The content of this blog is not affiliated with or representative of the U.S. Peace Corps

Monday, 7 October 2013

Defying Gender Norms

In the Philippines having “long straight hair” is romanticized as desirable and in my early attempts to blend into this culture I actually succumbed to this nonsensical idea by having my hair chemically straightened. A decision that I most definitely regret, and that took my hair months to recover from. So after living in the tropics for over a year I finally decided to go for the short cut and damn was it liberating.

Why did you cut off all your hair!?
That’s the disappointing question people keep asking me, as if I should have asked them for permission. The most immediate Filipino responses to my new hair were primarily shock followed by horror. Some of the ladies at my center actually screamed when they saw me. A few even sadly remarked, “You were so pretty before.” As if the way I choose to express myself directly pains their existence. It’s my hair. I cut it because I wanted to. 

There must be something wrong with you.
After seeing a photo of my new hair my mother emailed me saying, “I like your hair, I hope it wasn’t trauma induced.” I believe this was meant to be a joke, but then the psychologist at my work said, “Mimi’s hair looks good, is there something wrong with her?” What is this Girl Interrupted?

But men don’t like short hair!
I think this is a generalization, but I will say this style has noticeably helped to reduce the negative attention I receive from Filipino men –one unintended but incredibly awesome benefit. I can’t say that my hair has completely repelled them in terms of street harassment, but rather than immediately commencing in kissing noises after I walk by, they seem to be proceeding with caution… perhaps taking a few moments to contemplate whether or not I am a lesbian which gives me time for a clean escape. (Having said that, if a man cannot be attracted to you without your luscious locks, I would say that is one incredibly shallow relationship and one worth scrapping immediately.)

So in conclusion…I’ve determined that having short hair is liberating because it feels like a righteous defiance of gender norms and beauty stereotypes. Not to mention it’s a serious time saving/effort reducing measure -after all this is the Peace Corps. That’s not to say that I may grow my hair back in time when I am ready for another change but the decision is mine alone and no your opinion is not welcome. Unless you want to tell me how fabulous I look! 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Amelia. I am glad to have come across SU's link to your blog. Thanks for doing the hard- and heart-work for social justice in the Philippines. May God bless you with much strength, courage and new friendships. You are a bringer of hope. Do not lose heart. And your hair looks awesome.


  3. Hi again. I have short hair, too. And I love it. I see what you're saying, how short hair is perceived in the Philippines. Most of my Filipino relatives who live in the Philippines do not think it cool. Many filipinos love long, straight, black (or blonde) hair. We have been socialized and genderized to think this way. Shampoo tv commercials and Jose Rizal's Maria Clara encapsulate and reinforce this beauty myth.