I shaved my head and I don't regret it – why is there so much stigma against bald women?

Last week, Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown was met with backlash for shaving her hair, while a week earlier a girl in a UK school was put in isolation for chopping her locks off for charity

Geraldine Walsh
Tuesday 16 January 2018 13:18
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Shaving your head is rarely done on a whim because of the way a bald head on a woman is perceived
Shaving your head is rarely done on a whim because of the way a bald head on a woman is perceived

Actress Millie Bobby Brown, who portrays Eleven in the Netflix original Stranger Things has, at the young age of 13, already recognised the strength a shaved head can give a woman.

“Shaving your head is so empowering,” Brown said to her legion of fans on Twitter. “You don’t need hair to be beautiful. You are beautiful with or without it.”

Rather than it being a fashion statement, the move by Brown and many other women is about freedom of choice and defying expectations. This generation of women are turning the idea of femininity on its head, quite literally. How a woman perceives herself and portrays herself is changing and many are finding the courage to rid themselves of what society naturally believes makes a woman feminine.

I am one of those women who said no to the normal constructs of society. But after a failed attempt to shave my head at home, I walked into a barber’s with a half-shaved head hiding underneath a slouchy beanie. It wasn’t how I envisaged this empowering moment but when your razor dies halfway through the most impulsive and radical change to your appearance, you don’t have much choice.

“Was it a mistake?” the tattooed barber asked. No, of course it wasn’t a mistake. Were your tattoos a mistake?

Stranger Things - Season 2 Final Trailer

Shaving your head is rarely done on a whim because of the way a bald head on a woman is perceived. Many believe you must be ill. Others meet you with a mixture of shock and bemusement, asking: “Why would you do that to your beautiful hair?”

“What were you thinking?” they ask, as though shaving your head is a catastrophic error you’ll regret forever. As though it won’t grow back. As though it makes you less of a woman.

Opinions are changing, albeit slowly, with strong women such as Brown. But not everyone is so progressive.

Earlier this month, 14-year-old Niamh Baldwin made the choice to shave her head for charity and donate her hair. A courageous and remarkable thing for a young person to do. Disappointingly, she has been ostracised and punished for her personal choice by her teachers at Mounts Bay Academy, who say it is against school policy.

Baldwin was placed in isolation, away from her school friends, until her hair grew back to an “acceptable” length. The archaic attitude has left a sour memory for a school girl who made a decision to step outside the norm.

For me, it was something I had threatened to do for ages but building up the courage to take the blade to your long hair takes some time.

As the last hairs were brushed away from my neck and the chill from the cold air swirled around my newly bald head, I was glad it was winter. The beanie made a dramatic return – the courage to “shave it all off” had not yet made its way to strangers being allowed to see me almost naked and raw. In those first few moments I felt exposed stepping out into that busy shopping centre.

My initial reaction was because of people’s perceptions and nothing to do with whether I was enamoured with my new style, which I was and still am.

It took a few days to gather the guts to drop my daughter to school sans hat because the stares, the quizzical looks, the sometimes awe but more so shock, were very apparent. There were the initial gasps by friends and family, some loving it, some clearly afraid to pass comment which in my mind told me they didn’t like it and they didn’t agree with it. But they don’t have to like it. It’s my head, my choice and my way of expressing myself. My way of standing out from the crowd.

As Brown said on Twitter: “The day I shaved my head was the most empowering moment of my life. The last strand of hair cut off was the moment my whole face was on show and I couldn’t hide behind my hair like I used to. As I looked in the mirror I realised I had one job to do. Inspire.”

I feel more beautiful than ever. Worrying about what my hair looks like is a thing of the past. Worrying about what people think of my shaved head is also in the past. Most importantly, my face is now seen. I am prouder than ever to stand up and be seen. There is nothing to hide behind anymore.

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