News & Politics

Female Student Shaves Head to Fight 'Gender Norms'

Image via Facebook

When a kid goes off to college, you expect him or her to be learning how to handle the reality of adulthood. That’s literally the point of college.

But here we have the exploits of feminist activist Yvonne Nguyen, who has shaved her head to make … a STATEMENT. She didn’t shave it to support a friend who is fighting cancer, though — that’s always a great move. Nor did she do it because she just likes the way it looks. While it’s not my thing, I’m not the one who has to wear it, so more power to her.

Instead, she did it to COMBAT SOMETHING OR OTHER:

Nguyen first posted the video of the head shaving on Facebook on March 17, 2017, and included an explanation consisting of three points. She revealed in her first point that “daily, for over the past two years, I’ve wanted to shave my head. Society’s gender norms have tried to define me, my actions, thoughts, my feelings, and my dress. I am oppressed. But, I’m not going to stand for it anymore.”

On Tuesday, the Villanova student published an op-ed in the campus student newspaper, The Villanovan, where she explained that the “small and constant comments about how to play the role of my gender were burdensome. … Throughout my life, I was told how to look, think, feel, act and be a girl in order to ‘fit in.’”

Nguyen also asserted that “shaving my head enabled me to be reflective of the ways society forces me to conform to labels that I didn’t choose. Shaving my head liberated me, as I allowed myself to be faithful to my values and genuine self.” She soon added that “shaving my head allowed me to be in solidarity with people undergoing cancer treatment and take time to identify the privileges that I take for granted.”

I won’t pretend that gender norms don’t exist, but to treat this as oppression proves that at no point during her education has she studied oppression.

Here’s a tip: If you can protest something without ANY ramifications, such as imprisonment or threats of government reprisal, you’re not oppressed. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for example, spent plenty of time in jail for his activism.

While gender norms are a thing, they evolve from the culture — and it’s not as if the choices of free women had no role in creating those. And gender norms are not necessarily good or bad.

Most importantly, long or shaved, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because no one in the U.S. cares what a young adult does to her hair. “Society” is not trying to define your hair. Society’s only interest in your hair is either due to professionalism, or occasionally, public hygiene.

Contrast that with North Korea — the country has legally mandated hairstyles. Yup — that is oppression. Saying that you look nice, or that you don’t, is not in the same area code as North Korea. Which presumably has no area codes.

Perhaps she should use some of that money she’s spent on schooling towards actually taking advantage of the amazing opportunity a real education affords.

Shaving my head :)Post shave-I shaved my head for 3 reasons:1) Daily, for over the past two years, I've wanted to shave my head. Society's gender norms have tried to define me, my actions, thoughts, my feelings, and my dress. I am oppressed. But, I'm not going to stand for it anymore.2) March 17th is St. Patrick's Day. And so, to show solidarity for cancer patients and those with alopecia, I would like to remember the privilege I have in terms of being able to grow my hair out. I am privileged. 3) Through Villanova's Mission and Ministry, I had just completed a Service and Justice Experience (SJE) in El Paso, TX. This journey was transformative and has compelled me to dedicate my life to focusing on school and social justice instead of superficial appearances. I am able to change my circumstances and those of others too!I don't want to be limited due to my gender, yet I also want to be mindful of my privileges. And now, after the SJE, I want nothing else but to work for the common good.

Posted by Yvonne Thao on Friday, March 17, 2017