One of the most frequent questions I get asked is - "What caused you shave your head?" The answer to which is multi-faceted, having morphed and changed as I've gained experience living as a bald woman in America.
I initially shaved my head because I have an auto-immune skin condition known as psoriasis. Psoriasis is a genetic disease that causes an overgrowth of skin cells/tissue in the affected area, giving the skin the appearance of being inflamed and 'flaky'. Sooooo, basically it makes me look a bit like a lizard!
“One day, as a I put my limp mane up in it's usual messy pony, I realized that I had lost literally half the hair I used to grip in that fist.”
Most of my life this condition was not much more than a minor annoyance... Until my body started releasing some of the years of trauma and tension that it had stored up. Then thick patches started spreading across my body, but mostly all over my scalp.
Most days I could mask the flakiness and bright red patches but when I moved into my community and gave up daily showering, the situation escalated. Suddenly, the 'plaque' on my scalp became so thick that it was painful and I developed the habit of scratching it - causing my skin to bleed and tear. I began to lose my hair, almost by the fistful. As a result, I wore hats constantly and stopped looking in the mirror because I hated the way I looked.
One day, as a I put my limp mane up in it's usual messy pony, I realized that I had lost literally half the hair I used to grip in that fist. That as my wake-up call. I went to my partner and said, "I want to shave my head. Will you help me?"
That night I stripped down to nothing but undies and bent forward on our kitchen stool as my partner took his beard trimmer to my head. Before I knew it, long strands of hair littered the floor and I my scalp stung as the cold air hit it from every side. It felt like it took hours to cross the 15 feet to the bathroom. As I flipped on the light and my eyes adjusted to my own image, tears sprang up immediately.
I didn't miss my hair. Not at all. In fact, I actually loved the shape of my 'new' noggin.
I was crying, instead, due to deep grief. As I turned my head from one angle to another, I took in every deep gash, oozing sore, and inflamed bit of infected skin. In front of me stood a regal woman warrior who'd fought a (literal) bloody war against herself on the battlefield of her own beautiful body. I cried because that gorgeous Amazon had a scalp that looked like the hind end of a mangy animal.
I couldn't believe that I'd let myself be in that much pain for that long. I was stricken with the physical evidence of the damage I'd done to myself by being to afraid to confront my own health and insecurities.
There began my journey as a bald woman... but the answer doesn't end here. Because, as I've walked the Earth with a bald crown, many benefits of my decision have been revealed to me.
1) I Get Treated Like a Human
My entire life I've had a body that attracted a lot of attention from the people around me. My busty chest, ample booty and overall voluptuous, pin-up quality seemed to pull in everyone's attention. I'm not going to say that I didn't engage with that energy. In fact, as a young adult, I allowed those attentions to feed my self-hatred and my unhealthy, impulsive behaviors.
Over time, as a I grew into the healthy place I am now, that attention felt more and more aggressive and scary. I no longer craved being fulfilled by someone else's sexual affection so the leering, cat-calling, stares and even stalking became a punch in gut multiple times a day. I just wanted to be seen for my own, personal worth rather than for the fantastical object I could be for someone else.
Shaving my head was like a magic bullet.
From the first day I took to the public with my bald noggin, all of the unwanted attention stopped. Like, automatically. Suddenly everyone saw me as just another person. I no longer experienced disgusting staring that lasted incredibly too long. Gone too were the nasty sneers by other women.
Instead, I get appreciative smiles from men who I hold the door open for... I have actual conversations, in public, with men who don't simply stare at my chest the entire time... And the majority of women love my head! I've gotten dozens and dozens of women who have complimented my beautiful skull and have expressed appreciation of my bravery.
2) It's My Own, Natural Jerk Filter
The reason people stopped giving me all that unwanted attention, as I'm sure you can guess, was because I went from being a sexual object to being an actual person. The loss of my hair took me out of the 'sexually viable' category and put me into the 'undoable' (for men) and the 'non-threatening' (for women) categories.
This has a had another surprisingly helpful benefit: It's my own jerk filter.
Being a polyamorous person, I will spend much of my life being open to love connection with multiple people. This means that I'm in the 'dating pool' pretty perpetually. Connecting with others when I had hair (and was therefor an object) was a nightmare because the best con artists (aka creeps) seemed like nice people. Which meant I got burnt alot.
Now, only the people who enjoy seeing me as a human being are interested in approaching or engaging me in a romantic way. My own, natural, jerk filter.
3) It Has Taught Me The Value of Feminism
So, we've established that a woman's hair (among other things) gives her status as a sexual object. That's pretty sick. But what's sicker is how far that idea reaches.
I went to my mother's home to see my dying grandmother. My step-father was present and upon seeing my bald head said, "Why don't you grow your hair back? I don't like it. It's so dikey. Should I call you Butch now?" Every visit I've had with him present has drawn a comment similar to this one.
Let's realllllly think about this...
A man who has served as a father figure in my life doesn't support the health-based decision that I made for my body because... it affects my sexual viability for him. What?!!
And it's not like this is a rare occurrence. Women and girls hear this from uncle/father/male role models in their lives all the time. We are literal sex symbols for our fathers. And they get applauded for 'being protective' and 'guiding our morals'.
I don't know what set of "morals" these guys are adhering to by devolving us to sexual objects but I see deep ethical issues with that belief system. And this is where feminism comes into play.
I consider myself a humanist because, just as women do, men experience some pretty horrendous expectations around their life, liberty and pursuit of fulfillment. I believe people should be treated fairly and equally. However, experiencing this sexual aggression from even those men closest to me, I see much clearer the need for women to own their voices and stand up for their right to be treated as human.
I have become much louder about women's rights and will continue to advocate for us because:
The liberty I experience by being bald should be available to all women.
The objectification most all women experience at the hands of society needs to end.
I love my bald head! And I have no intentions of going back to the land of hair-having any time soon. So, if you are considering shaving your locks, I say: