It's not difficult to understand why Britney Spears' shaving her hair off has shocked the nation. Britney was part of the Mickey Mouse club growing up, for God's sake! Her life has been rocked lately by a string of setbacks increasingly bizarre. The head-shaving shocked the nation because of the readily available images of Britney shaving her head that were splashed throughout the media. Dozens of eyewitnesses added their accounts of how much of an emotional wreck Britney was during the process.
It's easy to mark her act as that of a whacko, as someone whose reported use of recreational drugs and alcohol has spiraled out of control. It's not as if Britney hasn't done some particularly ill-advised things in her life (the nuptials that lasted all of 55 hours, hooking up with Kevin Federline, a messy break-up and war of words over child custody, and the loud re-emergence of the party girl aided by Paris Hilton and the flaunted lack of underwear), but shaving her bleached locks, Britney's trademark since the beginning of her career, is significant because this is different from all the other stuff she's done.
There are reports that Britney did it because her hair implants were bothering her. We'll ignore that one on the grounds of implausible reaction for a relatively minor problem. A lot of reports swirling among the bloggerati tend to suggest that Britney wanted to make sure she wouldn't be nailed in a drug test via a hair sample (which, you have to admit, fits in nicely with the shaved privates displayed to gratified paparazzi during the lack of underwear incident). Hair can carry traces of drug use for long periods of time.
Given the length of Britney's hair at the time she cut it off, you could bust her for any use probably going back six to eight months. Cutting off your hair to avoid failing drug tests is pretty prevalent. Your urine carries traces up to 30 days, but that can be manipulated by diuretics and fluids to flush out evidence faster. Was it really the act of a desperate mother who wanted custody of her sons at all costs?
A woman with a shaved head carries different meanings in different cultures. In South Asia, it's associated with widows or terminally ill women. In the United States, you'd get labeled as a lesbian, punk, or a cancer patient or survivor. In most cases, it is associated with a loss of femininity.
Britney has been in the music business since she was a little girl. When her single "Hit Me Baby, One More Time" conquered the airwaves, she was 19-years-old. She is now 25. There are tremendous pressures on young girls to look and act feminine and sexy far beyond their years. Unless you are in the singer-songwriter category like Sheryl Crowe, Sarah McLachlan, or Fiona Apple, this means you have to sexually mature very quickly or at least pretend that you have – and your femininity is marketed just as much as much as your music, if not more.
Is Britney reclaiming herself as a person, freeing herself from what the music industry and media made her out to be? Was she discarding her vulnerability in an attempt to invoke a new, tougher woman? Is she too emotionally and chemically addled to be connecting the dots so clearly? Or was it an in-between decision borne out of her subconscious? Take your pick, but of all Britney's weird acts, this one seems to have stirred something deeply rooted in a number of her female fans and friends.