bun if I didn’t feel like messing with it.  But then I got bored so I went to get it cut on a whim.  I cut over a foot off, much to the horror of my hair stylist.  She kept asking me if I was absolutely sure I wanted to cut my hair that short.  I started playing with different lengths and styles and honestly really liked each one I tried.

Like I said, I’ve never been very attached to my hair.  I liked all the styles I’ve tried.  I have naturally curly hair that grows quickly so even if something is less than perfect the curls tend to hide it till it’s long enough to do something different with.

This last time I got my hair cut though I said to myself, this is the style for me.  It’s short and fun.  I can straighten it or leave it curly and it looks great either way.  I can roll out of bed and make it through the day without anyone knowing I didn’t wash or style it that day.  I love my haircut.  I apparently became attached to my hair.  I went in to get it trimmed today and for the first time in my life walked out wanting to cry.  In fact I did cry.  I sat in my car, looked in the mirror, and burst into tears.  It looked awful.

I immediately felt guilty for being upset and even a little disgusted with myself.  I felt vain and shallow for caring so much what I looked like.  I felt ashamed that I hadn’t spoken up when I was getting it cut.  Why hadn’t I said anything and why did I feel so awful about not tipping the man?

The thing is, I did say something to him.  I asked him to even out the front.  Instead he picked up his scissors and made the back even more uneven.  He didn’t listen to me.  He told me that he knew what I wanted and asked me to trust that he knew best.  It was a very disempowering experience.  I felt like this man had stolen my voice.  He had assumed that he knew me and my body (or my hair) better than I did.  This is something that happens to woman everyday, that happens to me everyday.  It is a trivial example of the ways in which a woman’s agency is taken from her.  I should not have to fight to be heard when I am speaking about me, my body, my feelings, my emotions, or my experiences.  And I should not have to justify myself for feeling the need to speak up.  I should not have to speak up more than once or shout to be heard.

And I should not feel guilty about saying no.  Or stop.

The second thing I learned is that my appearance matters to me.  I am a professional woman and I like to look like it.  It makes me feel confident.  Powerful.  It reminds me of the post I recently shared about the power of wearing a read dress.  For me, part of my power comes from having a great haircut.  I should not have to feel guilty for wanting to look good.  For wanting to look good for no reason other than myself.  I should not have to qualify that I am in fact not a diva or a bitch for wanting my hair to look the way I ask.  So, I sucked it up and walked into another salon.  They thankfully took pity on me and only charged me a few dollars to fix it.  And I feel so much better.

It makes me a little sad that I am only just really learning that it is okay to ask for what I actually want and to ask again if the first time it isn’t right.  Maybe I should have gotten a bad haircut earlier in life…


The Flip Side of the Impossible Beauty Standard

Kailie Kloss Airbrushed Ribs

Usually when one looks at a photograph of a model in a magazine we assume it has been airbrushed, we assume it has been photo-shopped to make the model look better; skinnier, larger breasts/butt, brighter eyes, flawless skin, etc.  But what about the above picture where the models ribs have been smoothed out?  She’s been make to look more…healthy.  Thoughts on the above image and the use of photoshop?  What does this say about our society when even the women who live up to the ideal standard of beauty have to be digitally altered to look less sickly?



“Breast Cancer Is Not A Pink Ribbon”

**Trigger Warning**

Photographer David Jay is working to put a new face to breast cancer awareness campaigns.  Normally a fashion photographer he was inspired to start The SCAR Project when a friend was diagnosed with cancer at a young age.  His pictures of young women, ages 18-35, that have survived breast cancer are raw and very powerful.

“For these young women, having their portrait taken seems to represent their personal victory over this terrifying disease. It helps them reclaim their femininity, their sexuality, identity and power after having been robbed of such an important part of it. Through these simple pictures, they seem to gain some acceptance of what has happened to them and the strength to move forward with pride.”

See more of his images here at The SCAR Project’s website.

You can also check The Scar Project on Facebook or at The Scar Project Blog.

The photographer also did an interview with ivillage a couple years ago.

The Growing Gap: Which Average Are We Talking About?

When I hear the word “gap” in relation to women my first thought is the gender pay gap between men and women.  But there is another gap we should be worrying about, the growing gap between the average sized woman, and the average sized model.  “Twenty years ago the average fashion model weighed 8% less than the average woman. Today, she weighs 23% less” according to PLUS model Magazine.

