A woman like McGowan, outwardly flaunting her rejection of social expectations, can only mean she’s capable of god knows what. A woman who lops off her hair has stopped caring what anybody thinks of her.
Baldness among women is fraught, because hair on women is fraught. In pop culture, the sight of a woman who has cut her hair very short—either by her own volition or somebody else’s—often is used as shorthand for trauma or loss. Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road, Eleven in Stranger Things, Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. Anne Hathaway in Les Mis. Britney Spears, attacking a car with an umbrella. When a woman has been robbed of her femininity by cruelty of circumstance, the world should watch out for its recompense.
And yet for many women, chopping off their hair is freeing—an act of noncompliance that centers on themselves and their own needs, not a cry for help or an act of anger.