Daphne Gottlieb’s poem “haircut” reminded me of a discussion we had in class yesterday about gendered appearance and stereotypes about butch/femme. (I’m including the entire poem this time)

My baby keeps her hair
short.
Number 2 guard, 1/4 inch white oster clippers short
short hair.

Not I’m-depressed-and-I’m-going-to-shave-my-head short,
just short.

She’s got beautiful baby-short hair.
Baby short, not basketball-player short
or concentration camp short or
or military short or militant short:
not monk short
or cancer short.
Just
short.

Her gray hairs shine like
flashbulb filaments,
one for each brilliant
idea she has.

She’s getting more and more
gray. She says it’s my
fault.

My baby keeps her hair
short:
Nothing to cling to desperately,
nothing to get tangled up in.
My baby keeps her hair short–
she likes it that way
and so
do I.

I feel like Gottlieb is using hair, an aspect of the body, as a marker of an identity. She makes sure to distance her lover’s hair from both “military short” and “militant short,” images often tied to women with short hair, but does not create a hierarchy between the concepts; she just points out what Is (reminding me of the reading Safe Trip in which calling the narrator’s lover a bull dyke is like yelling “Trees!” at a forest).

Because hair (specifically long hair) is so closely tied to what could be considered hegemonic femininity, rejecting the ideal is a way of subverting gender norms. Although Daphne herself has long hair (from any pictures I’ve seen), which could lend itself at first glance to the butch/femme sexual stereotype, Daphne rejects that as well with her language usage. In other poems in which she is the first-person narrator, she uses strong and sometimes masculine language, which would tend to conflict with her outward appearance. Likewise, she refers to her short-haired lover as “my baby” repeatedly, calling her hair “beautiful” and “Baby short,” also conflicting with norms relating to such short of hair.

On a personal level, I love this poem because it deals with short hair as an identity marker. Although this may seem silly, as soon as I chopped my own hair off (which seems slightly longer than the subject’s in this poem) I immediately felt more connected to the “queer” label that I claim as an act of moving outside of the gender binary.

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