‘Short cut’ to power

The curious case of short hair and leading female politicians across the world


Theresa May, soon to become the new prime minister of UK joins the power club of ladies with short hair. Photo: AFP
Theresa May, soon to become the new prime minister of UK joins the power club of ladies with short hair. Photo: AFP

UK home secretary Theresa May, set to take over as the new prime minister of the country, joins a ‘power club’ of women with short hair.

May is the latest addition to this sorority of powerful women. Previous members include former prime minister of the UK Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of India Indira Gandhi, current Congress party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel, former Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, presumptive Democratic party nominee for the president of the US Hillary Clinton and, of course, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati.

Margaret Thatcher. Photo: AFP
Margaret Thatcher. Photo: AFP

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Photo: Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. Photo: Ashok Dutta/Hindustan Times

Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP
Angela Merkel. Photo: AFP

Julia Gillard. Photo: AFP
Julia Gillard. Photo: AFP

Mayawati. Photo: Sushil Kumar/ Hindustan Times
Mayawati. Photo: Sushil Kumar/ Hindustan Times

Apart from politically-correct dressing—the ‘power suit’ or the ‘starched sari’—short hair stands for, at least by anecdotal example, grit and confidence. Is it about acquiring a persona, an easily borrowed look from the time-tested association between political leadership and masculinity?

Or maybe, just maybe, it’s a personal choice.

Hillary Clinton. Photo: AFP
Hillary Clinton. Photo: AFP

It’s possible that Hillary Clinton may not want her hair to be ‘high maintenance’ in the course of her endless campaign rallies. Or that May may have always worn her hair short and we are only fretting about its length now.

The debate could swing either way. Maybe with great power comes great responsibility and less hair? Maybe the length of the hair is inversely proportional to the power one wields—shorter the hair, the higher you go in life.

Long-hair continues to be an attribute of femininity, softness, and beauty. Short hair, on the other hand, is linked to masculine attributes like toughness and boldness. It explains why the flapper girls of the 1920s––the poster-children of defiance—wore their hair short in the form of edgy bobs.

Short hair, through the years, has now turned itself into a political statement that rejects societal and gender norms.

Women of great political stature are definitely the poster-girls of empowerment. Curious that it takes a pair of scissors to break through the glass ceiling!

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