Read the whole story here at ABC News.

The pictures alluded to in the above video can be found at the magazine’s website.  They did a feature earlier this year called “Plus Size Bodies, What Is Wrong With Them Anyway?”  I don’t know that we should be putting women into dichotomous categories of “real” and “models” but that’s a conversation for another time.

Read another response to the feature here.

“Ask Amy” on Loving Your Body

Youtube is such an interesting place.  One minute you find yourself watching funny and cute videos of small children, or kittens, or small children with kittens (Seriously click on that if you want side splitting laughter.  Seriously.), and the next you’re watching Amy Poehler give wise, empathetic, and heartfelt advice to a young woman on loving her body.

It starts out with this question: “Dear Amy, what advice would you give to a young woman with body issues? I’ve never been happy with my body, and I feel like it’s preventing me from loving myself. Love always, Mary Kate.”   

Listen to the response below:

Original video at: Ask Amy Ep 6: Bodies

Check out the rest of the “Ask Amy” series here.

What If She Has No Breasts?

Breasts.  Part of a woman’s anatomy that differentiates her from a man.  Sometimes called a source of empowerment and beauty, they are glorified by men and women alike.  They provide a source of nutrients for our children and to be perfectly honest, sometimes they are down right cumbersome.  But what happens when a woman no longer has her breasts?  When they are taken from her because they become a source of danger in her own body.  Breast cancer is a reality for many women.  According to the CDC 210,203 women in the United States were diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,589 women in the United States died from breast cancer in 2008.  Jodi Jaecks is one of these women.  She made the incredibly tough decision to undergo a double mastectomy to keep the cancer from spreading.

As part of her healing process she decided to try to stay healthy and active by swimming.  The only problem was that all the swimsuits she tried on were too painful on her healing scars.  So she decided to go topless to the public pool instead.  After all she no longer had breasts.  She no longer had anything to cover up.  Despite all of this though, the management still told her she needed to cover up.  She was specifically told that she needed to be wearing “gender appropriate clothing.”

Read the full story here.

Watch the story here.

There are several things that I would like to bring up about this story.  The first is the idea of gender appropriate clothing.  The concept of gender is completely made up.  It is a socially constructed idea that dictates what “normal” should look like for men and women.  It only allows for men and women, he and she, his and hers.  It totally disregards individuals who do not fall into either category.  Either because they feel like they were born into the wrong bodies or because their bodies have both genitalia.  The idea here of gender appropriate clothing then is that women wear women’s clothes and men wear men’s clothes.  Women cover their chests and men don’t.  Period.

This leads me into the next issue.  What if you have a “non-traditional” woman, like Jodi Jaecks, who no longer has breasts?  In her words, how is her chest different from that of a man’s at this point.  She has already had a source of her female identity physically removed and yet they are attempting to force her back into a mold she no longer fits.  It is not even by her own choice.  It was completely out of her control that she got breast cancer.  It leaves me to wonder if it was the fact that she no longer fits into a “normal” category, if that is why she is meeting resistance.  Breasts are central to who a woman is, they make a woman feel womanly, and they allow others to recognize her as a woman.  Without them she disrupts the “normal” in a similar way that people with a physical disability do.  They make others uncomfortable because people are not sure how to treat them.  Scars disturb people.  Ms. Jaecks now has scars where her breasts used to be.  I honestly wonder if this is part of what it is about.  She is now viewed as deformed in some way.  She is no longer “perfect” and society can’t handle it.  She is now different.

As someone whose family has been personally affected by breast cancer I want to say that if part of her healing process (physically and/or emotionally) involves swimming topless then more power to her.  It is a part of accepting her new life.  One without breasts.

Beauty and Makeup: Mary Kay Hosts a Party for Survivors of Domestic Violence

A couple of weeks ago I started working at a domestic violence shelter.  I have been working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault for a while now.  Since I have been doing this my perceptions of strength and beauty have been changing.  I see women come from absolutely horrifying situations, leaving behind everything and everyone they have ever known, and start completely new lives.  They literally have to start over: making new friends, finding a new job, a new home…a new everything.  Where they shop has to change, their babysitter has to change, their bank has to change, and often they have to move to a completely different part of the country.  This is not all true for everyone and of course there are varying degrees of lethality.  Either way, it takes incredible strength to leave someone, often who you love, and start over.  I’ve listened to these women tell me about their children and how they try so hard to keep their sons from turning out like the father.  This is the kind of strength only a survivor can truly understand.  This kind of strength gives these women a different kind of beauty.

