Relationship Rules with Dr. Rodman

Does Short Hair on Women Mean They Are “No Longer Trying”?

So, when I asked on my blog what men find attractive in women, one response was, “short hair, because it seems like the woman isn’t trying.” His statement sparked some debate over whether this idea is “sexist.”  Well, first of all, I am not opening debate on whether actually preferring long hair makes him sexist.  Preferences are preferences, period.  I like guys with hair, versus bald, so does that make me hairist?  No.


But the next question is, is this guy’s rationale for preferring long hair sexist? There are two points:

1- He assumes that a woman should be “trying” to attract male attention with her haircut.

2- He assumes that a short haircut indicates a lack of trying.

Let’s first of all make some necessary distinctions. There is a cute, fashionable, and trendy short haircut, like Meg Ryan in the 90’s, or everyone on Mad Men.

And then there is the classic mommy haircut.  Now, when I tried to google “mom haircut”, all I got were cute hairstyles.  But people who are older than millenials will probably know what I am referring to.  It’s just the most quick, easy, boring short haircut that you can wash and wear right out without styling, like Marcy on Married With Children.

So, here are the postulates of my theorem:

1. Most women know that men prefer either long or somehow fashionable hair.  (My husband pointed out that long hair can also look like someone “isn’t trying” so that is a good point as well.  If it’s not been combed and looks ratty, then I would imagine guys don’t like that either.)

2. Most people prefer a mate that appears to be cognizant of what either their specific partner or society as a whole believes is attractive.  E.g. I do not like a guy wearing a ratty shirt with holes in it.  This is “not trying” and thus begs the question, “what else don’t they try with?  Will they be attentive and focused?  Will they have ungroomed male parts?  Will they not floss?”  Etc.  If I saw a guy in a bar wearing a T-shirt with holes in it, I would assume he was not trying to meet a woman that night.

3. Guys are also allowed, without being condemned as sexist, to prefer women that appear to be “trying” to be attractive, because it follows that they will likely “try” in other areas, like being attentive and caring, well groomed, trying to be open sexually, etc.

4. Then there is the idea that a woman shouldn’t be “trying” to make men happy with her appearance, and the concomitant idea that women and men should both want to look good “for themselves.”  I think this is a load of BS, because certainly everyone feels better when they try to look attractive, but this is not just an internal thing. The reason it makes you feel better about yourself to get dressed versus wearing a stained bathrobe is because you have internalized the social constructs of what constitutes “looking good” to others.  Nobody nowadays, for example, says that just for themselves, to boost their own confidence, they sit around at home in a beehive hairdo from the 1800’s.


The reason that people feel good about themselves when they look more presentable, even when nobody is looking at them, is that, over their lifespan, they have internalized the idea of what society as a whole (or a certain demographic) finds appealing. Then when you approximate this ideal, even if nobody sees you, it corresponds to higher self-esteem.

Anyway, here is the point I believe that my male reader was making:

Women know that the majority of men prefer long and/or fashionably cut hair.

So, if they cut their hair into an unfashionable style, for the sake of ease or convenience, it follows that they may not care much about putting in effort to be attractive to a potential partner.  Which is FINE morally and ethically, but it is also an effective way to let a potential mate know that you also may not be up to putting much other effort in, particularly if it’s effort that you yourself don’t want to put in.  See my article here on why women should have sex WITHIN A LOVING RELATIONSHIP when they don’t necessarily want to.

We all need to rely upon visual and mental shortcuts in mate selection, or else we would be overwhelmed with too much information.  For example, an hourglass figure or a waist-hip ratio of around .7 in women is a good visual shortcut for men to assess whether a partner would be fertile.  Seeing women with this ratio even activates male brains differently.  There is a whole fascinating field of study called evolutionary psychology, and specifically, a subfield called mate selection.  So, chastising men for using visual shortcuts is silly.  Women use them too; a shoulder-hip ratio close to .9 is considered the most attractive in male partners, again because they are healthiest.  Height is also a shortcut to assessing male strength and if they can fight off the predators.  And, evolutionarily speaking, long, healthy looking, flowing hair has long been seen throughout history as an indicator of female health and fertility.

Anyway, would love to hear from my vocal followers on this issue.  But, men who think short, unfashionable hair is a turn-off, I understand your point.

Till we meet again, I remain, the Evolutionary-Minded Blogapist Who Doesn’t Like Condemning Men As Sexist For Stuff Women Do Too.

Dr. Rodman blogs at Dr. Psych Mom.  Join her on Facebook and Twitter.