Recently I took my three kids to get haircuts. It was my 21 month old daughter’s first one. Like all my kids she had very little hair at birth and even with almost 2 years of growth her hair was still really fine and very short. The only reason she was getting the chop was because it was just beginning to get a little long around her eyes and I was taking her brothers anyway.
The boys went first – being old pros at the haircut business. When their turns came they sat in their chairs, their hair shaved and chopped away at for a good ten minutes or more in their usual ‘short back and sides’ styles. When my daughter’s turn came she was a little upset so I sat her on my lap so the hairdresser could do the few quick few snips required to chop the long wispy bits at the back of her head and shorten up her fringe. Albeit accompanied with the unpleasantness of a small child exercising their lungs, her haircut was over in less than 2 minutes. We got up, brushed the hair off, and went to pay.
It was then that I realised that I wasn’t just introducing my daughter to the concept of haircuts. I was introducing her to one of her first bouts of discrimination. Her haircut took less than a quarter the time of her brothers’ haircuts. Her haircut was a third more expensive – because she was a girl.
I live in quite a multicultural part of Sydney and at this particular establishment the language barriers were too great to have any kind of dialogue on sex discrimination and hairdressing. I also had a sense of unease in that I know that these hairdressers aren’t earning a lot to start with so who is to begrudge them a few extra dollars. But it really struck home to me that as my daughter grows older I’ll be introducing her to a world which will increasingly throw these kinds of issues at her (and at me as her mother).
In December 2012 Denmark (the bastion of gender equity) ruled through its Board of Equal Treatment that charging different prices for men and women‘s haircuts was illegal. I know that some people will say this is ridiculous, women’s haircuts take longer. Denmark did not rule that hairdressers could not charge more based on the length of time it took to do a haircut, or for different styles of cut. They just can’t charge more for a haircut simply on the basis of someone’s gender. And that to me is a great thing – a milestone which feminists should celebrate. A milestone that will hopefully one day (just like paid maternity leave and other Danish advances) be achieved in Australia also.
Image from https://www.flickr.com/photos/seanfreese/8217922575/ with thanks to Sean Freese