Crops for Girls: my free haircut that freed my gender identity

Posted on July 31, 2010


Gender is a social construction, and my haircut was free.

My anthro professor, Maxine Weisgrau, was lecturing on Judith Butler the other day. I asked her how much of gender is nature, and how much is culture, whether or not there might a fine line between the two, with each embodying the other, and she replied, no: ALL of gender is culturally constructed – according to the theory, *sex* is the only semantically-justified biology.


Well, I thought I would give it a test drive, a little auto-experiment. I am eliminating the socially feminine in me, but not going so far as become fully masculine: I am trying to embody a gender neutrality/duality without changing my biology. I want to see over the course of a year how it works for me, how it changes me internally.

Serendipitously, I happened upon an ad on the Free section of Craig‘s List, offering free pixie haircuts for girls. Since my hair was, at the moment, a disaster of uncared-for dreadlocks (an experiment of yesteryear), I volunteered my head.

Crops for Girls –

A sweet man by the name of Michael answered the door. He has been running this salon in the Lower East Side for the past eight years. As promised, he cut my hair for free: practically a buzz-cut, except for long bangs. From the front, I look like I still have long hair. From the back, I look like a boy.

As I stepped out onto Orchard Street after my haircut, my head felt ten times lighter than before. I felt my politics sharpen with the spikes on my head. I walked to Blue Stockings, the feminist bookstore on Allen St, picked up a few magazines, and sat down to read.

There is an immediate difference. Men no longer look at me with desire. Women wear a subtle discomfort as they stare at my head in the subway. Any cross-dresser or tomboy knows that the social rules for gender are strict enough that it is quite easy to be externally gender neutral. It is quite easy to create distance between yourself and others, socially, by refusing to abide by the laws of gender appearance. However, the challenge is how to become gender neutral internally. How does one change one‘s internal feeling/identification of gender?

It turns out that a dyke haircut helps considerably. First of all, I immediately stopped feeling the urge to be pretty, or physically *good.* In one day, I felt I was already changing my implicit interactions with people, with passerby on the street and subway. No longer did I look into the eyes of men, implicitly testing for signs of attraction/approval/seductive power, rather my asexual/bisexual haircut immediately made me lose sexual interest in my gaze towards others. I began to look at men (and even women) not as objects of sexual interest, nor as mirrors of my own sexual potency, but as…something else, both sexually neutral and also infinitely more potent in sexuality…I am not sure yet how to characterize this change in my *gazing attitude*, but I must say, the alteration feels positive/additive (not negative/subtractive) yet light (not heavy).