Who's Afraid of a Pixie Cut?

Karlie Kloss, with a bob.

Karlie Kloss: Clearly not feminine enough.

Ever since Britney Spears shaved her head in 2007, it seems that a famous woman can’t cut her hair without causing an outcry. Karlie Kloss, Victoria’s Secret’s newest Angel (I wonder if it says that on their W-2s?), is just the latest victim of this bashing trend. Kloss had the audacity to appear in a lingerie ad with a haircut that is—WAIT FOR IT—slightly longer than a bob! Apparently there is only one definition of sexy and it is long, flowing, Disney-princess hair.

Kloss is in good company.

Last August, Miley Cyrus faced similar criticism for cutting her long Hannah Montana hair into a bleached-out fauxhawk. Yahoo News fretted that it was “certainly not wedding hair.” But don’t worry, they also helpfully confirmed that Cyrus’s boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth, was okay with her new haircut and published the “most vicious tweets” Cyrus received, you know, for being a young woman with short hair. Evan Rachel Wood tweeted that Cyrus’s haircut meant she was “leaning toward gay.” Fans tweeted that Cyrus was “pulling a Britney,” which I can only assume is uncharitable shorthand for being mentally ill. Over at Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams seemed the lone voice of reason, clarifying that a short haircut is “not a cry for help.” If anyone needed more evidence that we live in a culture that judges women’s appearances too harshly, please take note that someone honestly had to speak up to clarify that a short haircut does not require staging an intervention.

Fans and writers lobbed similar questions about sexual identity and mental instability at actress Emma Watson, who has had a pixie cut since 2010. “I had journalists asking me if this meant I was coming out, if I was a lesbian now,” Watson told the Independent last year. “That haircut did make me realize how subjective everyone’s opinion is. Some people were crazy for it and some people just thought I’d lost my shit. All I can do is follow my instincts, because I’ll never please anyone.”

What’s going on here? Are we all in third grade? These women—Emma, Miley, and Karlie—already embody an outrageous ideal of feminine beauty. The creepy backlash to their haircuts emphasizes just how narrow and specific the mainstream concept of beauty really is. The overblown reaction to their short hair is rooted in a retrograde notion that says that cutting your hair short makes you somehow less of a woman.

Then again, in this skewed, airbrushed environment, maybe a woman with a short haircut really is a little subversive. Victoria’s Secret has never been very good at actually advertising to women, despite the fact that we are the ones subjected to their phthalate-laden panties. Kloss’s cool, short haircut is a slight departure from their normally uniform model look of long, wavy hair. I’d go so far to say Kloss’s haircut is the best part of Victoria’s Secret’s advertising. She looks like someone who’s living a real life amid a sea of fake folks. No wonder this is threatening to some.

Indeed, Watson and Cyrus both expressed a sense of empowerment in response to comments from detractors. “My dad used to tell me ‘opinions are like a–holes everybody has one,’ ” tweeted Cyrus after the backlash. “LOVE my hair, feel so happy, pretty and free.”

“I think it’s made me more bold, there’s no way to hide when you have short hair,” Watson told the Independent.

It’s scary that a woman with short hair is still seen as some sort of questionable rebel. Hooray for the young women in the spotlight who rock a pixie cut with no apologies. Chop, chop.

by Megan Burbank
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Megan Burbank lives in Portland, Oregon, where she is arts editor at the Portland Mercury.

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18 Comments Have Been Posted

Is it 1985? Is she Helen Slater?

What, do we live in the world of The Legend Of Billie Jean or something? Fair's Fair? The overwhelming majority of stupid celebrity gossip consumers and their concepts of beauty are ridiculous. I hope that me making up for my long flowing tresses by acting as "unfeminine" as possible helps us live in a world where we're judged by who we are instead of our haircuts.

