Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Kyle Payne, short hair, and a lack of self-loathing

Someone who has done a fantastic job of keeping a lot of us updated on the "Kyle Payne" sexual assault case, is the operator of the blog, Eleanor's Trousers. So I want to publicly thank her for all her work. I have found it to be thoughtful, incisive, and invaluable in tracking what has been going on.

There was one paragraph in her last post on K.P. that troubled me. It was troubling because, from what I know about rape and other assault, it missed the mark on a couple of potentially related matters: Kyle's short haircut and its relationship to him being a self-loathing person.

Obviously, I can have no idea about why K.P. keeps his hair the way he does, and I cannot know to what degrees he loves or loathes himself. But I can speak beyond K.P., to "Standard Operating Procedure" regarding repeat offender rapists. And I don't know if K.P. is one of those. I just know he sexually assaulted a woman, and that since he's been caught, he has expressed much more concern about himself, detailing the consequences on him, than he has on the consequences of his actions on the woman he assaulted. And, for me, that is grossly antifeminist and antiwoman, which is to say, inhumane.

E.E. wrote:
While the change in hairstyles could be a simple result of the change of seasons, I couldn't help but think about the women who, after suffering from an assault or incidents of domestic violence, pull out their own hair and eyebrows. From there my thoughts drifted to the primarily young women who take up the practice of cutting themselves. Is it possible that Payne could be that self-loathing? You wouldn't know it from reading his blog or watching his videos.

My response to the above is this:

I don't think that's it. Honestly. I have known women who pull out their hair, carry great shame about it, and generally don't want to talk about it with anyone. No men that I know of have been compulsive hair-pullers(to my knowledge).

A man, especially a very privileged white man, who sexually assaults a woman and gets his hair cut, well, that's well within S.O.P. for assaulters. I see this as a year-round phenomenon, not one related to it being summer or winter. I'm not critical of E.E.'s thought process per se; I can relate very much to the way her mind works--one thought leading to various associations, and then on to others.

I guess, using that same process, I am speaking out about where my mind goes when I hear about men who have sexually preyed on a woman or women, who also change their hairstyles. I have seen many TV programs (mostly the evening news) that show one photo of a wanted man (not necessarily, and usually not, a rapist) followed by the mugshot when he's caught. (And we know most sexual assaulters of girls and women are not caught.)

What strikes me again and again is this: men cutting off our hair, or growing it out, or growing a moustache, or cutting it off, or doing the same with a beard, or changing appearance in any number of other ways, such as dying one's hair, gaining or losing weight, wearing unusual clothes (for the particular man), affecting a different accent or speech pattern, adding or removing a scar, moving to another part of the country, etc, is, for me, unambiguously a strategy for single-time offenders (or re-offenders) to more readily "get away" with committing more crimes against (too often women's) humanity. If Kyle grows out and dyes his hair, and grows in and dyes facial hair, he can appear very different from the photo that has made the rounds online, one of himself that he originally posted; in white lingo, that image is of a man who is "clean cut." This is one way to have status and cred among, for example, potential employers, in the racist/classist society I live in.

Kyle's "clean cut" look would work in his favor both in terms of him being placed in the position of RA, and in the lighter level of sentencing he got, regarding time in jail (not prison). In fact, I think it is worth noting what Kyle Payne chooses to look like in the near future, once he is released from jail, especially given that he won't be on any sex offender registry list.

Cutting to the chase: I do not believe Kyle Payne cut his hair as a compulsive expression of self-loathing.

Payne has not demonstrated any self-loathing, in my opinion. Also, many women I know dislike themselves, some intensely. They don't necessarily pull out or cut their hair, compulsively or otherwise.

Kyle, to me, is not self-hating. He's self-absorbed. Big difference: the first makes him dangerous to himself, the second makes him dangerous to others.

Hence the case itself and his on-going determination to have a good life.