Today my boss invited me to come work at an event for the ladies hosted by Mary Kay.  Getting ready I did not know what a big deal it was going to be.  I thought it was going to be a bunch of women from Mary Kay coming to give the ladies a make over.  With this in mind I wore my standard dressed up jeans with a nice jacket and cute flats.  I got there and quickly realized my mistake.  Luckily there were about three other women in jeans so I felt slightly less self-conscious.  But as I looked around there was also a very “boss” looking man, more than a handful of women dressed in black skirts and purple jackets (the Mary Kay consultants), and a lot of volunteers.  There was a catering company that had brought really fancy looking food and there was a lot of make up.  Everywhere.  A photographer walked around snapping pictures and right as the event was starting a local news crew arrived.  I tell you all of this so you realize, as I did, what a big deal it was.

As the women arrived I helped pin ribbons on them, pink for okay to be photographed, and purple for not.  When working with domestic violence survivors their safety, and piece of mind about their safety, is a top priority.  After we all arrived and had sat down the man, who I still am not really sure who he was, got up and introduced the event.  He also introduced my boss, who is the shelter manager and head of the domestic violence unit, she got up and exclaimed how excited she was for the event and that the ladies could be provided with such a wonderful day of pampering, especially near mothers day.  Prizes were given out, raffle tickets handed out for more prizes, and a Mariachi band showed up as a surprise.  Of course there was free make up for the women and about five of them got a full make over from a celebrity makeup artist from New York.

At first I felt like the whole thing was a little silly.  As a woman who can pretty much count on one hand the number of times I’ve worn make up all I could think about was how cultural expectations for women were being perpetuated by this event.  The consultants kept exclaiming how beautiful the ladies were, the man asked things like, “who’s feeling beautiful today?!” and “who’s ready to feel as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside?!” etc.  Just another example of the focus being put on a woman’s body, right?  A woman is nothing more than the sum of her parts.  A woman can only be truly beautiful and sexy while wearing makeup.  These are all things that were running through my head as I sat there eating my food with more than a little cynicism.

But then something happened as I started to look around.  I noticed the women.  They were laughing, smiling, and having a great time.  They were having a moment where the entire attention of the room was on them; on making them feel good, and beautiful.  In that moment they did not have to worry about what tomorrow would be like or even what after lunch would be like.  They were surrounded by women pampering them, doting on them, and telling them they were beautiful.

I got to thinking, so what if societal standards of beauty were being perpetuated, these women didn’t care about that.  So, why did I?  Why couldn’t I just let it go and be happy for them?  And that is what I decided to do.  I let go, laughed with them, complimented them on their looks and focused on not feeling hypocritical about it.  Sometimes a woman needs to hear that she is beautiful.  Especially when she’s gone through all kinds of awfulness where her looks were probably degraded and sex was used as a tool for retaining power and control over her.

Turns out Mary Kay has taken up domestic violence as their social initiative project.  I have my cynical thoughts about this as well, but for now I’m going to continue along the train of thought of letting it go and compliment them on what they are doing.  They have donated thousands of products to shelters, and thrown more than one “beauty party” for survivors.  So, thank you Mary Kay for bringing some light and beauty into the lives of my clients today.  And here’s to my “growing pains.”

“Naturally Born Female”

Below are three different articles about beauty pageant contestant Jenna Talackova.  She was excluded from the Miss Universe Canada pageant due to the fact that she is transgendered or a transitioned woman.

Link 1  News article from CNN

Link 2  Article from Feminist Blog

Link 3  Article from Montreal Gazette’s “Trans Talk” Blog

Thoughts?  I know there are a couple of different issues going on here but I will definitely post on beauty pageants later.  What do you think about someone being excluded because she is not a “naturally born female?”  What does that even mean to you?  Is it discrimination?  Was she rightly or wrongfully excluded?