July 15, 2017

It's Not Just Gal, It's All (Pregnant) Gals

Before and during the publicity trail for DC's latest superhero(ine) movie 'Wonder Woman', controversy was the name of the day. Many believed having a female director (Patty Jenkins, known for Academy Award-winning 'Monster') at the helm of usually male-orientated subject would make it unbankable and cause a Box Office crash. There were protests to all-woman screenings of the film. And try not to mention the so-called flops of Zack Snyder's attempts at reimagining Batman and Superman and the great disappointment that was 'Suicide Squad'. One of the details that popped out during the trail was the fact that Gal Gadot was actually five months pregnant during reshooting, a fact that brought her much praise. You know, because pregnant women are supposed to be barefoot and working in the kitchen, or something.

I can see why this fact is so stupendous to some. Gal Gadot certainly had her fair share of physical activity to undertake, but we must remember that she had an entire team of professionals guiding her every step of every move, and certainly a lot of help in the form of blue screens and such.

Of course, producer Chuck Roven was quoted as saying that she couldn't do a huge amount of physical activity and she was really just 'being aggressive'. Obviously not something pregnant women do, right? And since the reshoots weren't for really crazy scenes, let's be honest and say then that all pregnant women are Wonder Women.

Why do I say this? Certainly pregnant women may not all engage in martial arts activities, but there are some who perform equally taxing tasks while pregnant, including rock climbing at eight months, competing in the Olympics, weight training, ran marathons, or winning a tennis tournament. Physical activity is in fact encouraged during pregnancy, unless it involves heavy lifting or anything very strenuous. Hell, even regular mothers are Wonder Women: carrying around their other toddlers, lugging grocery bags, doing yoga, dealing with dirty dishes and laundry and floors and faces, and still managing to hold a job they're most likely to consider leaving after giving birth to baby because of discrimination.

I struggled to find an explanation for the idea that we still have in society that pregnant women are weak and the only concept I've come up with is that women between the 16th and 18th centuries were taught by doctors that they had to control their thoughts and desires because everything they thought and desired had a direct effect on the wellbeing of the baby: for example, having lustful thoughts would turn your baby into a hermaphrodite, or being scared of an elephant would create a child that looked like an elephant, or eating strawberries would result in birthmarks. Yeah, about as ridiculous as believing a woman's uterus moved around her body! Ha. Oh wait, they believed that once, too. Obviously something went wrong quite often, especially if we're considering birthmarks a defect, and it was all the mother's fault - it was her weakness that caused the defect, and this mental weakness soon translated into a physical weakness.

And of course the media just loves to play on these old fears by sensationalising news stories featuring pregnant women in danger and, of course, famous pregnant women who manage athletic feats during pregnancy (like our Gal). Or inspiring debate about women who appear to put their children at risk (according to many people's educated opinions).

So while Gal's reshoots at five months are impressive, there are amazing things being done by pregnant women every day. They may not make headlines, but they do make big differences to the people they love and themselves.
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July 7, 2017

I Shaved My Head!

In one word: Weird. Shaving my head felt weird. I've had long hair most of my life, bar a shorter cut in the early 2000s and a half-assed attempt at an undercut at the end of last year. So after two haircuts this year that have left me totally unhappy with my hair, I decided - with a lot of persuasion from hubby - to shave it all off.

On The Day: 

This is great! I feel weightless. My hair hasn't been this short since I was a baby. I've always been so attached to my hair, and remember bawling my eyes out when I was about seven because my mom cut my long hair into a bob. But what freedom! I don't have to look in the mirror tomorrow morning and think about how my fine, lifeless hair is completely uncooperative. Best of all, I feel rebellious! I feel invincible! Who cares what my hair looks like or what other people think of it? It's about time I stop worrying about what other people think of me. I feel like I have shorn off years of worrying about my looks, years of stereotypes of beauty and femininity. Best of all, I feel brave!

