By Phuong Pham
For no explicitly stated reason, women in geekdom seem only to be brainy, badass or more badass when they have short hair (with a few exceptions.) Hit the jump to read more about my ramblings on the history of badass short-haired women in sci-fi and fantasy.
It seems that throughout geek history women with short hair have either a higher intelligence or have thrown down the gauntlet against whatever fantasy/sci-fi obstacles they encounter for example, Chief of security, Tasha Yar on the USS Enterprise: D or, in the realm of anime/manga, Sailor Mercury and Sailor Uranus. All are extremely intelligent females, especially Sailor Uranus, who proves herself to be incredibly powerful and capable when first introduced. Then there is Maria Hill, the cold hard ass bitch of Marvel.
We could even look to Amanda Waller, the cold hard ass bitch of DC. Both of these women, despite being human, strike fear into the hearts of meta-humans and mutants alike. Coincidentally, both have also had very short hair. This may seem to be a small detail but this is a very common theme in television and film.
Not only that but it also seems that badass women with long hair are not always immune to this treatment, as well. Cersei Lannister was a terrifying woman and ruthless ruler of King’s Landing. She was intimidating, to say the least. But it isn’t until she is shamed and her hair, chopped off that she is even more of a force to be reckoned with when she knowingly unleashes wildfire upon the Great Sept.
This can also be said of Buffy Summers from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. After Buffy tries (and fails) to become legal guardian to Dawn, she chops off her hair into a bob and attempts to make something of her life (with a brief intermission of throwing caution to the wind while being invisible.) Willow Rosenberg also regularly wears her hair shorter when she becomes a powerful witch later in the series. With women in television and film, there seems to be some sort of rite-of-passage or coming-of-age climax within a story that causes a woman to cut her hair.
So what is the reason for this, exactly? One reason is that in an action-adventure environment, it is a matter of practicality. It could also be that long hair has classically been associated with femininity and short hair with masculinity. This could explain why women in positions of power like Maria Hill are often portrayed as having shorter hair.
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. For instance, Zoe Washburn from Firefly always had her long, voluminous curly hair. However, this was off-set by her less-than-feminine clothes. She was the only member on board the Serenity who was never seen wearing a dress. Even Kaylee Frye, the ship’s mechanic, traded her grease-stained jumpsuit in for a frilly ballgown, once. And for whatever reason, Zoe’s hair never got in the way of taking down Reavers or got sucked in one of Serenity’s turbines. It could be that this was to give Zoe a balance of femininity to juxtapose with her masculine qualities.
And what about men with long hair? If women emphasize masculine traits do men emphasize female traits by having long hair? The first intellectual property that comes to mind is Tarzan: a man who is seen as uncivilized and strong. Other men in geek properties include Jason Momoa’s interpretation of Aquaman and Thor. For some reason, while these men have longer hair, this doesn’t seem to take away from their masculinity. So why masculine-ize women with short hair when men’s masculinity is unaffected by their hairstyle?
Overall, it seems that the more rough-and-tumble a female protagonist or antagonist is, the shorter their hair length. However, let’s just agree that whatever their hairstyle, our female characters should be badass.