It’s been a number of weeks since I began chemotherapy treatment and a few weeks since my children armed with hair clippers shaved my head.
Hair is such a strange thing, we want it in some areas and in other areas we don’t. It can be such an integral part of who we are and what we feel and to be stripped of it can feel exposing or very liberating.
Hair holds so many links to our identities, our associations, our race, our culture or tribe. Long hair in Western society has always been both a sign of gender and sexuality, with women often feeling the need to fit into western standards of beauty, reinforced by advertising and social media.
Women with short or no hair, are often not representative of the female model of beauty. Hair is endowed with cultural meanings and values and often as woman hair is portrayed as encompassing our femininity, it’s our helmet and an emblem of female beauty.
With the exception of hair loss, our hair is something we have control over, we can cut, colour, and style in whatever way we choose. We can use it to manipulate our identities on any given day and overall, our hair contributes to a general sense of who we are, and is often a way to channel emotions.
There is much feminist discussion on women’s objectification and the male gaze, which isn’t the only issue women face, but it’s also the way women look at each other and their expectations. Women have created a female gaze, and this gaze often contributes to our own objectification.
A shaven head may become our identity or stigma of illness, historically a shaven head was a sign of penitence, punishment or oppression, a stripping of identity.
In the 1960’s a youth subculture, the Skinheads emerged from the multicultural reggae and Ska music scene of East London, where the shaven head was embraced and became a symbol of defiance and rebelliousness.
The skinhead look was later stolen by racists and neo-Nazis. Hair is and will always remain a focal point of power, identity, and expression.
During the mid ’90s, more women in music began to adopt the shaven style. There was Sinéad O’Connor and Skin, the frontwoman of the Brit-rock band Skunk Anansie. In the same decade, Sigourney Weaver shaved her head for the genderless world of Alien 3and Demi Moore did the same in the 1997 film G.I. Jane. Both were badass female roles that played with empowering and liberating gender stereotypes.
In 2015 actress Rose McGowan, was the definition of strength and defiance as she spoke out about assaults and attacks by movie boss Harvey Weinstein. “When I shaved my head, it was a battle cry.”
Today, a shaved head is no longer just a religious commitment, an act of rebellion or punishment, or even simply a fashion statement. Those shaving their heads in 2020 may have a plethora of reasons: boredom, power, creativity, or the fact that long hair just doesn’t seem as important during a pandemic.
The point is, having the autonomy to do whatever we want with our hair regardless of social pressures and in the wake of a global health crisis.
Whilst the ups and downs of this journey through cancer are so much more than baldness, it is the one visible symbol to the outside world. For me, I have taken this opportunity to challenge, embrace and explore this style and continue to do what I love, photograph.
Whilst undoubtedly having chemotherapy treatment has reduced my energy levels, I am grateful to still have enough of the stuff to rummage through our household wardrobe and with the help of styling and makeup from my daughters have had some fun producing some images that nod towards what could have been……through my love of Ska, the subculture I could have been part of………the military training that always appealed…………the futuristic role of fantasies and whilst on this treatment I battle my own set of aliens, I tribute all the iconic bald headed women, past present and future.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your support, check-ins and to those that have helped keep the side effects at bay by keeping me moving on walks, It has helped enormously.
Wishing you all a relaxed and enjoyable festive period and a healthier 2021.