Forced haircut in schools advertising ignites discussions on rights, freedom

Forced haircut in schools advertising ignites discussions on rights, freedom

School students are no longer required to have a uniformly short haircut after then education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan issued an order to all schools to abolish limits on the length of students' hair in 2020. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)
School students are no longer required to have a uniformly short haircut after then education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan issued an order to all schools to abolish limits on the length of students' hair in 2020. (Photo: Patipat Janthong)

An advertisement on a forced haircut has stirred debate on rights violations and brought back bad memories for many when they were students in Thai schools.

Toiletries manufacturer Dove launched #LetHerGrow campaign on Tuesday to send a message that a forced haircut "takes away more than a girl's hair."

The print and video ads show a girl with a very short haircut and the rest of the hair is seen on the floor beside her school shoes.

"It makes her lose confidence and self-esteem and diminishes her desire to be in school," the copy reads.

In the two-minute video, women in different generations express their confidence by defining their own hairstyle in absolute freedom.

The US-based company said on its website that the campaign had been created to promote the freedom of Thai women that could be expressed through hairstyle.

The ad was picked by Sansiri chief executive officer Srettha Thavisin, who praised the company for touching this social issue.

"What they are cutting is more than just hair of the young generation," Mr Srettha wrote on his Twitter account. "Their confidence, self-esteem and courage to express opinions have also been cut." 

As of Tuesday evening, his post had seen more than 28,000 retweets and drawn support from many Twitter users. They wrote that the ad reminded them of their school days when they encountered the same situation.

A Twitter user wrote the forced haircut on students was equal to a violation of their rights.

The students' confidence was eroded, and the teachers were doing a wrong duty, another user wrote.

A former student wrote that she intentionally failed an admission exam because she did not want to enter a secondary public school that her mother wanted her to attend. She wanted to continue her studies at a private school which allowed longer hair. "I told this to my mother when I finished high school," she wrote.

However, not everybody supported this campaign as one wrote: "Dove has a vested interest" in this ad.

Although the Education Ministry lifted regulations governing student hairstyles for both boys and girls in 2020, teachers still have room to interpret them in their favour.

According to the current ministry regulation, student hairstyles must be appropriate as deemed by school directors.

The regulation was published in the Royal Gazette on May 1, 2020, and signed by then education minister Natapol Teepsuwan.

The room for interpretation by the school director was reflected at Khanu Witthaya School.

In November last year, the school in Khanu Woralaksaburi district in Kamphaeng Phet province did not allow a group of students to enter their classrooms because they did not comply with the school’s requirement on short hair.

Kriangsak Kongthai, the school director at the time, said the short hairstyle was agreed by the school, parents and the student union, according to a Matichon Online’ report published on Nov 23 last year.

Mr Kriangsak said he had ordered the students violating the regulation not to enter the buildings and asked their parents to take them back to have their hair cut.

Uniformly short hairstyles had been a nightmare for students — both boys and girls — before the new rule was enforced.

In 2018, a school student in Nakhon Pathom province wrote in Dek-D, a website advocating education and learning, that he lost his self-confidence and did not want to go to school because teachers demanded an extremely short haircut.

The boy in the secondary level said his head was eventually shaved by a teacher who told him that he had repeatedly violated the school regulation.

"I lost my confidence so that I did not want to go outside, and I didn't want to go to school," he wrote.


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