The power of a woman with a shaved head
The #OmgShesBald experience had an energy that is incomparable to any event I have been to. The room was chic and minimal with the exception of a colourful area with a barber’s chair in its centre. Every womxn in the room was radiant, friendly and unapologetically themself.
The ‘OMG She’s Bald’ experience was the premiere of a short film ‘OMG She’s Bald: the power of a woman with a shaved head’, which was written and produced by Charnah Ellesse (Char). This was followed by an inclusive panel discussion with Char, hosted by Africa Brooke, another badass instagram influencer. The film, the discussion that followed and the conversations I had with other womxn that attended were extremely thought provoking and empowering.
I have considered the strong link between long hair and conforming to ideas of femininity and conventional beauty standards in the past. I wrote a poem about it a while back (go check out Clitbait’s poetry section!) and recently re-engaged with the idea when Clitbait’s co-founder, Laila Ghaffar posted some of her thoughts about long hair on Clitbait’s Instagram. However, never before had I personally considered taking the leap and shaving my own hair.
What first struck me was that all the bald womxn in the room and in the film were clear that it was a decision that they had wanted to do for themselves and not primarily a political act, despite what many assume. During the panel discussion, Char noted that one of the main reasons she had decided to shave her head was because it was easier; instead of having to constantly relax her hair. Many of the womxn in the room loved waking up in the morning, rolling out of bed and not having to think twice about their hair. With the focus society puts on appearance, especially that of womxn, being able to spend less time on a beauty routine can be extremely liberating, creating time for us to do what we want.
Many of the individuals surrounding me at the event also discussed how shaving their head was socially liberating. Char noted how at first she was anxious about not being perceived as conventionally attractive. Soon she learnt that a shaved head meant that she attracted the kinds of people that she wanted to surround herself with; those who were open minded, and challenged conventional expectations of gender expression. In the short film, Keziah Cader mentions that femininity is internal and that the length of one’s hair does not determine femininity. Shaving her hair helped her realise this.
I am a firm believer that any feminist topic must be looked at through an intersectional lens. Africa Brooke and Char Ellesse stressed that shaving their heads was particularly liberating as black women. Char mentioned how in our society black women are constantly criticised for how they have their hair. If it is natural it can be seen as unprofessional. However, if it is not then black women can be criticised for it not being authentic. Either choice requires a lot of effort and time. They found that this paradox meant their decision to step outside this cycle and go bald was extremely freeing.
What was most striking about the experiences of the womxn at #OMGshesbald was how the act of shaving their head had resulted in a change of general mindset and an increase in confidence. Shaving her head helped Char come out as queer. That is huge. In life, we are scared of failing, constantly imagining the worst consequence of an action. This is often what stops us from striving for our goals. By taking the leap and going bald after wanting to for a while, many of the womxn at #OMGshesbald found that their approach to other aspects of their lives also changed.
It is evident how empowering both a woman shaving her hair and the discussions that surround it can be. I left the #OMGshesbald experience mind buzzing (no pun intended) and with a further desire to act rather than just talk. I felt truly inspired by Char, by the film and by the other incredible womxn I met.
Go check out @GirlsWillBeBoys and @ellessechar on instagram, and watch ‘OMG She’s Bald: the power of a woman with a shaved head’ on youtube!