How 15-Year-Old Me Severed Ties with Toxic Femininity
Chopping off my own hair was my first act of gender expression and heteronormative resistance
I decided to make the “big chop” when my parents and I ran into a typical 14-year-old boy from my grade at the main store in town, a dollar store. As my parents pilfered through People magazine in the checkout lines searching for some celebrity to condemn, I stood back and watched this boy two aisles down. His highlighter orange undershirt strained against the last of his baby fat, but as I overheard his buddies cracking dirty jokes, I knew it was only a matter of time before his childish frame gave way to a man like any other in our backwoods town. It was the summer before my freshman year of high school and I was ready for change.
Dressed in a black clingy blouse and a black miniskirt, with a swipe of red glistening on my lips — I was the embodiment of femininity. The boy said nothing when he saw me doing my best impression of a bored, sexy woman from the movies. Still, I could trace his gaze from the hem of my skirt, to the twirl of my long chestnut hair around my finger.
I didn’t hate him for it. This was what boys were supposed to do. It was an unspoken rule. Despite its mundanity, I recoiled inward as I noticed how my behavior changed under the male gaze. Even as a teen, I knew what my role was as someone who sported the label “female” on my birth certificate in my depressed tiny town.
I couldn’t identify the status quo back then, much less challenge it. Still, on some level, I despised how effortlessly I could transition from human to mannequin. Something needed to give.
With bile building in my throat at the facade I’d constructed, I vowed to myself that I would do it that night. I would sever the ties between who I was and who I pretended to be with a snip of the scissors. In true 2000s rebel teen fashion, I decided that the best representation of my newfound liberation would be an “alternative” haircut (a.k.a. a “mullet” or “shag”).
Before I parted with my formidable mane, I scoured YouTube for inspiration. From singer Johnnie Guilbert’s channel to random YouTubers with usernames that ended in “666” or “rawr,” I gleaned that the only rules in…