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Sorry Laurie Penny, but the patriarchy likes short hair

28 January 2014

3:34 PM

28 January 2014

3:34 PM

Boy oh boy do I feel sorry for Laurie Penny. I hope that’s not a sexist thing to say. There she is, doing what she does, churning out perfectly harmless po-mo guff for the New Statesman about ‘why the patriarchy fears scissors‘ because ‘short hair is a political statement’ — and people seem to hate her for it, as if she were saying  something dangerously wrong.

‘If you’ve a ladyboner for sexist schmuckweasels,’ says Penny, ‘short hair isn’t going to help, although they might let you administer a disappointing hand-job.’ Top drawer prose, that — witty, rude, could be a quote from Lena Dunham’s Girls, everything a good New Statesman or Guardian article should be. It’s not my bag, but then I don’t have a ladyboner for schmuckweasels, sexist or not. I can see, however, that it serves a purpose journalistically and far be it from me to stand in the way of women talking about hair.

But poor Penny really got it in the neck from the sisters of social media. In sticking up for short hair, she had alienated and offended the longer-haired sorority, as well as black women, somehow. ‘Long hair with ragged ends does NOT conform to patriarchal beauty standards,’ said @Exlancestrian (#childfree #atheist). ‘If women like laurie penny want to dismiss me because of my long hair, then to use her words, we’re wasting less of each others’ time,’ said @jaythenerdkid.  ‘Having long hair that you do NOTHING with apart from tying it back has a similar not-playing-the-game message,’ added @decadentmadamez. ‘Whites [with] long hair contributes to the patriarchy and institutional racism against afro-haired ppl,’ insisted @chantalfresh, perhaps ironically.

It all got a bit much for Penny. She had a panic attack and had to remove
herself from Twitter around midnight:

Well, I suppose if you are going to stand atop the sexist superstructure shouting vagina, you expect a bit of abuse. But it doesn’t seem fair when the aggression comes from people who should be on your side – i.e. other women who spend their lives on the internet talking about their genitals in the context of the male hegemony.

What was missed amid all the squabbling was whether Penny had a point about male attitudes to short hair. For what it’s worth, I don’t think she does. Men don’t fear short hair on a woman. Most of us quite like it, depending on the shape of said woman’s head. What we don’t like is  men with long hair. I even like Laurie Penny’s hairstyle, dammit, though I find the Sharon Osbourne-esque colouring off-putting. I must be threatened by it.

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