Are short-haired women less attractive?

Michelle Williams says only gay men and her girlfriends like her pixie cut. Why is long hair still sexy's standard?

Topics: Body Wars, Michelle Williams, Marilyn Monroe,

Are short-haired women less attractive?Michelle Williams (Credit: AP/Peter Kramer)

It seems impossible — how could Marilyn Monroe be undesirable? Yet in a new interview with Elle, Michelle Williams, who plays the doomed blond bombshell in “My Week With Marilyn,” admits that her real-life look has never won her too many fans. Speaking about her trademark short-cropped hair, Williams says that “I’ve really grown into it — I feel like myself with short hair. And it’s been a really long time since I had long hair, five years.” But Williams admits that her daughter, Matilda, “would love … her mum to grow out the cropped hair, though that’s unlikely to happen any time soon.” The only people who like it, she says, are gay men and my girlfriends. “Straight men across the board are not into this hair!” Well, one man was — in a reference to her ex-fiance, Heath Ledger, who died in 2008, she says, “I cut it for the one straight man who has ever liked short hair and I wear it in memorial of somebody who really loved it.”

Why do so many people – from 6-year-old girls to nearly every straight man on the planet – have a thing for long hair? True, the flowing mane has always had a powerful allure – Shakespeare wrote of his lady’s hair as “threads of beaten gold” and wavy-haired ladies milk that pre-Raphaelite thing to this day. But the iconic, much-imitated Dorothy Hamill and Princess Diana cuts trend only briefly, before giving way again to Paris Hilton and Tyra Banks-level super weaves.  Gone are the days when you could even have a token Cynthia Nixon short-haired chick on your television ensemble — now it’s all Sofia Vergara and Whitney Cummings. The closest thing to a short-haired TV star is Judge Judy.

And just as surely as contemporary females are expected to have zero hair anywhere on their bodies, they’re considered unusual if they aren’t rocking a Taylor Swift-like follicular cascade. Behold the current Maxim 100 — not a short-haired image in the bunch, even of Maxim-designated hotties and sometime-pixies Rihanna, Emma Watson and Natalie Portman. Clearly, flowing locks are a source of power. That’s why it’s such a shock when actresses like Williams lop off their hair – and why they’re often in a hurry to get it back. Julia Roberts shaved for “Hook” 20 years ago, and has been all trademark waves ever since. Demi Moore famously went shorn for “Ghost” and “G.I. Jane,” then quickly returned to waist-length tresses. Perhaps most notably, Gwyneth Paltrow’s moment of shortness in “Sliding Doors” was a blip in a career spent behind a princess blond mane.

You Might Also Like

In many quarters, a woman cutting her hair is still seen as a woman committing an act of rebellion. She’s a troublemaking Sinead O’Connor ripping up the pope’s picture, a defiantly post-”Harry Potter” Emma Watson, a brazenly weird Amber Rose. She can be as traffic-stopping stunning as Winona Ryder in her Gen-X heyday, as hot as Halle Berry emerging from the surf in a James Bond movie, or as fierce as Keira Knightley kicking ass in “Domino” — and there’s still an implied “I’m just sticking it to the man” subtext to her do.

Sometimes, short hair is the beer gut for ladies. Among a certain segment of my mother’s and grandmother’s generations, a short cut was an admission that you were middle-aged and no longer interested in making the effort. But for plenty of women, hair is just a canvas upon which to creatively express themselves. For them, short hair isn’t an admission of defeat – it’s an expression of a style that doesn’t have to fit into the Anne Hathaway mold. The notion that our hair has to conform to rigid parameters is as ludicrous as the idea that our bodies do. Because, really, what’s sexier than a woman who, like Williams, says she feels comfortable with herself? And if the little girls and straight men don’t quite get it, it’s a good thing that the woman gorgeous enough to embody Marilyn Monroe, the goddess whose own platinum tresses frequently never grazed her shoulders, does.

Mary Elizabeth Williams
Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 13
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    DAYA  
    Young Daya has yet to become entirely jaded, but she has the character's trademark skeptical pout down pat. And with a piece-of-work mother like Aleida -- who oscillates between jealousy and scorn for her creatively gifted daughter, chucking out the artwork she brings home from summer camp -- who can blame her?

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    MORELLO   
    With her marriage to prison penpal Vince Muccio, Lorna finally got to wear the white veil she has fantasized about since childhood (even if it was made of toilet paper).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CINDY   
    Cindy's embrace of Judaism makes sense when we see her childhood, lived under the fist of a terrifying father who preached a fire-and-brimstone version of Christianity. As she put it: "I was raised in a church where I was told to believe and pray. And if I was bad, I’d go to hell."

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CAPUTO   
    Joey Caputo has always tried to be a good guy, whether it's offering to fight a disabled wrestler at a high school wrestling event or giving up his musical ambitions to raise another man's child. But trying to be a nice guy never exactly worked out for him -- which might explain why he decides to take the selfish route in the Season 3 finale.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    BOO   
    In one of the season's more moving flashbacks, we see a young Boo -- who rejected the traditional trappings of femininity from a young age -- clashing with her mother over what to wear. Later, she makes the decision not to visit her mother on her deathbed if it means pretending to be something she's not. As she puts it, "I refuse to be invisible, Daddy. Not for you, not for Mom, not for anybody.”

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    SOSO
    We still don't know what landed Brooke Soso in the slammer, but a late-season flashback suggests that some seriously overbearing parenting may have been the impetus for her downward spiral.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    POUSSEY
    We already know a little about Poussey's relationship with her military father, but this season we saw a softer side of the spunky fan-favorite, who still pines for the loving mom that she lost too young.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    PENNSATUCKY
    Pennsatucky had something of a redemption arc this season, and glimpses of her childhood only serve to increase viewer sympathy for the character, whose mother forced her to chug Mountain Dew outside the Social Security Administration office and stripped her of her sexual agency before she was even old enough to comprehend it.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    CHANG
    This season, we got an intense look at the teenage life of one of Litchfield's most isolated and underexplored inmates. Rebuffed and scorned by her suitor at an arranged marriage, the young Chinese immigrant stored up a grudge, and ultimately exacted a merciless revenge.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    HEALY
    It's difficult to sympathize with the racist, misogynist CO Sam Healy, but the snippets we get of his childhood -- raised by a mentally ill mother, vomited on by a homeless man he mistakes for Jesus when he runs to the church for help -- certainly help us understand him better.

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NORMA
    This season, we learned a lot about one of Litchfield's biggest enigmas, as we saw the roots of Norma's silence (a childhood stutter) and the reason for her incarceration (killing the oppressive cult leader she followed for decades).

    The 12 most incredible pint-size look-alikes in "Orange Is the New Black" season 3

    NICKI
    While Nicki's mother certainly isn't entirely to blame for her daughter's struggles with addiction, an early childhood flashback -- of an adorable young Nicki being rebuffed on Mother's Day -- certainly helps us understand the roots of Nicki's scarred psyche.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>