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Every Woman Should Rock Short Hair At Least Once In Her Life

"I see you've had your little Waiting to Exhale moment."

Her Voice

“I see you've had your little Waiting to Exhale moment."

That was the comment my sorority sister made when she saw me with my haircut for the first time. The thick, kinky-curly locks that went past my shoulders had been sheared off in favor of a much shorter tapered look.

I wondered if she really thought that my new 'do was man-inspired. I didn't blame her. It's common for a woman who breaks up with her boyfriend or husband to cut off nearly all her hair like Bernadette did in Waiting to Exhale.

But me? I'd been single for quite some time. I just wanted the 'fro gone because it was too much work! Or so I thought...

It wasn't until many months later I realized that deep down, I'd wanted a break from the past, too. And I got much more than that.

I didn't expect to undergo the mental transformation that I did. After my haircut, I questioned myself in ways I hadn't since high school.

Am I beautiful without long hair? I wondered.

Thoughts like that made me panic. Did the self-esteem I'd spent over 23 years building really shatter in an hour's worth of hair cutting?

Sure, I found pride in the numerous compliments my bold curls would garner, but I never saw myself as attached to my hair. Frankly, I'd hated my hair, not because I didn't think it was beautiful, but because it took entirely too long to style. (I'm lazy.)

I thought the freedom to wake up and go for once would cancel out any reservations I'd have about the new cut. Having an edgy cut would be more fun and unique; no longer would I blend in among the sea of afros. I knew I'd absolutely love it.

However, it took me quite a while to get used to being “near bald-headed." Sometimes I'd even wake up, look in the mirror, and go in shock over what I'd done.

So…why do I want this for you? Why insist that every woman question her beauty, as if the media doesn't give us enough cause for that already?

In the end, the unencumbered freedom, greater sense of self, and symbolic emotional healing I gained made me wonder why all women don't cut their hair!

Read more about the positive effects I experienced after cutting off my hair.

Unencumbered Freedom

We all know that women, black women in particular, spend entirely too much time and money on their hair. I mean, have you seen the hair care aisle? Men have a few shelves. We have an aisle.

Black women have entire beauty supply stores! The Black hair care industry is even valued at almost $500 billion!

We're constantly inundated with hair ads and shampoo commercials and videos of gorgeous, extension-laden celebs. Hair, hair, hair!

Before you go on a date, what do you have to worry about? Makeup, outfit, and hair. Before a job interview? Outfit, interview prep, hair. Before you leave the house in general? Hair is always a concern!

That's not to say that having short hair is a walk in the park, either. But when I had short hair, I cut my wash day to a mere wash hour. Styling time went from an hour and a half to 15 minutes!

I wasn't overly worried about how to tame her (my hair is a she) or what impression she'd help me make because she was barely there, unlike my can't-ignore-it 'fro.

Having the ability to wake up and go most days caused me to lessen the importance I have on my hair. You don't realize how much value you place on your hair until you don't have any.

I gained a sense of freedom I'd never had. I'd always had too much damn hair.

I felt freer, lighter and not just in the physical sense, but in the emotional sense because I had more room to just focus on me, the real me, sans luscious locks, which brings me to my next point.

Greater Sense of Self

Men love long hair. That's no secret. Here's a secret: so do you.

It's not your fault. Society conditions men and women to go heart eyes over long, flowing hair. It's the standard of beauty.

Most of us won't realize how deep-seated this love for long hair is. A lot of us will even deny this internalized European standard of beauty, claiming that we love ourselves regardless of if our hair is two or twenty-two inches long.

“I am not my hair," we will say. And then we shear off our beloved hair and later that night, gawk in disbelief at our reflection as ridiculous worries seep out:

Will my hair ever grow back? Am I still attractive to men? Is my curl-free, short, natural hair beautiful?

Am I still beautiful?

Questioning your beauty makes you question your inner self. Maybe you had a good grasp of who you were before, but now you must reconfigure yourself as someone who is able to find her beauty with or without long hair.

Will you be someone who finds her power in her hair or will you reject that notion of womanhood? Are you someone who has the courage to go against what nearly everyone considers “beautiful" or do you readily go with society's standards because that's what's comfortable?

Cut off your hair and see. Because not only will you gain this clearer picture of yourself, but you'll gain a newfound strength and confidence in your femininity. And that's not even the best benefit…

Symbolic Emotional Healing

It's a peculiar feeling to watch your hair float to the floor, and then study it as it decorates the tiling, while coming to the sobering realization that it's no longer connected to your head. I am now a bald-headed bitch, you think. Or, for those less ratchet, I really don't have hair anymore.

I can only describe it as a mixture of fear, excitement, worry, but one other emotion is most prominent: relief. Oh what a great relief!

Maybe you're like me and don't even notice when you're lugging around too much emotional baggage until you see your strands severed, and with it feel simultaneous severing from past pain and emotional healing. Or maybe you're more in tune with your emotions and revel in your now unburdened back. Your load is almost weightless. It's light.

Here's the thing: that long-standing joke that women cut their hair when they're going through something–it's true, but those women get the last laugh. There are very few material things that you can shed in such a short amount of time and with it feel the immediate, deep impact that cutting off your hair gives you.

We talk about cutting off toxic people and things every New Year. It's easy to delete a phone number or throw away those brownies (mostly), but how easy is it to cut off the memory of the one you love telling you it's over or the deep-rooted self-hatred that drove you into a depression or the image of a text message with words that disrupt your entire world or the echo of your family members' voices saying you'll never be any good? Now imagine it being as easy as a snip!

Cutting off your hair won't heal the wound in its entirety, but it will pour on that soothing balm and get the healing process started. It's been a time-worn, crucial first step for countless women and take it from me, it feels damned good!

*Originally published on The Next Train's Coming; Featured image by Shutterstock.

Layla A. Reeves is a 20-something freelance writer, copy editor, and ESL teacher who's still trying to figure this life thing out, never mind adulting. She's lived overseas in Spain, but only mentions that when she wants to feel better about not knowing what she's doing. Read more of her musings on her blog.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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