In November 2015, Rose McGowan famously shaved off her luscious locks.
McGowan revealed that after removing her hair, everyone would ask her if she had broken up with someone.
“When I shaved my head it was a battle cry, but more than that it gave me an answer to the question I so hated. Did I break up with someone? Yes I broke up with the world.”
Like McGowan, I shaved my head too but for very different reasons.
It was my 32nd birthday. I felt the need to strip myself back. To remove all that had gone before.
The death of my parents and brother.
And my journey through domestic violence.
My hair had accompanied me through three decades of trials and tribulations. Much like my life — it was beginning to feel heavy and dead.
I used my hair to hide behind. It was a long dark mane that covered up my thoughts and sadness. I would use it to shade my face when traveling on public transport. I would use it to mask my eyes when being fucked by men.
My hair had acted as a smokescreen between me and the world but now it felt more like a burdensome blanket and it was suffocating me.
My multitude of personal problems coupled with the insecure existence of being an actress and writer was sinking me.
I was working nights in a job that I hated and surviving on a diet of champagne, cigarettes and sleeping pills.
A friend and I rented out a beach shack to celebrate my 32nd birthday. I remember my hair severely agitating me from the moment I woke up.
It was close to midnight when I handed my friend the scissors.
“Cut off my hair,” I said.
The two of us stood in front of the tiny, cracked mirror and she began to cut.
At first, she would only cut from the bottom and only tiny bits at a time.
“Cut from the top, so there is no going back!” I barked.
She cut and she cut. Large chunks of my black hair fell to the floor.
My past was being stripped away, as she worked around my head with those trusty scissors. Followed by a “buzz” with the shaver.
The mission was now complete. I was 32 and I’d had a rebirth.
All the remnants of my old self were scattered around our bare feet. I remember feeling so light, both spiritually and physically. I remember asking myself the question: “Why didn’t you do this sooner?”
Walking around in this world as a woman with a shaved head is a fierce act of rebellion. People stare. People assume that you’re either a cancer patient or a lesbian. And when you tell them that you made “a choice” to shave it. They look at you suspiciously.
I learnt a lot about my own bravery through shaving my head. It takes ‘vagina’ to turn one’s back on a societal ideal of beauty. It takes ‘vagina’ to be stripped bare.
Women are attached to their hair and most will never shave their heads in their lifetime, which is their personal choice. But as McGowan concludes in her excerpt:
“I meet so many women and girls that tell me their hair is a security blanket and what they hide behind. I found both not only relatable, but heartbreaking. Of course, you should have long hair if YOU feel like having long hair but examine your motives. What part does society play in telling you how you should look? What part does media play in showing you what you should be? Why do you want to live a life in hiding and what are you hiding from?”
It’s been eight years since I shaved my head and I’m currently sporting a long black mane.
But I’m getting closer to shaving it all off again.
Because “no hair” equals freedom.