Entertainment "Reporters" are

Entertainment "Reporters" are only the least-impressive manifestation of the already-unimpressive edifice that is mainstream twenty-first century journalism. Sometimes I start to feel hopeful for the future; then I realize that millions of people around the world actually read this tripe, internalize it, and think that judging women on such trivial and cosmetic details is a perfectly reasonable, acceptable thing to do.

What is this fluff piece?!

So we're suddenly better feminists for having our hair one length or the other? Tnis author is vain and defensive and should stick to captioning selfies on her privliged awful blog, not ruining Bitch with narrow-minded, judgmental retaliation. Not interested in reading her further anymore than I would a gossip magazine waiting for the dentist. I'd rather get a root canal.

please post proof

big statements anonymous, i would like you to post proof from this article that burbank is being -
"vain and defensive"
"narrow minded judgmental retaliation"

show me the language that proves that opinion, cause if you cant, it would seem that your response is "vain and defensive" and a "narrow minded judgmental retaliation" because burbank posted an opinion you don't like.

proof not required

She was posting her opinion, which does not require proof. I find this piece annoyingly juvenile. That is my opinion. So bitch has nothing else to write about but VS and celebrities? Yawn.

yes it does require proof,

because her article was an opinion backed by examples from contemporary media , so her opinion was proved by the examples of she posted.

now if you wish to call it juvenile, post proof of her being juvenile in the article, use the language she used, if you are going to criticize, you have to show critical thought, if not your opinion has no basis except " this is how i feel,"
and actually i don't care how you feel, but i can be induced into caring how you think.

Absolutely Correct

I think anon is missing the point here, why is it that men can have any haircut they want and are still as manly as can be but women go short and they're all of a sudden questioning their sexuality? It is our completely vain and ridiculous society that places import on the length of someone's hair, not their actions. And, btw, if you do not still find that woman drop dead gorgeous even if she was bald the problem is with you, not her. We as women need to stop trying to fit in the mold others have made for us and work to break those molds instead. Beauty should be in the eye of the beholder, not what someone else tells us is beautiful...

You fool. This article is not

You fool. This article is not about celebrity gossip. It is a Feminist analysis of Pop Culture, and highlighting how much women are body policed when they can't even get a new hairstyle without the specter of homophobia raised.


Women are judge harshly for their appearance for so many reasons. I used to have a female friend with an eating disorder who used to stare at my upper arms because they had some flesh on them (not a friend anymore - no time for judgers). I had a father who used to judge women with bums bigger than small as 'looking like the side of a house'. I didn't shave my legs in my 20s and my friends used say they were 'disgusting'.

I must admit when I had very short hair, I was hit on more by women but it was also (I think) because I wore jeans, docs, no make-up and never had a boy around. Or maybe I just looked hotter??

I am so sick of people judging women for their appearance. When will it go away??

I've had short hair off and

I've had short hair off and on in my adult life and every time I've cut it, I'm met with an outcry. I've had men ask "what happened?" as though only a huge trauma would make a woman cut her hair. One winced and asked "are you going to keep it?" as though it was an unwanted pregnancy. I wasn't sure which part appalled me more, that they cared at all what my hair length was, or that they felt completely comfortable telling me all about their feelings.

The saddest part is the women who have approached me, complemented my "bravery" and said that they'd love to have short hair, but their husbands would just find them so unattractive. I don't know if it's true or not, but it's really unfortunate that they feel that way.

I cut my hair into a pixie

I cut my hair into a pixie almost a year ago, and I too had many women gush over it, then admit they'd always wanted to try short hair but were afraid it would be ugly, their husbands wouldn't like it, etc.


Jeez. A woman owns her own hair, ferchrissakes. Personally I am a long-hair personality and I LIKE the feel of long hair on my back - but the trade off is that it needs caring for and far more love and attention lavished on it than shorter "hairdos" simply because long hair let go to weed just looks scraggly and messy - long hair you have both the joy and the responsibility of doing something WITH, even if that something is simply making sure that it's in teh best possible shape that it can be. You simply can't get away with wearing long hair just lank and unwashed and dragging arnound your face because you tend to look like you're trying to act out Cathy from Wuthering Heights and people respond accordingly. I've had short hair maybe twice in my life, both times for severaly practical purposes, and following that cut I couldn't wait to grow it all out again and have it AT THE VERY LEAST shoulderblade-length. Because that's the way *I* prefer it.

