By Martese Bellizzi
It all started on prom night.
That day, something inside me snapped. I had been exploring the world of pixie cuts for two years leading up to my senior prom, and had experimented shaving different parts of my head: one side shaved, both sides shaved, shaving the back of my head. But enough hair always remained, so that my ‘look’ continued to fall into the realm of obvious femininity.
I had a shitty high school experience. By the end of those four years, I was done with friendships and I began to navigate the world, more or less alone.
For the first time in my life, I was doing everything without the influence of my peers. I didn’t care what people thought of me. I only cared about what I thought of me.
I was becoming an outcast, and changing my appearance was the first step to fully embracing my new identity.
So when I walked into the salon and my long-time stylist asked what I wanted to do with my hair before the special night, I knew exactly what I wanted.
“Shave it all.”
At this point in my life, I really began to connect with the world of art, in all of its many forms. I painted. I drew. I wrote. I started to view myself as a living and breathing work of art—something transformative, memorable, and questionable; something capable of moving you.
“Everything about her screams, ‘Fuck your opinion. I do what I want.’ Her smooth crown-like head is her masterpiece”
No one who moved me achieved it by playing it safe. Instead, they embraced their individuality and strangeness so they could march into the world alone. I liked the shaved look, admired the uniqueness of it, the statement it made. I also thought I could pull it off. I felt like it allowed me to present myself exactly how I’d always wanted to. Ultimately, shaving my head empowered me and redefined what it meant to be feminine.
And yet, time and time again, women choose to anchor themselves to labels and social constructs.
It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.
Which is why two years ago I sauntered past all of those social constructs that had ensconced me for years, flipped them the bird, and became known as a bald bad bitch.
It’s also how I distinguish myself in the makeup industry. Under the name BaldBabeBeauty, I post my work as a hair and makeup stylist.
It’s hard for people to understand the significance of a buzz cut on a woman until you’ve actually experienced it for yourself. In popular culture, celebrities with shaved heads have either done so to develop a character in a film or because they just don’t give a shit anymore.
Take for example, Amber Rose. She’s an American actress, model and entrepreneur who at the prime age of 19 decided to shave all her hair. She’s kept the look well into her thirties. She manages to make a buzz cut—something so historically masculine—look extremely feminine.
Everything about her screams, “Fuck your opinion. I do what I want.” Her smooth crown-like head is her masterpiece.
While a shaved head is a major style piece, for some women it can be a decision made out of their control.
In 2014, two weeks after she was diagnosed with leukemia, Ryerson student Maddie Trafford shaved her head. “Before I got sick, I had never given much thought to women being bald. If anything, I thought it was a little strange. But now I love seeing other women with shaved heads,” she said.
Seeing other bald women while she was going through leukemia made Trafford feel less abnormal. She quickly learned a woman with a buzz cut is truly badass.
While undergoing treatment, Trafford would often post makeup tutorials on her Instagram, featuring flawless smokey eyes, plump lips and on-point eyebrows. Doing her own makeup was a way to pass the time during her stay in the hospital and gave her a way to get creative with her newfound confidence.
“Women are constantly told by society that they need to have hair to be pretty, or even acceptable, so when women feel comfortable and strong enough to break that societal standard, it’s incredible,” said Trafford, now cancer-free since 2015.
“I’ve never felt so pure. I feel like a woman for the first time in my life.”
Trafford is currently in the English program and is still breaking society’s standards with her look. Although she decided to grow out her hair, she’s been experimenting with dying it different dynamic colours, like lavender and electric blue.
She’s also trying her hand at singing and playing guitar.
“I felt like I had no control over anything in my life at the time and shaving my head was one thing I had control of. If I hadn’t got diagnosed with cancer, I don’t think I would have ever considered shaving my head. But at the time, it was liberating,” she said.
For little girls, the standard of having long hair comes from a long history of status and health, dating as far back as the ancient Greeks and Romans.
Kinleigh Stewart dreamt all her life of growing long, healthy hair, but after being diagnosed with anorexia nervosa at the age of five, Stewart’s hair could never grow past her cheekbones. Like her tiny body, her hair was brittle; it would break if it grew too long.
After multiple hospitalizations and almost losing her life to the illness six times in April, something inside the 26-year-old snapped.
“I said to myself halfway through my last stay in hospital that when I got out I was going to shave my hair. I wanted to part ways with the ‘’healthy” hair I had been trying to grow and grow real healthy hair once and for all.”
Stewart describes the moment during her last and worst hospital stay as a switch flicking in her head.
“I always thought I needed to have hair down to my butt, the ‘perfect body,’ and a full face of makeup to look my best and feel good about myself. But inside I was literally fighting just to stay alive. I realized that my perfect body would never happen because I would die trying to achieve it.”
After shaving her head, Stewart felt so empowered that she decided to keep it. “I’ve never felt so pure. I feel like a woman for the first time in my life.”
Instead of trying to achieve the perfect body and be feminine according to society’s standards, Stewart now has a different goal: “I have this desire and longing to have the most pure relationship with myself, my body, and becoming a woman for the first time.”
Like many bald women, Stewart is constantly told, “Wow, you pull off a shaved head so well. I’d look so silly if I did that.” and “I wish I had the balls to do that.”
Her response? “Grow a pair and do it.”
Over time, I’ve realized the significance of the haircut that I embraced. Does it still empower me? Hell yeah. Every day, baby. Do I still consider it to be part of my breathing art presentation? Definitely. But I’ve also found that it’s one of many ways women are redefining femininity. And other bald women agree.
These badass females affirmed what I know more women are starting to realize: no hair or long hair, a size 2 or a size 22, an A cup or an E cup, dolled up or bare faced, we as women with unique minds and pathways carved will dictate what it means to be feminine.
Not men, not our friends, and sure as fuck not society.
And we can change that definition every day of our lives if we so choose because guess what, bitches?
We wrote it.