Discrimination At The Hair Salon
December, 16 2004

Every time my fiancé and I go to the neighbourhood salon for a haircut, I am left waiting for 10 or 15 minutes while his stylist finishes trimming and styling his hair, even if we started our haircuts at the same time. Whenever we pay the bill, I am always baffled at why my cut cost 25 per cent more than his. Isn`t it easier to lop one or two inches off the ends of a woman’s hair than to prune a whole head of locks? Isn`t that why I always finish first when we get trims together?

This price disparity seems to be a universal p h e n o m e n o n . Wherever I go, salons invariably charge more for women`s cuts than men`s cuts. It doesn`t seem to matter how complicated the job is for the stylist; for the client, the price increases with hair-length and the fact that the client is female. For example, a girl who wants to cut an inch off her waist-long hair and requires no fancy scissor-work will usually pay more than a guy who wants to shorten his shoulder-length hair to a cropped, spiky `do with bangs. Likewise, a long-haired man will undoubtedly pay less for the same cut a woman with identically long hair would get. I suppose the rationale for all this is that women stereotypically have longer hair than men and this entails more hassle for the stylist. Along the same lines, women are supposed to be fussy about their appearance so stylists expect to spend more time on them. However, with the gender gap narrowing and fashion trends diverging, these notions aren`t really true anymore. And maybe they never were. Maybe they were merely generalizations of the attitudes and behaviours of a handful of individuals. In any case, a more equitable pricing system is now called for in our modern and diverse society.

My proposal for hair salons? Charge fees for your services according to hair-length instead of gender. For example, hairstylists could set different prices for hair that is shoulder-length or shorter, and tresses that are longer than shoulderlength. They could also add surcharges for especially complicated styles, or make deductions for simple trims.

I know this argument may seem petty, but over a lifetime, those extra dollars can add up. Suppose you`re a girl and you get 6 haircuts a year, and you pay $5 more than guys do for their haircuts (these are conservative figures). That means you would potentially be paying $30 dollars every year for services you don’t need and aren`t getting, just because you’re female. Over the course of your life, you could be spending thousands of unnecessary dollars (in this equation it`s over $2,000, but realistically it could be more) on your hair. And don`t think it`s all about the money; there are other consequences as well. The price difference between men`s and women`s haircuts may be indirectly reinforcing outdated and negative stereotypes about females. So the next time you visit the hair salon, talk to your stylist about their gender-prejudiced pricing. Maybe you`ll convince them to give you a discount!

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