Hair and the 21st Century

There are still many gender inequalities in the twenty-first century, but one that is particularly absurd is the significant difference between the prices of haircuts. Traditionally, men have been charged far less money than women, with the logic being that men’s hair is easier and faster to cut and to style, while women’s hair poses a much more daunting task. However, this reasoning offers issues when interrogated. As the world more and more accepts the fluidity of gender, and its role in fashion and in expectations in general, many issues are brought to light in this reasoning.

The rigid gender expectations that accommodate the frankly sexist practice of charging women far more than men, for the same products and services, are now being challenged. Women have adopted shorter hair styles and men have started growing their hair long. This defies the logic that women’s hair needs more skill and attention to cut, and so they should be charged more for services. Men’s haircuts cost around ten to fifteen pounds, depending on where they go, while women’s haircuts can range from twenty-five pounds or more. These prices fail to take into account the length or the style of the client’s hair, and instead, they are based entirely on the perceived gender of the customer. Pricing hair shouldn’t be a complex matter, and it should be based on the service a person needs. Instead, it is often an effort to charge women unfairly for essential services.

This outdated practice also creates another area where people who are trans or non-binary are often excluded. Those who identify as trans and non-binary are at risk of being turned away or charged more by barbers and hairdressers who assume their customer’s gender. Jo, the former GULGBTQ+ Campaigns Officer at Glasgow University, started a campaign to get barbers and hairdressers in the west end of Glasgow to commit to being more inclusive and aware of these issues.

The campaign was launched as a result of treatment that Jo faced when visiting West Barbers, being told that they would have to pay for a ‘ladies’’ cut, ‘despite our protests that we weren’t looking for feminine haircuts.’ It is frustrating enough being made to pay double for the same hairstyle as the person next to you, but for someone who is trans or non-binary it can also be very damaging. This situation is not a new or unique one, in fact, Jo goes on to say that, ‘It’s common to be turned away or charged a different price for your haircut just because of your perceived gender.’ The question remains: why is this such a commonplace experience? Surely you should be charged for the amount of time you take up in the salon, and for the hairstyle itself, which should be assessed when pricing is taking place.

Haircuts are essential for many reasons, and they can be very stressful for those who suffer from anxiety disorders. The need to make sure that the person who is cutting your hair does it correctly often factors into the decision regarding where to go. By facing the potential of having their gender challenged, there is an added element of anxiety and stress placed upon individuals who do not necessarily follow societal gender norms. It is not fair at all, and this is why campaigns such as that of the LGBTQ+ Society’s, are definitely needed. Additionally, the campaign is also seeking to signpost which barbers and hairdressers are already inclusive, allowing trans and non-binary members to have more confidence when getting a haircut, and taking some of the stress out of deciding where to go to get it.

When asked about the success of the campaign so far, Jo claimed that it is going really well. While they are no longer on the committee, they hope that the current committee will expand the number of hairdressers on the list, in order to provide the trans community with a wider range of places to go, and so that they can go without fear. The list that the campaign has allows for more choice, because members are not confined to one place. By continuing the campaign and by asking more places about their inclusivity policy, hopefully more places will become committed to the crucial factor of fairness in hairdressing. Jo has said that the places they have heard back from have been very supportive, which is a positive indication of the future success of the campaign.

Hopefully, in the next year, we will see more and more barbers and hairdressers move away from the redundant idea of gendered prices. It is unnecessary and illogical to keep the current logic of haircut pricing. I would much rather pay for the length and amount of effort and time it takes to cut my hair, than simply because I am a woman.


[Rachel Gillett]


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