Book Excerpts · International

#WomenWhoWrite: An excerpt from Brave by Rose McGowan

“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 relation-ship that made me so in need of freedom that I’d alter myself. The more the breakup 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 “woman” that is sold to you by every actress in every hair commercial telling you, “This is 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 breakup 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 made men 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 fake Rose lived a bizarre alternate life playing the part of someone who played parts.

Most of my life I had short hair. I preferred it that way. The classic film stars and punk women I most admired had short hair. I liked very much being an individual. I liked looking nei-ther 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 Holly-wood disorder lasted a much longer time, but both had to do with being absent from self. Both times were driven by society’s number one propaganda machine—Hollywood. I was 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. Sad because she was right. This message gets filtered down to all women and girls, telling us to have long hair so we too can be sexy, but I got the direct message, like a hotline phone call straight from what “the man” wants.

Well, fuck Hollywood. Fuck the messaging. Fuck the pro-paganda. Fuck the stereotypes.

If you’re a Jennifer Lawrence, America’s sweetheart type, you have simple blond hair. If you’re the vixen, it is long, dark, and big. Those are the rules, do not deviate. My long hair was beautiful, like beauty pageant contestant hair. My hairdressers were gay males and I was their 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. I had been turned into the ultimate fantasy fuck toy by the Hollywood machine. All 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. But I didn’t know how to change what was wrong when there were so many levels of wrong in my life.

I meet so many women and girls who tell me their hair is a security blanket and what they hide behind. I find this 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? And if you are hiding behind your hair, 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.
My name is Rose McGowan and I am BRAVE.

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