Pride And Prejudice

November 1, 2010

There's been a thought on my mind for a long time now and last night it came to a bit of a front.
Last Friday, while in the barbers, a customer came in with a few of his friends and they were all getting haircuts. A typical group of "lads", a bit loud and laughing and joking back and forth, very particular about their styles, and teasing each other etc. One of these guys though, I'll call him Mr. Yellow (he was wearing a yellow top), was being a bit more loud and crude than the others. He was in the chair of one of the female barbers and was clearly chatting her up and being quite sleazy about it. The others were teasing him about "oh no, she's ruined your hair, man!" etc. but the barbers all just grinned and bore it, finished the cuts and the guys all paid and left (not until after Mr. Yellow took a seat while waiting for his friend and pulled up his top and began to pick at his bellybutton I might add - ugh!)

Now last night I was googling things about women barbers when I came across a discussion thread on an Irish forum on-line. The thread was all about women barbers, and the guy who started the thread was proposing that men band together and boycott any barber shop that hires female barbers. He felt that women are infiltrating the last place that a "guy can be a guy and shoot the breeze" etc. Now that's fair enough I suppose. I mean, I really respect the traditional atmosphere you found in barbershops years ago, and feel it is part of their unique charm. It's that "feel" that I love about going into old fashioned ones and one of the things that draws me to it as a career. However, I'm in a horrible situation where I want to be part of all of that yet was born with the wrong set of "equipment" for the job if you will... Unfortunately the thread comments went far beyond that point. He, and others, were proposing that all female barbers were bad at their job and the only reason to go to one would be to get an accidental feel or brush of some female "assets". I'm trying to keep things PG rated on here but let's just say those guys weren't quite as considerate as me and to say the comments were sexiest would be putting it mildly. The thread was a good 4 pages long and I ended up reading most of it and feeling quite sick.

You see, I know the ideal barber is seen as a man in his late 50s, with years of experience behind him, good manly stories to tell, and a collection of rare straights out the back of the shop that he'll take out to show to anyone interested. My age and my gender may be a barrier in this job, and one that, previous to considering this carrier, I had never even considered to be an issue before. I even see this sexism in my work experience. Some guys will wait and wait for the male barbers to be free, in fact one guy even said quite simply that he didn't want a woman cutting his hair. It wasn't that one of the guys was his favourite barber, that I'd understand, and in fact he'd never been to the shop before; he simply didn't want a woman to do the job.

Now I don't want anyone to judge me, ever, because of my gender. I don't want people not to come to me because I'm female, nor do I want Mr. Yellow sitting in my chair purely because he's hoping for a quick eyeful or fleeting brush of skin. I find some comfort in the fact that the oldest barbershop in Dublin (80 years and still going strong), The Waldorf , is co-run by a wonderful woman called Linda who is very well respected. 
So what can I do? Well I can take pride in the occupation I've chosen and in order for others to forget about my gender being an issue, I myself must learn to get over my concern about not being a 50 year old man! Oh, and if Mr. Yellow ever does decide to sit in my chair, I'll gladly show him the sharpest straight in my collection!

- BE


Brian said...

Make sure you are in a barbershop on Fleet Street when he shows up.... Personally I could care less of the gender who is cutting my hair, as long as they do a good job, but the person wielding that straight.... well I trust few, although you would be one of them !!!!!

glenn said...

I do not have any qualm on what gender should do the wet shaving for me, as long as they can perfectly do it.

Seamus said...

I've actually gone out of my way to get woman barbers because i've often found local male barbers to be pretty useless - never trust a bald barber ?

Barber Eile's Blog said...

Thanks Brian- You know you're welcome to sit in my chair anytime!
Glenn - that's good to here. I see your website sells Feather Artist Club razors. Man those things are nice, but pricey. I have a nice Dovo Steel Shavette though and a Sedef.
Seamus - I'm sure even the bald barber used to have hair :)

Randy said...

I wouldn't go to a barber shop that didn't allow women, regardless of who actually cuts my hair, because I hate that kind of bigotry. I can't imagine being comfortable and feeling like I belonged there.

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