exclusive: rose mcgowan on why going bald is the ultimate feminist battle cry

In an excerpt from her upcoming memoir ‘BRAVE,’ bullshit-free screen queen Rose McGowan recalls the inspiring reason she buzzed off her ‘Barbie hair.'

by Rose McGowan
19 June 2017, 2:35pm

i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture and the times we live in. 

Did you break up with someone?

At first the question made me angry, I thought it sexist, stereotypical, disheartening. There was no death of a relationship that made me so in need of freedom that I'd alter myself. The more the break up question was asked, the more it made me think about my motives. I realized I had broken up with someone. I broke up with you. The collective you, the societal you. I broke up with the Hollywood ideal, the one that I had a part in playing. The ideal version of a woman that is sold to you by every actress in every hair commercial telling you, "this the secret to being beguiling, the secret to getting a man to want you." Long, glossy Kardashian-esque hair that says, "fuck me, big boy." As if that's all we are and all we can be. Hair. Hair is what I broke up with. And it was a break up that was years in the making; it took a lot to wake me from my brainwashed slumber. My long hair had always made me uncomfortable. It felt like I had a plant on my head and a sex target on my back. It made men en masse look at me while the real me disappeared. I would use it to cover my face, to check out, to sleep. And sleep I did. The real Rose slept while the hair Rose lived a bizarre alternate life playing the part of someone who played parts.

A little hair background, most of my life I had my hair short. I preferred it that way. My childhood pictures all have short hair and it was at my request. The classic film stars and punk women I most admired had short hair. I liked very much being an individual. I liked looking neither female nor male, but hovering somewhere in between. The two periods of time when I had long hair were the hardest in my life, the times I was most lost from myself- my teen years when I suffered from a raging eating disorder and later when I suffered from a mental disorder called Hollywood. The Hollywood disorder lasted a much longer time, but both had to do with being absent from self. Both times were very external, driven by society's number one propaganda machine — Hollywood. I was literally told I had to have long hair otherwise the men doing the hiring in Hollywood wouldn't want to fuck me and if they didn't want to fuck me, they wouldn't hire me. I was told this by my female agent, which is tragic on many levels. So, so evil and so, so sad. Evil because I took the information from an older woman who was the mouthpiece for what Hollywood wants, and she was right. Sad because it wasn't just the message that gets filtered down to women and girls, I got the direct message. All of the suggestive messaging/imaging that we as women get from TV, film, media and advertising tells us to have long hair so we too can be sexy, but we on the other side of the camera get it told to us directly, like a hotline phone call directly from what "the man" wants.

Well, fuck Hollywood. Fuck the messaging. Fuck the propaganda. Fuck the stereotypes.

My hair when long was beautiful, like a beauty pageant contestant kind of hair, silky and big. My hairdressers were gay males and for these particular guys it seemed like I was their living Barbie come to life, at least that's what they told me. I didn't think I looked like Barbie, I thought I looked more like a blow-up sex doll, the kind with the hole for the mouth. And it didn't feel good. I had been turned into the ultimate fantasy fuck toy by the Hollywood machine. All of the men and women hired to make me look like said fantasy fuck toy did a good job, but I was dying on the inside and embarrassed by what I looked like on the outside. See if you're a Jennifer Lawrence America's sweetheart type, you have simple blonde hair, if you're the vixen, it is long, dark and big. Those are the rules, do not deviate.

I meet so many women and girls that tell me their hair is a security blanket and what they hide behind. I found both not only relatable, but heartbreaking. Of course you should have long hair if YOU feel like having long hair, but examine your motives. What part does society play in telling you how you should look? What part does media play in showing you what you should be? Why do you want to live a life in hiding and what are you hiding from?

When I shaved my head it was a battle cry, but more than that it gave me an answer to the question I so hated.

Did I break up with someone?

Yes, I broke up with the world.

You can, too.

"BRAVE" is out January 30, 2018, and available for pre-order at HarperCollins

Follow @rosemcgowan on Instagram and Twitter.


Text Rose McGowan
Photography Josef Jasso

Rose McGowan
Think Pieces