Shine On

Should teens be able to cut their own hair without parent interference?

Willow Smith (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

She burst on to the scene by letting the world know that she likes to "whip her hair back and forth," so when Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, decided to cut her hair short several months ago, her styling decision made headlines.

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It didn't take long for the online attacks to start. Commenters, anonymous and otherwise, blasted everything from Willow's new look to mother Jada Pinkett-Smith's parenting abilities. The most bizarre questioned why the 12-year-old was "allowed" to wear her hair so short, as though that were some kind of social transgression.

Parents and not pre-teens, they claim, should be calling the sartorial shots.

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Celebrities are used to weathering an awful load of criticism, but Pinkett-Smith has decided to hit back at the critics with an open letter both defending her daughter's choice to cut her hair and her encouragement of Willow's individuality.

"The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power or self determination," she writes on her Facebook page.

"Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes and desires."

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Pinkett-Smith's views find some anchoring in an article on KidsHealth.org. Addressing body image and appearance in teens, they suggest that changing bodies are going to result in an elevated preoccupation with appearance and that by trying different styles, kids are finding out who they are.

"When preteens and teens express their taste in clothes and hairstyles, they're making statements about themselves. Experimenting with and defining their styles is one way to express their interests, personality, independence, and identity," reads the article.

But there's a more traditional school of thought that suggests parents should exert more control when it comes to the way their children wear their hair.

"I don't agree with it, I was never allowed to dye my hair," writes a commenter named Brooke on Circle of Moms. "When I was at school I would see the girls [the] same ages as me with different hair colours each month or two. It made them look really cheap."

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And the issue culminated into a suspension for South Carolina middle school student after she dyed her hair pink in support of breast cancer, showing it's not just parents who want to enforce these codes.

What do you think? Should pre-teens and teen girls be allowed to do whatever they like with their hair because their bodies belong to them, or do parents still get a vote?

 

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