We often see our hair as a reflection of our identity because it is both personal and public. Many women feel that a bad hair day equals a bad day: when a woman’s hair is too fine, too frizzy, too dry, turning grey or falling out, her self-esteem is seriously affected. This deep personal relationship between hair and self-esteem is evident throughout history, philosophy and even religion. These are just a few of the things hair has symbolized for women throughout time:
• Femininity: History shows that hair is a symbol of femininity. During the civil war when women weren’t to battle, hundreds of women soldiers disguised themselves as men by cutting off their hair, eventually being imprisoned upon discovery. After the Battle of France in 1940, French women’s heads were shaved as punishment for their sexual relationships with German soldiers. Today a woman’s hair remains a symbol of femininity.
• Identity: It’s no wonder women feel like their hair is a “crowning glory,” as this phrase dates back to Biblical times. According to 1 Corinthians 11: 15, “but for a woman, if her hair is abundant, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” As shown in 1 Corinthians 11: 5, “and every woman, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered, dishonors her head; for she is on a level with her whose head is shaven.” The negative implication of a woman with a bare head is apparent in today’s society.
• Freedom and beauty: Lady Godiva’s naked ride through the streets has made her a heroine to the common people of Coventry. The image of Lady Godiva riding a horse with her body covered with only her long hair has become a symbol of civic freedom and beauty.
• Liberation: In the 1950s, female communists and soldiers in China favored a short bob cut just below the ears. This simple hairstyle was named the “Liberation Hairdo” because it is a symbol of women taking control over their own lives. Women continue to use their hairdo to express themselves.
Hair and beauty is a multibillion-dollar industry, and the average woman spends approximately $50,000 on her hair over her lifetime and almost two hours a week washing and styling her hair. This is not just because many of us believe that appearances are important, but also because our hair represents our personality, thoughts and beliefs. For centuries, women have been able to play different roles by changing different hairstyles, and from their stories, we can see that hair contributes greatly to women’s self-esteem, actions and motives.