What “Mrs. America” gets right About the Long Hair/Short Hair Dichotomy
Modern feminists should take a que from Gloria Steinem and Many of Phyllis Shlafly’s Eagles members in considering their hair length.
As a long-haired feminist I am often asked why I “subscribe to the male gaze” and keep my long hair. As if being a feminist means one has to make themselves as unattractive and as close in looks to the oppressive patriarchy (that we all claim to hate) as possible. You know what’s really oppressive? The fact that the term feminist is conflated with images of unattractive “women” who resemble men. I couldn’t help but wonder while watching Hulu’s new limited series, “Mrs. America” if the reason the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) was not ratified at the time was due to the way the issue was presented by two groups of women. As far as I am concerned both groups were concerned with the feminist cause however they went about it differently. The housewives loved their right to stay home and have their husbands take care of them. In turn they presented more feminine and happy in their life choices. This is starkly juxtaposed to the reality for the majority of the feminists. In general they seemed angry. Most were single and had short hair resembling their oppressors like some fucked up Stockholm syndrome. Unsurprisingly (spoiler alert: coming from a history buff so I already know how the show will end) the housewives charmed their way into many states hearts. Many of which revoked their original support of the amendment after succumbing to the impassioned pleas of their beloved traditional housewives over the screeching and scary looking feminists. I believe this is due in part to their feminine approach to seeking what they need from the men in power. The conservative women as a whole were beautiful, soft spoken, and above all kept their long hair in tact. The feminists on the other hand were shrill, shrieking, angry, and worst of all you couldn’t tell them apart from a man, perhaps the ERA was not ratified because men in keeping with the political consciousness of that time wanted to listen to what WOMEN want. So naturally they listened to the WOMEN. I don’t make the rules and your brain is wired to use heuristic methods to understand your surroundings. This coupled with the fact that many of the men in power wear glasses concludes in a no win situation for the feminists. Not only does your brain tell you a short haired person is a man, but your glasses may make it dually difficult to make the distinction. Perhaps many of these men voted with the housewives in good faith thinking they’d rather side with women than men on women’s issues.
This of course got me thinking; The most radical thing you could do as a feminist be to completely reject the patriarchy and all things associated with men. Part of feeling empowered is also feeling beautiful. One shouldn’t have to sacrifice one in the quest for the other. In fact if you reject one your journey to attain the other will be all the more difficult. So instead of the “if yo can’t beat em, join em” mantra implicit among the feminists we see on fakes news media outlets, why not adapt a “beat them at their own game” mindset instead. Even the feminists of the 60’s and 70’s understood this as evidenced by their choice of Gloria Steinem as their speaker. Although she was younger and less experienced in the movement, the feminist begrudgingly elected her knowing she would cause the men to perk right up at the site of a woman speaking rather than other angry man. The fact is men will never respect you as a woman if you look like them. The only way to get true respect and equality is a two prong approach. One is using your feminine charms and beauty to access your already existing privilege as a female (looks) but you must balance this approach with a serious agenda at the same time so you’re not seen merely as an object. Whoever said the maintaining the balance was easy? Luckily we’re women and have been trained all our lives to use the former to our advantage. When coupled with actual serious reforms that women need feminists can get virtually everything they want. Instead of using their beautiful voices to scream or taking off days of work to protest why not simply present your argument whilst playing with your long hair coyly or even an unintended flip now and then. This is the only way to get your ideas approved by men. Use your beauty to hypnotize them and have them sign off on your ideas when he’s salivating. He won’t be able to say no. Think about how much farther ahead women would be now if they kept their hair long when meeting with senators and congressmen. If all the women looked like and spoke like Gloria Steinem there’d be an even wider wage gap today, only females would be the ones with the higher salary.
I also find it strange and a bit backwards to believe anything associated with the male gaze is inherently patriarchal. Could we instead take these symbols back as empowerment and reclaim and repurpose them into something no one can say no to? We all know first impressions are made quickly and rarely are they changed. If you present yourself as an angry man you’ll be seen as one and according to the rhetoric of today, we have enough of those. Why not seek what you want from the standpoint of “concerned woman, mother, etc” men will be much sympathetic to your cause as a woman (someone they consider the weaker sex thus more in need of protections) then as one of them? The fact is society is moving towards feminine and the mainstream media tells us over and over to not listen to angry old men, instead to young women. So why not take this message literally and use it to our advantage? Is that not empowering in and of itself? Finding your strengths and using them to attain better for you and others? We need to stop acting like it’s possible to do away with gender presentation as a way to be equal. It’s implausible and impossible to force others to join in and at the end of the day the long haired women will always get what they want. I say we do what Gloria Steinem so wonderfully demonstrated all those years ago, stay feminine and maybe just maybe we will get there.