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Doja Cat shaved her head and eyebrows. It shouldn’t have caused an uproar.

Questions about the musician's mental health after sporting her new bald look are another example of the annoying stigma surrounding Black women and our hair choices. 
Doja Cat.
Doja Cat.Doja Cat via Instagram

When Doja Cat went on Instagram Live last week and debuted a bold, beautiful new look for the world to see — a freshly shaved head and eyebrows to match — the musician caused a bit of a stir on social media. 

The musician’s new hairstyle came as a surprise to most. And rather than embracing her decision to wear her hair how she chooses, people online were quick to judge her, including other Black women. Her comment section was filled with people asking if she was OK, frantically questioning her sanity and assuming that she must be having some sort of mental health breakdown

The stigma surrounding Black women who decide to shave their heads is so profound that articles have been written about it to push back against it — essentially explaining that it’s just … wait for it … hair.

Never one to shy away from an online feud, Doja Cat called out her fans and set the record straight, letting everyone know that she is doing more than OK, and can do what she wants. The situation is the latest moment that forces us to ask: Why do Black women have to go through something to shave their heads? And why can’t folks just assume that shaving your head is nothing more than a style choice? 

The stigma surrounding Black women who decide to shave their heads is so profound that articles have been written about it to push back against it — essentially explaining that it’s just … wait for it … hair. 

For those who don’t know, Doja Cat usually rocks colorful, playful hairstyles and sports weaves and wigs of all sorts — she’s very rarely actually shown her natural hair for all to see. And yet, cutting off all her hair has made her feel alive and more empowered than ever. 

Brennan Nevada Johnson.
Brennan Nevada Johnson.Courtesy Brennan Nevada Johnson

​​ “I feel like I was never supposed to have hair,” she said on Instagram Live. “I, like, don’t like having hair… I cannot tell you one time since the beginning of my life that I’ve ever been like, ‘This is cool.’ I just do not like to have hair.” 

While reading the comments, I was so happy to see Doja Cat respond and essentially stand up for bald-headed Black women everywhere. When Black women shave our heads, it’s very nuanced and done for many reasons. I first shaved my head 11 years ago when I was in college. I did it to look edgy and chic, save money because the upkeep was too expensive, and have an easier regimen since I played volleyball and my hair kept distracting me. Shaving my head was completely intentional. I fell in love with it and have been bald since. And just like what Doja Cat is going through now, I’ve experienced people, including Black women who were friends at the time, treating and talking to me as though I was in a straight jacket. They asked questions like “what happened?” and “what caused you to do such a thing?” 

These questions indicated how, for Black women, the standard of beauty and our worth has long been dependent on how close we can achieve a European look. Until very recently, with the movement to embrace our natural curls, coils and locs, long straight hair equated to beauty. That’s what we’ve been taught, both outside and within our communities, from when we were little girls. 

The fact that a woman’s hair is so closely tied to her mental health is mortifying.

Although we are still fighting against hair discrimination in work and school, natural hair is everywhere we never thought it could be: on the red carpet, in movies, commercials. But it seems that going from loving our natural hair to loving ourselves completely bald is a step over the line within the Black community. There’s been this dangerous belief that has run rampant in society and the content we consume that automatically puts a woman with a shaved head in the box of someone who has lost all touch with reality and isn’t stable.

Movies and shows, in particular, that center on the experiences of Black women have advanced this narrative.

For example, when the film “Nappily Ever After,” based on the 2000 book by Trisha R. Thomas, aired in September of 2018 on Netflix, I was so disappointed to see the way that the protagonist’s (played by Sanaa Lathan) hair journey was portrayed when she shaved her head. They showed the main character impulsively shaking while shaving her head with tears rolling down her face after suffering a major mental breakdown because her boyfriend didn’t propose to her. The movie failed to deliver the beauty, confidence and transformation of having a bald head that Black women experience after letting go of harmful labels. Instead, they chose to run with the impulsive, out-of-control narrative while still having the character hide behind hideous head scarves and wigs after the fact. 

Then there was the 2021 series “Harlem,” which debuted on Amazon Prime and spotlighted one of its main characters’ first experiences with baldness that was rather negative. Tye (played by Jerrie Johnson), who was usually very confident and the CEO of a successful tech company, already had a very low haircut. Yet the show decided to highlight that Tye was only bald because of a “hair crisis“ at a salon appointment gone wrong. She was extremely stressed, overwhelmed and chose to wear a wig to cover her bald head when promoting her business in a photo shoot. What’s worse is the character only seemed to embrace her baldness when her white partner at the time validated it. 

This isn’t to say that we don’t ever shave our heads during a moment of despair, but that shouldn’t be the primary way it’s presented in the media. 

The fact that a woman’s hair is so closely tied to her mental health is mortifying. It feeds into misogynist standards of how society has put so much of a woman’s worth around hair and its length.

Shaving your head as a Black woman is not a cry for help, and Doja Cat is not your charity case. In a world that villainizes a Black woman’s natural hairstyles and puts white features on a pedestal, I can’t wait for society, movies and shows to catch up with the times and truly reflect that a Black woman or any woman who chooses to have a shaved head is not stressed, sick or mentally unwell. I’m also hoping that we even get some new music or a bald girl appreciation rap song from Doja Cat to help rewrite the narrative on what it means to be bald, Black and beautiful!