Resisting Pretty: A Hair Story

When I trim my bangs, I release my femme. There’s nothing that makes me feel more like myself, more powerful, and more femme than hacking off the overgrown fringe covering my forehead. I look back at photographs of myself as a little femme and see that I have always had the same hairdo as I do now: shoulder length wavy hair and bangs. The style of bangs has fluctuated a little, but for over a year (and on and off through my adolescence and young adulthood) I’ve been committed to super short, rounded out bangs a la Bettie Page. Every couple of weeks I trim them myself, leaning far over my bathIMG_0432room sink to evaluate their evenness in the mirror. And every couple of weeks I emerge from the bathroom a little more powerful.

I hold a lot of privileges, and they all affect whether or not I am perceived as beautiful. For the most part, I fit pretty seamlessly with normative beauty ideals: I’m white, thin, able bodied, and a femme cis woman. My bangs and my vertical labret piercing are not just leftover mementoes from my punky teenagehood, but my most visible queer markers. These things are queer not necessarily because they match a particular hip aesthetic, but because they “move toward the ugly.” My piercing slices through my lip and normative femininity simultaneously. It announces something odd, that I choose to look a little “ugly” when I could look “pretty.” My bangs function in the same way: too short and too blunt to look delicate, soft, or lovely.

Because of the privilege I carry, looking ugly is a choice. I could grow out my bangs and take out my lip ring and fade into a normalized femininity. This can be a privilege in many ways. But for some reason, I hold on to these things. By resisting the pretty, by cutting it out of my hair, I’m signaling my intentional alignment with the queer. As a white, thin, queer, cis femme, this is how I queer femininity; this is how I embrace the ugly. And something about that makes me feel real. 

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