In an ideal world, every hair salon would offer more than just a methodical, bare bones, in-and-out service that spares you the fear of looking like a kid attacked your head with craft scissors. Along with highly-trained staff, the shop should be friendly and accommodating, and never, ever deny you a haircut based on your race, weight, age, or gender. That's a given, right?
Not always, says Australian resident Vivien Houston. According to ABC News, she walked into Jimmy Rod's Barber Shop in Queensland, a spot she's frequented for two years, for a routine haircut last Friday. What she left with, however, wasn't a new look for the weekend, but rather a cause for a discrimination complaint against the barbershop.
The short of it is that Houston was denied a haircut at a barbershop for being a woman (yes, in 2018), despite the fact that more and more women have traded in traditional hair salons for the casual atmosphere you get from a local barbershop. After the incident, Houston filed a complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland, which, by law, states that no company in the area of goods and services can discriminate based on sex, gender identity, sexuality, religion, and other attributes.
"I thought [the barber] was kidding," Houston told ABC of being refused the service. "She said 'No, we signed a lease with center management that says we're not able to cut women's hair,' and the reason for that is that they don't want Jimmy Rod's Barber Shop to cause competing business for the hair dressing salons in the center."
As it turns out, the lease agreement in question is between Jimmy Rod's and Queenland's The Gap Village Shopping Centre. Though the barbershop has been in business at the complex for 10 years, its new lease renewal required the shop cater to men and children's hair only.
In a statement posted to the shop's Facebook page today, Jimmy Rod's Barbershop's managing director James O'Brien said, "Jimmy Rod’s does not discriminate against female customers. We have thirteen other stores that all perform haircuts for women. We take our customer complaints seriously and advise the legal representatives for Jimmy Rod's and the Centre have agreed to amendments to the lease terms to allow Jimmy Rod’s to provide barber haircuts to all clientele at the Gap store.
"We acknowledge our long term tenancy at the Centre and thank Centre management staff and their advisors for promptly addressing these issues and agreeing to the lease amendments to avoid this issue arising again in the future." (We've reached out to the complex and the barbershop for further comment about terminating the lease agreement and will update this post once we hear back.)
Of course, the right to refuse service can be tricky terrain. On one hand, it protects employees from threats or clear and present danger. But regardless of the barbershop's reasoning, this situation is exactly what it sounds like: discrimination. And like all types of discrimination — no matter if it's based on age, sex, race, religion, disability, or otherwise — it's completely unacceptable. Houston said it best: "If we allow people to apply discrimination, even in the most smallest [sic] sense such as getting your haircut, which seems trivial, we essentially breed more discrimination."
Even if that weren't the case, there's one other thing discrimination won't help: business. So we can only hope that, as Jimmy Rod's looks further into the lease agreement with The Gap, they keep in mind that hair has no gender — and pretending it does can, and will, do a lot more harm than good.