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.