Does Doing My Hair Make Me A Bad Feminist?

Women getting their hair done circa 1960.

Courtesy of Wikimedia.

Around the time of my bat mitzvah (the Jewish coming of age ceremony), I started to straighten my hair every Shabbat. Each Friday afternoon, I would rush home from school to make it into the shower with enough time to do my hair before the sun set. Although it was stressful at times, it became something I really enjoyed doing. I don’t have that much time, if any, to spend on activities of my own choosing throughout the week. Consequently, it’s something special that I get to do, as well as a time to mentally prepare for Shabbat. It also makes my hair more manageable, so I can spend more time during Shabbat eating, praying, being with friends and family, and sleeping, and less time focusing on something as trivial as hair. As much as this is something I enjoy, there has always been a question in the back of my mind: does this practice make me a bad feminist?

As a feminist, it doesn’t feel particularly aligned with my ideology to spend so much time on something that has so much to do with impressing others, and that is frankly quite vain. If straightening my hair takes me around a half an hour, and I do it almost every single week (let’s say 40 weeks per year, which is an underestimation to be certain), that means I spend a minimum of 20 hours per year just straightening my hair. These are 20 hours that could be spent doing schoolwork, strengthening relationships, or even just getting some fresh air. Instead, I’m standing in front of the mirror going over section upon section of hair. I could give you the classic feminist argument; that I’m doing this entirely for myself, and that the thought of other people seeing me looking better has never entered my mind. I could do that, but I’d be lying.

I like doing my hair. In fact, I enjoy doing my makeup as well. And picking out outfits. And going shopping. Undoubtedly, I spend time on my appearance because it gives me confidence in myself- a reality not to be trivialized. But I also like to look a certain way because it prevents me from having to wonder if people are thinking negatively about me based on my appearance. It allows me one less teenage angst. It allows me to worry about what is actually important to me.

It is imperative to remind people, and teenagers especially, that their looks are not equivalent to their worth in this world. However, that doesn’t make it not ok to enjoy shopping and hair-doing. Everyone’s feminism is different, which is what makes the movement so special . My feminism allows me to enjoy traditionally feminine activities while simultaneously enjoying many traditionally masculine ones, but that’s just me. In this movement, I believe, to each their own.

I sincerely hope that one day I can do my hair and honestly be doing it for no one but myself. Or maybe one day I’ll decide to stop going shopping for fun and never do my hair again. To me, having that option is a big part of what it means to be a feminist today. It means that identifying as a female doesn’t deny me the ability to make the personal choices that I want to make. Although my feminism is a passionate one, it isn’t perfect. I enjoy straightening my hair, but I almost hope that one day I’ll stop prioritizing that. But I’m not there yet, and that’s ok.

For now, I’m off to do my hair.

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

Topics: Feminism
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How to cite this page

Fish-Bieler, Hani. "Does Doing My Hair Make Me A Bad Feminist?." 4 December 2015. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 30, 2024) <>.