11 Apr Gender Violence in a Haircut.

I just reported a Facebook video for violent abusive content. If I knew who to call in that country, I would report the people responsible to social services/child welfare. 

A Pasifika family posted a video of them cutting off a young woman’s hair as punishment for her disobedient (possibly promiscuous?) behaviour. They also posted a lengthy condemnation of the teenage girl, who has since run away from their home – saying that they took her in after she left one family because she was being abused, they were kind and generous to take her in, shes lucky they didnt beat her, asking for people to share the video so she will be further shamed, and telling the girl to return so they can beat her properly. And “Im f@#&*^/ mad at you blah blah…”

The video has had thousands of views with comments ranging from “Thats nothing. You should have beat her…” to “Shes lucky she doesnt live in Samoa, she would be a bloody mess by now and have all her head shaved…” to “I remember when that happened to me. Shes lucky your family treated her so well…” to “I feel sorry for your family having to put up with a girl like that. You should have beat/hurt/smashed/really taught her a lesson. Sending your parents love.”

The practise of cutting a womans hair to shame her for (usually) her sexual choices and behaviour is an example of violence against women. When its combined with social media, the scope of the shaming is multiplied many times over. This is called cyber-bullying and its a crime.

We have a high suicide rate, especially amongst our young people. I’m horrified and sad that none of the eager rabid commenters or video viewers seem to have considered the very real fallout that posting AND sharing a video like this, might have on the young woman in question.

There are other, better ways for a family to teach and discipline a ‘difficult’ troubled teenager. It’s my hope that this girl will get the support she needs.

I dont care if its ‘our culture’ for elders to use all kinds of violence on children and youth. It’s immaterial if you were beaten as a child and “look at me, I turned out okay!” Abuse is a crime and we need to stop making excuses for it. Violence against women in the form of hair cutting/ shaving is an example of how both men AND other women, attempt to control and subdue, shame and silence.

For all the excited viewers and commenters getting in on the action by throwing their own stones of condemnation – I ask you to consider the target of your pack mentality, a teenage girl who could surely use some compassion right now.

Please share – have you or someone you know, ever experienced this practise of punishing a woman by cutting her hair? Its common in Samoa and I didnt realize that Tongans also practise this?

10 Comments
  • evotia
    Reply

    I just saw this today. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this. I found it a bit traumatic to watch because it took me back to a day when my cousin was brutally beaten by her family in front of the whole village – and then her beautiful hair was chopped off. She wasn’t the whore or the slut they called her. She was a young teenager, who fell in love and was holding hands with a boy. Sure, she broke the rules – as most teens will attempt in life – but she did not deserve the public humiliation they displayed that afternoon. I never forgot that, because she changed after that day. She wasn’t as vibrant or daring in thought that she used to be. She was living in fear.
    I agree with discipline but not the public humiliation. It wasn’t funny at all. I hope she finds a family she can grow and learn with.

    April 12, 2015 at 4:00 am
    • Matt
      Reply

      That is terrible and dare I say it, barbaric. I’m so sorry your friend had to go through that. That would have been soul-crushing.
      Don’t you find that, often us Pacific people are hypocrites? We’ll go to church on Sunday and make sure we’re seen, we’ll feed the faifeao, shake hands during service, hold tightly to moral codes, and then completely ignore forgiveness and love. Especially to the people closest and dearest to us.

      April 14, 2015 at 1:21 am
  • This is so heart breaking! People are so cruel. It makes me sad!

    April 13, 2015 at 12:40 am
  • Lupe Tamapeau
    Reply

    Hi Lani
    Thank you your strength alofa and realism is inspiring….reading your blogs is worthy reading….continue to speak your truth and I feel proud that you have used your literary talents to take the risk to express real life issues and be a voice for so many of us Pacific women.

    April 13, 2015 at 8:48 am
  • Matt
    Reply

    That is terrifying.
    All those people joining in on hurting her, ie the commenters, need to ask themselves if they are completely faultless, without stain, never done anything wrong, never disobeyed their parents when they were young, perfect. What they’ll find is that they’re not perfect and that maybe they’re also guilty of things that would warrant this exact same punishment that they’re egging on.
    This girl is an ACTUAL PERSON, and she must be feeling so alone and scared for her life right now.
    Commenting on fb feels like nothing; a tiny, effortless, insignificant thing. But the words you leave there have real consequences. You have joined in on making this girl feel alone, worthless, and ashamed. What would you do if someone posted a video of you, or your kids getting a hiding online for the whole world to point and laugh at?
    We need to THINK, people.

    April 14, 2015 at 1:13 am
  • jake
    Reply

    A sad story- but great writing, thank you Lani, I’ve just discovered your blog and like your style.

    I’m not associated with them- but I understand that Samoa Victim Support are a group that offer help in Samoa, if someone reading this finds themselves in this type of situation… http://www.victimsupport.ws/about-us.html.

    The courage to intervene when we see something wrong, is something the whole world could do with more of.

    April 14, 2015 at 7:55 pm
  • Hey Lanz.

    I came across your blog and man, as a afakasi samoan myself, I too have experienced this as well. when I was in school – my parents, all they wanted was for me and my siblings to get a good education and to toaga i le aoga! but of course as children do, i got suspended once from school and although my family kept it secret from the other members, as they knew theyd try and compare me to other people in the family, and because of that I ENDURED that humiliation of having my head shaved. it was painful, looking back on it – i can say i learnt. but of course i dont like the way it was handled. but then again at least i didnt get a hiding.

    we as youth, need to make a change. yes its good to hear what our ulumatuas have to say but of course this is an era in which we live in which calls for new ways and methods of upbringing.

    May 28, 2015 at 1:03 am
  • In Tacoma
    Reply

    In Tacoma, Washington last week, the father of 12-year-old Samoan (culturally; born in U.S.) Izabel Laxamana cut her hair short, and posted a short video on YouTube saying it was to shame her for something unstated. The girl committed suicide a few days later. There is media attention locally, but few have mentioned the cultural angle. (Googling it is how I found your page.). Tragic.

    June 2, 2015 at 1:57 am
  • nonynony
    Reply

    Not sure if this has anything do with this but I found this link that leads to like a case or something about this? I’m not sure if this is about this current thing though. Right here:

    http://www.justice.govt.nz/publications/publications-archived/2000/speaking-about-cultural-background-at-sentencing/use-of-section-16-by-pacific-peoples-part-iii

    June 5, 2015 at 6:22 am

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