For me, the Digital Humanities Summer Institute is a sleepaway camp for dorks, and I’m so excited every year to bunk in a cute little house (cabin?) with some of my favorite dork women friends. We knit, we discuss the merits of various operating systems, we set up a local wifi network, we talk about our hair.
Well, I talk about my hair, because Julia complimented my academic bob. “It’s so sleek,” she said, “so stylish!”
“Thank you!” I answer. Then, in a rush, “It’s my feminist haircut, actually!”
Debate ensued. My idea is this: since my dear daughter was born four years ago, I’ve stuck to low-maintenance, no-product, self-drying shags. If I didn’t manage to wash it, it went in a ponytail. It was, if I may be frank, an expensively coloured mom cut. I chose the style because the time I could save by doing nothing with it—by not even washing it, usually—was time I could use to: wrestle my daughter into pants; make a bed; find a favored and misplaced toy; empty the dishwasher. Increasingly, that all felt like time I was taking away from myself and giving away to others. No, that’s not quite it: it felt like time I was taking away from myself and heaving into the abyss of never-ceasing minutiae. I had fallen in classic mommy martyr behaviour, for no real discernible increase in anyone’s quality of life.
Enough! I decided. The martyr got a nice haircut and now washes it every morning, and blowdries it for 7-10 minutes, to boot. I look nice. I feel better. I’ve carved out time where I can say, “Mommy is busy right now. Please wait a minute and I can help you.”
Julia is unconvinced. She asks, “Do you think the goal of feminism is to allow you to spend 10 minutes blowdrying your hair every day?”
Hm. When you put it like that …
I answer: “I think the goal of feminism is to give me the choice about how I want to spend those ten minutes, and the agency to make it happen.”
Julia has more to say, about the beauty myth and standards of female appearance and the life of the mind. She’s very persuasive. And yet? I like my new hair much better than the old. What do you think? Can a high-maintenance hair style be a feminist act?