I hardly even know where to begin. It’s easy enough to talk about the “stuff” going on in my life — getting our kitten next week (reader poll: Should We Name Our Cat?: a) Gilda b) Greta c) Simone), moving to Oakland at the end of July, starting my summer practicum in a few weeks, seriously considering staying for a PhD but also looking seriously at other PhD programs elsewhere, my part-time library job, which I actually love, family goings-on, the stuff I’ve been reading and obsessing about… and I’m sure I’ll write about more of that stuff here in the coming weeks. It’s summer, after all, and I’m not in class. I’m not intending to let this place die.
But today I want to write, again, about my hair. I wrote about it here already, last fall, when I was starting the project of growing it out. Now it’s nine months later and I’ve got a just-below-chin-length bob and just-above-brow-level bangs. I get my hair colored, too; it’s a sort of auburn with golden streaks right now. It’s funny, when I had quite short hair I never felt unfeminine and as I started identifying more as femme in the past four years or so I always was adamant that I wasn’t femme despite the short hair but rather that the hair was an integral part of my femininity. And certainly this in no way reflects on short-haired femmes in general, but for me — wow, I had no idea how much having longer hair would affect my sense of myself.
I feel so much stronger, so much fiercer, so much more solid in my body. I feel so much more myself, sexier, more flippant. It’s hard to know, actually, how much of that is related to just the hair and how much is related to other things (like this education, my graduate program, which is hardening me and breaking me all at once), but I have felt it as being integrally related to my hair. I don’t feel more feminine, per se, but I feel do feel more femme — like the way I want femme to feel for me. This sounds funny, but I feel more visible — not more visibly queer (in fact I think it’s the opposite), but more apparent to the world. And that doesn’t mean that I’m more apparent to other people but that I’m more apparent to myself. I’m showing up differently, somehow.
Though there is the thing about being more apparent to other people and that’s what I really wanted to write about. The longer my hair has gotten the more I’ve been a target of street harassment. Again, this is not a generalization of women-with-long-hair-get-more-street-harassment, not at all, but that has been my experience, and as I’ve felt more powerful in how I show up and walk around in my body, as I have felt sexier, I have also been getting a lot more desperately unwanted attention. And I don’t know what to do about this because I hate it, that isn’t strong enough, I don’t just hate it I loathe it, it makes me shake with rage.
I don’t quite know how to manage it. When ML and I were talking about moving to Oakland, one of the things she brought up was safety — is that neighborhood safer than, equivalent to, or not as safe as the Mission? And to be honest I can’t take those questions seriously because I never feel safe, ever. Ever. I’m always on my guard, no matter where I am, no matter who’s around. I’ve learned first hand, multiple times, that safety, for women, is an illusion and I feel like debating the nature of the safety of neighborhoods is the privilege of people who do feel safe in places. That probably sounds crass, and intellectually I know it probably is, but what I’m not saying is that we should throw ourselves in the path of danger or, through ignorance, subject ourselves to more of it. (Though even that sentence is victim-blaming, do you see it?) So I try to engage those issues seriously and with care but I end up generally getting really impatient and feeling like it’s all a farse, because honestly whether one neighborhood “seems” safer than another feels so arbitrary and so fictive. Also, racist. But at the same time, I don’t want to be flippant.
And still every week I get yelled at, whistled at, followed, groped, cat-called, in every neighborhood and no matter where I am. I feel less safe with the longer hair, feel somehow more vulnerable as I also feel stronger. Perhaps it’s that as I’ve felt more like me, I’ve felt less like I’m hiding — in short hair and in my body in general — and as I’m hiding less I feel more vulnerable. I don’t know, maybe that’s not it, maybe I’m entirely off base. But I need to figure out a way to respond, for my own sanity… And my hair grows longer.
I also just have to say that there is an adorable, tiny kitten playing on my lap trying to get my attention right now. So I’m going to go dote on her :)