Day 1: 

Despite Emma saying she likes it, rubbing her hands through the spiky softness, and saying she also wants her head shaved, I hate it. It's too short. I look like a boy. And it's the blasted middle of Winter and my head is freezing. I shack up in the house for the entire day.


Day 2:

I have bold (bald?) intentions of staying inside all day, too. I am not sulking as hard as I was yesterday, but my head is still cold. If I didn't have to fetch something, I would have stayed in bed watching 'The Handmaid's Tale' all day. But light at the end of the tunnel: the people I meet when fetching the package don't even bat an eyelid at my haircut. Sure, they didn't compliment me, but they also did not smirk, at least to my face. That's confirmation to me that most people don't give a darn.


Day 3: 

Today was my first official outing with a buzzcut. Only one older man looked in my direction with a bit of speculation, but that's just one out of many. It appears that a girl with a buzzcut is nothing strange, nothing to stare and giggle at. If that's the case, how many times have I gone out scared to distraction that I look silly and IT WAS ALL IN MY MIND?


Day 4: 

Gym was amazing today! I didn't feel tired and definitely felt lighter during my workout. I certainly didn't miss the strands of hair sticking to my face or dangling in front of my eyes. Plus, I was asked what I did with my hair and upon replying that I just took it off, I got support in the way of an unsaid, 'Yeah!' And when someone else said it suited me, I didn't bashfully look away and assume they were being sarcastic. In my imagination? Perhaps, but where has this confidence that people are seeing me in a positive way coming from?

Day 5 - 7: 

I feel great about my hair. Maybe it's because it's grown about 3mm since I cut it. Maybe it's because I've had overwhelmingly positive feedback about it. No laughing, no snickering. Just a few prolonged stares... But this situation is unusual for me because I have created such situations in my mind before, coming face to face with criticism and judgment, and this has simply not happened.


Maybe if I were in more social situations I would be exposed to more uninvited questions or meaner comments?

My thoughts:

Okay, so basically this entire experience has taught me a lot about myself: I am way too concerned about my appearance and fitting in with my own preconceived ideas of what suits me. If I can feel confident with nearly no hair on my head - something I have allowed to define me - then whatever else I decide to do with my appearance should be a non-issue.

Women believed to have collaborated with the Germans in WWII, who had their heads shorn as punishment paraded through the streets.
This subconscious need of mine to fit into what society largely regards as feminine is something that I've not believed has really applied to me: I don't often wear makeup, I rarely wear a dress, and I'd pick baggy denims over a lacy, flowy, cleavage-baring outfit any day of the week. However, my fear of not having any hair is connected to my latent performance of femininity, because, as we all know, long hair is a signal of fertility. And of sanity. And of health. And short hair is a punishment, a disease.

And of course on some level I understand that to be appreciated by the male of our species, I need to have long hair (This in spite the fact that I've been married for eight years). So by having long hair, it was the one feminine thing I was subconsciously hanging on to - the single indicator of femininity. Was I afraid then of shedding this feminine prop? Definitely!

But doing it made me question why I dress the way I do, why I judge myself the way I do, why I almost cried when I realised it had all been shaved off. I loved my long hair. But I feel more confident now knowing that it is not me, it does not define me or how womanly I am - no matter how long I grow it or short I cut it or what colour I dye it or how limp and unstyled it is - and I won't allow it, or people's perceptions of it and other choices I make, to rule me any more.

{Image credits: Shaving as Punishment: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-041-10 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de], via Wikimedia Commons}

Further Reading:

9 Things Girls With Shaved Heads Are Tired of Hearing About Our Perfect Buzzcuts
Laurie Penny on hair: Why patriarchy fears the scissors - for women, short hair is a political statement
Women Speak Out on Why Shaving Their Heads Was One of Their Most Inspired Moments
The stigma of baldness for women
Female Beauty and the Sociology of Stigma
That One Time I Shaved My Head (as a woman)
What I Learned By Shaving My Head
An Ugly Carnival
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