School haircut rule is a method of control. It suppresses an individual’s right to his or her own body and demands obedience and uniformity. It’s a technique that trains young people to submit to authority.
Girls must wear their hair above their earlobes. Boys must wear the military cut.
Benjamaporn Nivas, or Ploy, is 15 years old. She attends a public school in Bangkok and has made fighting against the haircut rule her mission.
Social media is well familiar with her various forms of protest. In the latest one, she sat on a chair near BTS Siam, with hands tied behind her back and duct tape covering her mouth.
A sign hung around her neck said: “This student violates a school rule by wearing her hair long with bangs. You may punish her.”
On her lap was a pair of scissors for passersby to cut her hair.
She has been performing a similar act around town for the past months and faces many backlashes online. Social media comments have been calling her a whore and telling her to become a mistress of a wealthy man. People also accused her of having been in a porn movie.
On 3 July, she and a group of friends went to the Ministry of Education to submit a letter asking for the haircut rule to be scrapped. She also performed the same act at the ministry.
Last month, the ministry issued a statement saying that students have the right to their hairstyle, within reasons. But the ministry also said that each school has the right to impose its own rule.
Which means, the haircut rule stays the same.
How do you feel about being called a “slut” and a “whore”?
I do read and see all the comments, and I don’t feel anything for these people. I don’t need to value their comments. I listen and take all the feedback, both negative and positive ones. But some aren’t constructive, and I just don’t have to pay attention to them.
Why are you trying to fight the haircut rule?
Students are forced to cut our hair against our will, it’s violating our rights, and this has to stop. That’s why I’m here; to fight for my rights.
The hair is part of my body, and no one else should have the power to decide what I do with it, but me.
Do you think hairstyle has anything to do with the ability to learn?
Not at all. It doesn’t matter which hairstyle I wear. It doesn’t affect my studies. How good my grades are has nothing to do with my hair. It’s more about the teaching of the teachers, how well they can teach. Hair has nothing to do with this.
How do your family and friends feel about your activism?
The people around me support me. But some teachers and a few of my relatives have warned me not to be too aggressive.
What are you studying?
I’m studying languages.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
That’s a tough question [laughs]. I’m not sure yet, but I would love to be anything that allows me to help drive this country forward.