Girls with Boy Haircuts and the Uncanny Valley

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I admit, rarely a day passes when I don’t mistake a girl for a guy at first glance. I’ll be at college or at the store. I’m walking behind this individual who I’m sure, like everyone, has this amazing life story. He’s dressed in skinny jeans and this black quarter sleeve shirt. Not an outfit all that common for guys, but certainly it fits the emo/rock sterotype. What’s least suspicious is his short brown hair, which isn’t even touching his ears.

Then he turns around. Suddenly I notice face shape, fingernail polish, and, well, breasts. This is no guy at all. This is a girl with a boy haircut. Such trickery! Such chicanery!

You’re allowed to have any hair style you like, and will be free from my judgement. Still, something does not look quite right about a girl with a boy haircut. And it goes beyond just personal preference.

I think the long, stylish, flowing hair is the single most definitive attribute society has when associating the difference between a man and a woman. For proof, just go look in any clothes section ever. All of the models will have longer hair than most guys. Of course, guys with really long hair reaches a whole new kind of weird. 

There’s a concept in aesthetics called the uncanny valley. In short, it’s where objects, robots, video game characters, cartoons, etc look “almost human.” They have arms, legs, a face, hair, everything. But due to technological limitations or art style, something doesn’t look quite right. This causes an observer to be repulsed or a little bit creeped out. 

According to our deep-rooted subconscious associations as a society, girls with boy hair cuts don’t look quite human. They are real-live examples of the uncanny valley idea. 

And that’s perfectly fine. If I were a girl, which I’m not, I wouldn’t want to have to deal with Rapunzel hair. Heck, even my hair is hard to deal with when it gets a little long. I can only imagine what girls feel like they have to go through to fit in with society.

Maybe if more girls had shorter hair, that perception would begin to change. Then I’d have even more difficulty telling genders apart. 

[Thanks Carter Singleton for suggesting this topic!]

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Matthew Estes

Matthew Estes currently exists in the ether between graudate student and full-time worker. One day he hopes to be a full-time novelist and blogger, but until that day comes he spends his time playing video games, eating pizza, and being with his soon-to-be wife. However, he has yet to do all three at the same time. Bucket list stuff, you know.