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Collie's Musings

A friend pointed me to this web-site project done by Sarah Joy Liles. The project entailed her cutting all her hair off, then recording her experiences for the next 100 days in a web journal, with an emphasis on "[m]aintain[ing] [her] sense of self-worth and own beauty, and the worth and beauty of others."

Here's the email I wrote to her about her project. Unfortunately I never received a reply... it would have been interesting to share thoughs with her.

Copyright © 2000 B. "Collie" Collier
It seemed like a good idea at the time... ;-)


Hello. You don't know me, but I'm a friend of Ben's, through David Hoberman, who's getting a copy of this too, since he was kind enough to send me your e-mail invitation to your site. And Ben's swiped some things from my web-page, for example... tell him 'hi, ya fink!' from me! ;-)

I'm writing about your endurance project, where you shaved your body hair. I found your ending comments (the quote from Paul, and the question from Karen's dad) interesting choices to report on your part, and I thought the comment about the answer to his question being the point of the project telling... or at least it got me thinking. ;-)

A bit of personal background which might or might not interest you... as a child my parents always kept my hair very short. There were times I could have joined the Marines, if haircut were the only criterion for admission. ;-) At one point in my life I wanted to grow my hair long, and they let me, but only as long as I kept it tied back -- the parameter given was that I must keep it out of my eyes. Since I was not a lovely child, and my mother encouraged me to use my hair to hide my 'flaws,' I was quite self-conscious about how I looked, and hastily gave up that attempt at freedom of expression when I 'realized' I looked worse with long hair. As an adult, I grew out my hair, I wore it loose, I gloried in it being fly-away and as long as it would grow (unfortunately not that long, alas ;-). It was a symbol of my new-found freedom of choice, to me.

As someone who's studied the bible quite a bit, both as a literary and a historical document, and as a way to better know my enemy, I'd have to agree with you, re the answer to the question, "Has she no shame?" being the point of your project. I've taken the liberty of giving you a few of my thoughts re possible answers to this question, and possible motivations on your part. I'm sorry if I'm just repeating things you already know. ;-)

Speaking of the times in which the bible and similar myths were first being orally spoken, women (as a general class) were both feared and revered. It was believed that women were creatures of strong impulses and great power. Through braiding and unbraiding her hair, for example, Circe was supposedly able to control the weather, and she made men into helpless, mindless, beastly pets at her whim. Weather was a good metaphor for women to the male mind-set of that time -- lovely and alluring at one point, devastatingly destructive at another... and so, in an effort to control that power, men made rules about what 'good' women were, and how one became a 'good' woman. One of those rules included women covering their hair, so they didn't either accidentally mess up the weather, or attract whatever 'imps' or other creatures they somehow communicated with in order to perform their 'mischiefs.'

Paul the apostle was a citizen of that time. He certainly had a status quo he was trying to protect -- women were second class citizens that were only just beginning, in the christian church, to achieve the potential of equals with men. It is a rarely known fact today, for example, that many of the then apostles he refers to in his letters as great teachers and peers of his -- are women. If we are feeling charitable towards Paul, we could say that the reason he gives these rules you quoted is in an effort to better control the more child-like (due to the upbringing they were forced to endure as second-class citizens) of the female members of his parishes... and that once these women also demonstrated understanding of the teachings of the church, they would be considered peers on a level with the men there as well. If we are feeling uncharitable, we could suggest, of course, that he was merely realizing the dangers of letting the 'lower classes' (women in this case) get 'uppity' -- all the male 'rights' of ownership over women would be lost.

And how does one control someone else? Make them feel bad when they don't do what you say, whether through physically beating them, or through more subtle and lasting means... like making a category of mindless, domesticated, timid, obedient, sheep-like women and calling that a 'good' woman, and referring to all other women as 'bad', as dangerous, disruptive, threatening... as shameless. So what we end up with here, displayed through history, is an attempt by men (as a general class) to control and own women, to take their 'power' and tame it, to use it only for the benefit of men.

Screw them. As a woman, I want to glory in my power, to use it to benefit those I care for and to hell with the rest of them! I want to thumb my nose at my culture's antiquated, frightened ideas of what 'proper' women look like and how 'good' women behave -- I want me to be the only person owning my body, I want to feel strong and assured in myself! True, my way was to grow my hair, yours was to cut it... but in answer to your friend's father's question, I'd have to answer proudly, to cheerfully yell out at the top of my lungs, "NO! No, I have no shame... shame is how you try to control me, and I won't be controlled -- I'll live as I want to live, and be who I want to be!"

So if you want to cut your hair, if you want to be someone entirely new -- do it! More power to you! Leave stifling convention behind. It's out of date... and we as women today are re-writing the rules on how to live, whether in business, in marriage or the lack of marriage, in child-rearing, in whatever part of society we chose.

It's trite, but it's also true -- to thine own self be true, and all else will follow... as night follows day.

Thanks for listening! ;)

--laughing collie
who has some hopefully interesting essays on the bible and religion too. ;-)

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Last Updated: Tues Jan 25 2000

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