Women all over the world invest considerable time and energy to look attractive for men. And one significant component of their appearance is hair. Perhaps this is why women continue to agonize over the right hairstyle which will not only attract the man of their dreams but also keep him hooked. In this context highly unconventional looks like going bald have always evoked considerable debate, with male reactions ranging from a fetishistic attraction to downright repulsion. Here are a few thoughts on whether men find bald women attractive.
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For the greater part of history, across cultures and class, women were naturally expected to have long hair. Shorter hairstyles for women like the bob or ‘marcelled’ hair arrived only in the 1920s and that too was seen in select avant garde social circles. It was not until that the women’s emancipation movement in the 1960s gave women the assurance and economic independence to look how they wanted to. Shorter hairstyles in women thus came to be associated with an assertive independence and by a chauvinist extension often with an aggressive masculinity. In this context going all the way and ending up as completely bald is perhaps the most definitive statement of rebellion against male-imposed norms of feminity and conventional men are apt to regard such a choice with distaste. For these men, the preference for women with long hair is a matter of tradition too – men who have grown up seeing their mothers and other female caregivers with long hair, especially in certain cultures, expect their partners in their adult lives to conform to the same image which is seen as a signifier of feminity and submissiveness. Bald women to such men are not only unattractive but signifiers of an extreme form of man-hating, feminism and/or lesbianism.
Proponents of evolutionary theory maintain that they have the real answer to the male preference for women with long hair. During primitive times when propagation of the human species was paramount, signs of good health like long lustrous hair were coveted in women. The quality and length of hair thus served as a marker of genetic strength and overall health; thus men rated longer haired women as healthier and fitter than shorter haired women to successfully bear and rear children. Over successive centuries, such physical attributes eventually came to stand for sexual attractiveness and the male species came to be genetically wired to select mates with long hair. So even though in these times the enlargement of the family is not a priority, the preference for long hair by men in their partner remains to a large extent, thanks to evolutionary choices.
Traditional stereotypes and evolutionary conditioning by themselves cannot explain the continued ambiguity to the image of bald women when so many older notions related to beauty and sexuality have been shed off by society. One of the ways baldness in women continues to be negatively seen is because of popular cultural constructs. According to these, bald men like Rupert Murdoch, the Dalai Lama, and Jeff Bezos are openly shown as some of the world's most powerful and influential men. Conversely, when a woman is bald, she is seen in quite a different light. Natalie Portman has her head shaved in V For Vendetta as a punishment. Anjelica Houston pulls a wig off in The Witches and becomes a monster. Marcia Cross pulls a wig off in Melrose Place, revealing that she's psychotic and has brain damage. And in The Passion of The Christ, the devil is a bald woman. Occasionally you catch glimpses of triumphant bald women, like Scottish reporter Gail Porter, and cycling champion Joanna Rowsell, but these images are few and far between. Usually when bald women are seen in popular culture, they are depicted as evil, weak, or disadvantaged, or just plain undesirable. Bein bald, excludes a woman from the scope of conventional female identity, so instead of being a sexual object, she becomes an object of illness, imperfection, and in some ways, failure. At worst she become alien and frightening to others.
The attraction of the taboo
Interestingly what makes bald women unattractive to conventional men also serves to enhance their appeal to men who prefer the taboo. The shaved head exudes a kind of fetishistic appeal which many men find attractive. And while bald women could find partners among this group of men, this kind of attraction is only the flipside of the repulsion that exudes from the patriarchal notion that only long hair is feminine and desirable in women. If bald women are looking for acceptance from male partners that is based on mutual respect, this fetishistic attraction is as problematic as the conventional idea of female beauty vested in long, lustrous tresses.
However with increasing exposure to different cultural images and a gradual weakening of evolutionary compulsions, men have begun to appreciate women with varied looks. Women who are strong and confident in themselves can really rock the bald look, as sported on different occasions by powerful celebrities like Demi Moore, Kate Blanchette and Cameron Diaz. Needless to say, these women look both powerful and sexy. And even if the regular bald woman does not have the advantage of being a celebrity, men would do well to keep in mind that the absence of hair allows women to reveal their real beauty. Finally regular women have contributed to changing notions of female attractiveness by choosing looks suited to individual lifestyles and personalities. These women have discovered that with a confident and attractive personality, they can carry off various looks and personal styles with panache – something that makes them all the more attractive, both to men and in their own eyes.