Talk about extreme discipline. A Florida roofer has been arrested for shaving his daughter’s head as a punishment.
The girl, he said, shoplifted jewelry from Wal-Mart, then later used a Game Boy without permission.
He’s also been charged with using a belt on the eleven-year-old girl. And his charge of child abuse has been tied in court documents to both the physical abuse of the belt and the mental implications of shaving the girl’s head.
So why are people calling for the heads of the Florida officials who hauled Jose Alfredo Ajpacaja-Ajiataz in?
Among the comments on a report of the crime over at the Sun-Sentinel: “I don’t think that shaving her head was child abuse at all. After all a spanking didn’t seem to have an effect. This was he second offense. Shaving her head gave her an embarrassing everyday reminder of what she had done wrong. Causing her to have to explain to her friends that Dad shaved my head because I got caught stealing. A strange punishment Yes, But I think it worked, Other than him getting arrested for it. He shouldn’t have been arrested.”
The above was written by a man – who would have no concept of the affect on an eleven-year-old GIRL of having her hair shaved off (we’re not even going to touch the many comments from people who don’t think beating a child with a belt is child abuse). Hair is at once extremely personal and an open display of femininity. After years of shaving my head annually for St. Baldrick’s, I can attest that it’s a move that hardens a woman to insensitive comments.
American women are largely identified by their hair, and we spend an average of thirty minutes a day washing, styling, etc. Rose Weitz, author of Rapunzel’s Daughters, made a historical study of hair and the improvements women have attained in the quest for freedom from the prison of hair styling. Hundreds of years after the story of Rapunzel linked hair as a mark of beauty and the eponymous heroine’s most useful contribution to life, Weitz still finds hair is the leading way women express themselves to the world.
It’s not all bad when you shave your head. It’s nice to be hit on for a lack of hair as much as it is a length of it. (After nine years of marriage and four of motherhood, it’s nice to know you still got it!). But that comes with it the strength of having made the choice. I brought on both the good and the bad on my own – rather than having it forced upon me, and so the bad is easily outweighed. Not so the victim of a drastic measure of discipline, of the type that will take years to rectify.
Shoplifting and not heeding a parent’s warning are serious mistakes, yes. But whatever happened to grounding and revocation of privileges?
Is turning your daughter into the butt of not just classmates’ jokes but the whole world’s a punishment or abuse?