Cut My Hair, Or Else!

Australian Politics, Feminism, Regressive Left, Rundown

By now we are familiar with the bake the cake ultimatum. That is when a gay couple asks a Christian baker to bake them a gay wedding cake otherwise they will be taken to court for violating the jurisdiction’s anti-discrimination laws.

Now we have cut my hair, or else. This refers to the absurd legal action against Sydney barber Sam Rahim who runs the Hunters Hill Barber Shop by the mother of a girl he refused to give a haircut because he wasn’t qualified for it.

The definition of a barber is a “person whose occupation is mainly to cut, dress, groom, style and shave men’s and boys’ hair”. Even though we are in this era of gender fluidity and non-binary genders men and women still groom and style their hair differently and therefore they require different skill sets.

Rahim told the Today Show this morning “The reason we rejected it is because it is a barber shop,” and“I only specialise in cutting men’s hair. I’m not qualified to cut females’ hair. That’s pretty much it. I’m surrounded by hairdressers”. If a woman comes into the shop he simply refers the multiple hairdressing salons literally meters away.

However, in this case, the mother of the girl stormed out in anger and attacked the barber shop on Facebook. Now she has launched legal action in the Federal Circuit Court for an alleged breach of the Sex Discrimination Act. Rahim has said he’s been distraught and has been unable to sleep.

Many might argue why didn’t he just cut the girl’s hair? To which Radim has responded “a barber course is about six months and a hairdressing TAFE course is three years, in which you have to do your apprenticeship as well. It’s completely different”. He has stated he is not some secret misogynist “We’re all for gender equality”.

This situation is a bit different from the bake the cake controversy. In regards to the baker while they are qualified to bake the cake the baker believes to do so would violate their religious beliefs. In the case of this barber it is because he believes he does not have the skill set to carry out a satisfactory haircut for this girl.

But the legal action in both cases is the same, to compel a private business owner to undertake a certain action, a clear violation of the principle of freedom of association. The offended party could have gone to another business happy to serve them, but instead, are attempting to use the power of the state to rectify the hurt feelings they have experienced even though no offence has been intended.

It also worth noting that hardly anyone objects to women’s only businesses. Fernwood Fitness only allows females to use their gym facilities despite the fact that the same facilities could be used by men. One cannot help but see the double standard here that female-only facilities are acceptable and that women deserve a safe space, but men only facilities are considered part of the patriarchy, run by and used by misogynists who probably beat their wives.

Thankfully much of the reaction to this story has been outrage that this barber is being dragged before the courts for not performing a haircut he is not qualified for. The complainant at this stage is anonymous but given the public outcry against their action, one hopes they see sense.  Let us also hope our courts do not indulge the absurdity of this case. Let us also hope that men and boys in the Hunters Hill area express their support for Rahim but getting their next haircut at the Hunters Hill Barber Shop.