The myth of the short-haired lesbian

J Lesbian Stud. 1999;3(4):91-101. doi: 10.1300/J155v03n04_12.


ABSTRACT A number of myths and misperceptions related to images of lesbian beauty surround hair length. Short hair has become a symbol of being a lesbian, and many lesbians with long hair have felt pressured to cut theirs when they come out. For this essay, seven white lesbians were interviewed regarding their long hair. They describe how, in choosing not to cut their hair, or to grow it long again, they are not recognized or taken seriously as lesbians, both by other lesbians and by heterosexuals. They feel that they are perceived as heterosexual or bisexual, questioning, just coming out, trying to pass as straight, or buying into male-defined standards of female beauty. This is in part because many lesbians have rejected traditionally "feminine" images of beauty,Including long hair, and have placed a higher value on more "masculine" attributes,Including short hair. In doing so, however, lesbians are still reacting to male-defined images and standards, and may be internalizing and perpetuating sexism. As more and more different kinds of women are coming out as lesbian, it becomes necessary to avoid making assumptions based on a woman's hair length. The time has come to create new images of who and what lesbians are and can be, and new standards of lesbian beauty.