But dear sweet lord, if another woman prefers it to be light and fluffy and short and pixied, more power to her, Audrey Hepburn always looked spectacular and I never heard anyone dare suggest otherwise - she was a lady and radiated that, and just happened to be a lady with short hair. I liked Emma Watson's Harry Potter hair but she isn't that kid any more and frankly her new look makes her look elegant and swan-necked and all grrown up and I think that's great. I wish people would just stop getting their exercise by leaping to judgment and jumping to conclusions. Sometimes short hair is just a preference and not a statement that is aimed at ANYBODY other than the person whose head the haircut lives on.

Caaaalm down, everybody

@ the rather caustic and scathing comments about the author's vanity:

All this article is saying is that it's dumb that the social norm for famous women is having flowing locks. There are obviously other things that Bitch has to say. This is not the last article they will ever publish ever. Hair is not the new Bitch. Please calm down.

Article's really

Article's really masturbatory. No defense of long hair as equally feminist or subversive and some pretty awful supporting examples. The last time I cared about VS models or Britney or Miley was never! Author's out of touch and these are her idols for whatever reason. Maybe JUST because they have short hair and so does the author?? How about Carey Mulligan or Anne Hathaway or more idk relevant women to destigmatize the "crazy" stereotype.

Weak piece, I'm more than disappointed. This just isn't smart at all. Could have been a good Bitch argument if someone else wrote it and picked short-haired women that kept their clothes on... but remind me why I'm expected to care about hair length either way? I've had mine all sorts of lengths and don't want to keep thinking about this. I'm not in a sorority for either one. Saying f yeah short hair too! is a stupid waste of time. Give readers some credit. We're more evolved. Next subject, pleeeease... of course the model's "sexy." She's basically naked and the Western hetero male ideal. Ugh. Groan. Please no more exclusionary, mirror mirror cheerleading and bad high school writing.

Willow Smith was brutalized for cutting her hair

and she's much younger


I think part of the reason people freaked out over Miley's haircut and color because it was SO DRASTIC than what she had before. I think people would have equally freaked out if she kept it long but dyed it bright purple. But the lesbian comments were unnecessary. People also thought it might have been a cry for help like Britney Spears, people often do drastic things like that as a cry for help/attention.

oh, and people flipped out over Keri Russell cutting her hair short WAY before Britney Spears did. In fact, the WB put in a clause in all actress' contracts forbidding them to cut their hair without the studio's permission first.

Oh, and Karlie Kloss only cut her hair because Vogue asked her to for a photoshoot. Surprising, considering how much VS freaked out.


I totally agree with Miley...opinions are like a...holes everybody's got one. Then again some people just stupid a...holes. There are all types of body shapes, sizes, and yet in this year 2013 we still define ourselves by what " the media" or , my personal favorite, " Hollywood says is acceptable! WOW! I think it's a shame that Emma was asked if she was " coming out". How ignorant. Gee, why don't we ask Portia D'Rossi,with her long hair, if she is coming out as straight! Now, do you see how ignorant it is to assume a short haircut " defines" a person. There are plenty of lesbians or bi- sexuals who have long hair. I think short hair on woman looks so good, if you go to the right stylist. So to all who want a pixie...You GO girl...and forget people who are idiots...unfortunately they're everywhere!

I have a buzzcut with bangs

I have a buzzcut with bangs (I'm bit but this isn't an indication of sexuality ) and I had a guy scream "Lesbian!" when I walked past him the other day.
I find it pretty sad, that a woman is judged by the length of her hair, it's pointless. It's creepy, it's oppressive.
Short hair on a woman, speaks of confidence.

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