BY MADELINE FITZGERALD ’21
The snipping of scissors and a pile of hair on a dorm room floor — this is the start of a Mount Holyoke tradition. It’s not one listed on the College’s Wikipedia page, nor is it mentioned on campus tours. And it is certainly not one that every student will participate in. But for many students, the MoHo Chop is as much a part of their Mount Holyoke experience as Mountain Day or M&Cs.
For some, the MoHo Chop is a radical assertion of their LGBT identities, and for others it is simply the result of taking one time-consuming shower too many.
Rose Cohen ’22 said that one day she was “feeling pretty spontaneous,” so she went to the Buckland bathroom with a friend, armed with a pair of scissors, and snipped off her brown hair. Cohen’s friend then immediately texted Cohen’s parents with a picture of her short hair, which they both “really loved.”
Chloe Hart ’21 said she just wanted to “try something different. And [it was] kind of peer pressure, my hair was in really bad condition, so if there was any time to cut it all off, it was the time.”
Emma Wolff ’21 had perhaps the most dramatic MoHo Chop of all; while on stage at Orientation 101, they had 15 inches of straight blonde hair chopped off. “The MoHo chop was the most empowering and memorable haircut I will ever have!” said Wolff.
Like Cohen, Francesca Winterbottom ’22 also spontaneously chopped off her hair in a residence hall. “After Orientation 101, my friends and I all went down to Mead’s Basement and my friend Brenna gave me and a bunch of other people undercuts. It was really fun and hip.”
Winterbottom enjoyed her undercut for a few weeks, before realizing she wanted something more. “I had been thinking about either getting a pixie cut or a bob for a really long time, since junior year in high school at least. And I just said to myself, ‘Stop being a coward, you have nothing holding you back anymore.’ So I told my friends I wanted to do it, and we went back down to Mead’s basement, and we buzzed it all off,” she said.
Like Winterbottom, Mara Kleinberg ’22 was inspired by Orientation 101. “I got the MoHo Chop in my dorm [from] my roommate. I’d been meaning to do it for a while and got it done an hour after Orientation 101,” Kleinberg said. Her neighbor and another hallmate were similarly inspired and all three cut their hair that night. “Several girls watched and we chanted ‘MoHo chop, MoHo chop’ as our hair was cut.”
Taiwo Demola ’22 is a spring-admit who has not yet arrived on campus, but she has already gotten into the spirit of the MoHo Chop, removing her hair extensions and wearing her “naturally short, pixie-length ’fro with confidence.” Demola had not worn her hair short since fourth grade and said she “had definitely been inspired by the amazing women at Mount Holyoke.”
Though Mount Holyoke students of all genders and sexualities get the MoHo Chop, short haircuts hold special significance for lesbian and bisexual students. Somasundari Hannon ’22 cut her hair before arriving at Mount Holyoke. “As a gay woman, my short hair has been both a way for me to bond with other gay women and a way for me to signal to men that I’m absolutely uninterested in them,” she said. She said that her short hair was a comfort, signaling to men, “I am not here for your consumption.”
Dramatic haircuts are a staple at many of the Seven Sisters, perhaps because of their reputation as empowering for students, especially LGBT students. At Wellesley, students call their short haircuts the “Wellesley Chop,” and at Smith, the “Smithie Chop.”
There is a humorous side to these haircuts, as well. As they are often done in dorm rooms and not salons, and they are relatively unconventional, the results can be less than perfect. Melissa Stewart FP ’19, who currently has long hair, said “[short haircuts] make me look like a poodle,” and Julian Laferrera ’19 described looking like “a 14-year-old Justin Bieber” after their haircut.
Many students find their new haircuts to be an empowering connection to Mount Holyoke. Jordan Green ’22 came to college with long extensions and a weave but dreamed of getting a MoHo chop. After losing a grandparent who helped her get to Mount Holyoke, Green said, “I decided to get the MoHo Chop to serve as a physical symbol of the strength and confidence Mount Holyoke instills in its students. Given that, the MoHo chop made me feel like I was finally an adult, that I wasn’t under the authority of my parents anymore and represented my transition to college life at Mount Holyoke.”
With a MoHo chop, Winterbottom found a new confidence in herself. “I definitely feel free,” she said. “It’s so funny because sometimes I forget I don’t have hair, and I see myself in the mirror and I’m like ‘Wow, who is that hot stud? Oh, wait that’s me!’”