Shave it off. Or not.

by Kavita

20 inches long, dark, thick yet shiny; my hair was beautiful. It grew for years, even though I chopped and trimmed once in a while. It’s hair, I let it grow. But what about hair in other parts of the body? I am talking about armpits, legs, hands and sometimes on our faces too. Why do we shave that all off? There was so much confusion in my head (along with hair) around why people treated the same entity so differently. And then I realised that it wasn’t the hair; it was the fact that I am a woman.

Other than the biological details, the image of a woman usually involves long hair and clean-shaven legs (if she is in her shorts). The image of a man, on the other hand, can have hair of varying lengths or no hair at all. What’s more fascinating is that while women make expensive visits to beauty salons every month, men could spend a lifetime showing off their body hair.

I’ll leave the body-hair for a later discussion.

So, I couldn’t stand this hypocritical attitude of the society towards ‘human hair’, and one day in 2011, got my head shaved. Yes, just like that.

For a girl in India, it was bound to create a furor; I was mentally prepared for that. What I had forgotten to consider was that if long hair symbolised I was a woman, no hair meant my husband/father had died. Oops! They were all alive, and most supportive of my new avatar too.

After wedding, women put flowers on their hair, and you went and shaved your head off! Do not talk to me!”

That was my mother who disowned me for exactly one week, once again. Most of the outrage, I was able to manage pretty well. However, what hurt me the most was that one of my uncles went too far and decided that the family support will weaken & fade away one day, because of what I did to ‘my’ hair.

Seriously?

Why does the woman carry the weight of symbols, signs and representation? Why doesn’t a man change his name after marriage? Why doesn’t he wear the ‘mangalsutra’ (a chain that Indian women wear after marriage)? Why doesn’t he put flowers on his hair? And why doesn’t the family deny him support when he decides to shave his head? (In fact, my husband has very long hair!)

This was the first time I shaved my head and it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

The second time, however, I decided to donate my hair and raise funds for Childhood Cancer Research. Interestingly, this time, my family wanted to contribute. Yes, I added meaning to an action; but how I wish, some societies freed women of the responsibility of every trivial activity.

Also, I am waiting for a day when I can wear whatever I want without wondering about my legs being unshaven.

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