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It's Just a Haircut (Social Stance by Mackenzie Shivers)

 
Mackenzie Shivers is a musician, songwriter, and a woman trying to fight for gender equality. Read about her fight with this battle since her childhood in her Social Stance below:
 
I have spent a lot of time over the past couple of years thinking about gender roles and what gender even is. I admit to spending most of my life thinking that sex and gender were one and the same. And why wouldn't I have? That is what society tells us from a very young age (girls like pink! boys like blue! girls wear dresses! boys play with dirt!). Here's the kicker: gender is a (wo)man made construct. If anyone is reading this and doesn't understand what I mean (and it's okay if you don't!), a person's sex refers to their biological sex, mostly the anatomy of their reproductive system. Gender refers to socially constructed roles and how society categorizes activities, behaviors, and attributes as "masculine" and "feminine." Now here's the important part: a person's sex doesn't have to define their gender. They are different things! Gender reveal parties aren't actually revealing gender! They're revealing sex! But I guess people don't want to have "sex reveal" parties for their babies...I digress.
 
When I was ten, I cut my hair short. So short, in fact, I told my hairdresser I wanted a "boy haircut." I was on swim team, and I thought it would make me faster in the water (swim caps stink!), and I was excited about it. I went from loving my haircut to, soon after, hating it. My mom took me and my younger sister shopping, and the shop owner asked my sister if "her brother would like anything." When my mom corrected her, the woman was flustered and embarrassed and therefore so was I. I felt ashamed because she did. Kids at camp teased me for wearing a girl's bathing suit ("he's a she?!"). I soon wore floppy denim hats and clip-on earrings so people would know I was a girl. The world was telling me a girl who had male attributes was ugly. I grew my hair out as quickly as I could, dreading even a small trim for split ends. Twenty years later, when I cut my hair short again, I actually had a photographer ask me if I ever got mistaken for a boy. The first question many people asked me was if my husband liked it. The message was still clear: Women have long hair! It's attractive! Men like it! (And for the record, my husband loved the short cut.)

But of course, it's not just short hair that is considered masculine. Power. Strength. Control. These have all been given male characteristics. And thinking that only men should be powerful, strong, and in control is dangerous, arbitrary, and limiting to all people. I wonder how many times I haven't asked for something I've wanted, spoken up for myself, or dared to disagree with someone in a meeting or rehearsal because it was ingrained in me to be likable and accommodating. Men are still getting paid more than women. Women lack equal decision-making power due to male-dominated centers of power (see: current administration, boardrooms, academia). And then there's the ongoing sexual assault and harassment by these people in power. I'm extremely thankful for organizations like HeForShe, which fights for gender equality and knows it's not just a women's issue. It's a human rights issue. HeForShe classifies gender as non-binary, which means not everyone fits neatly into a "masculine" or "feminine" box. Gender is a spectrum; you might consider yourself as both genders, neither, or another gender entirely! You can be a woman and be non-binary. Yep, this goes back to sex and gender being different things! For more on this, I highly recommend Nikkie McLeod's piece on They/Them/Theirs.

While I don't consider myself an expert on this topic, I find it extremely interesting, important, and an essential part of today's conversation. I strive to keep my mind open and to always keep learning. I think fighting for gender equality and deconstructing gender roles will be a long battle, but I hope having open dialogues and donating to organizations like HeForShe will help. And in the meantime, I try to be mindful of pronouns I use, the toys I buy as baby gifts, the assumptions I make. And I'm keeping my hair short.
 
Learn more about the person behind this captivating story. Follow Mackenzie on Facebook, Twitter, and Spotify. 
 
These photos are of Mackenzie in 5th grade with her "boy" haircut, and then of her now, still with her "boy" haircut!
 

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Brijana can be found reading a book on a hammock while listening to her favorite tunes.

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