Sunday, 29 May, 2022
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Why do short-haired women get charged more than men for haircuts

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‘Pay parity’ is so last century as a feminist slogan. What we should ask for is ‘price parity’. It’s as if the entire retail universe is rigged against us.

I have short hair. Like most men do.

But I always end up paying way more for my haircut than men. Why? Because I am a woman.

Mum was right. I should have just gone to the street-side barber, instead.

Paying Rs 800 for a trim is not just expensive, it’s unfair to people who need to feel lighter on the head every 20 days. It is bafflingly unfair to women who have short hair that we pay more than double the amount a man would pay for the same haircut.

This is my pet peeve. As an experiment, I have gone with men for haircuts. But both of us get charged differently, at the same salon, for the same length of hair and style.

On top of that, I often receive advice from male hairdressers to not go ahead with the chop. “Madam, isse bhi chhote chahiye? Aapke face ke liye accha nahin lagega. Thode lambe hone dijiye. (You want it shorter than this? It won’t suit your face. Let them grow a bit).”

Apparently, this is not just about haircuts. Women are charged more for shoes, jeans, wallets, everything. ‘Pay parity’ is so last century as a feminist slogan. What we should ask for is ‘price parity’. It’s as if the entire retail universe is rigged against us.

I am not the one to take this lying down. I argue with them at the salon each time. The reasons given for this injustice have been varied, but I must confess, they were all equally entertaining.

At a plush south Delhi salon in Green Park, I was told that a woman’s hair was cut with more care, and more style. At my alma mater Ashoka University’s parlour, I was told that a woman’s hair was of a different quality in comparison to a man’s. At Delhi’s Connaught Place, I was charged Rs 800 because they said my hair was cut with scissors and not a razor.

Let that sink in.

But, sometimes, I win the argument too. If just on two occasions, I have got the hairstylists to agree to charge me as much as their male customers. No, not because they understood my reasoning, but because they got tired of arguing with me.

The first time, it was at Ashoka University. But it required an e-mail and a meeting for the rule to change. At the Green Park salon, it wasn’t actually settled — the owners kept laughing until they noticed my straight face and realised I was dead serious. It was more like a reluctant, grudging compromise. They bargained me down a bit.

At Connaught Place, I couldn’t work out a compromise. The receptionist told me that I could get a trim for 400 bucks: “If that’s what you want.”

Yeah, right. A trim.

Not to forget, with each haircut, the good old concerns regarding my love life kick in. “Bro, zyaada hi feminist nahi lag rahi tu ab? Ek dum journalist type (Aren’t you looking too much the feminist type? Completely the journalist type).”

But the doubts about sexuality top it all. “Dude, don’t lesbians have short hair too?” And the almost too cliché: “Bro, boys don’t like girls with short hair.”

Once, someone asked me whether short hair would suit her and I think I gave her the best advice. I said, “It’s just hair.”

She didn’t get it cut.

I can handle all the questions and comments. But the overcharging hurts. I don’t even get my hair styled with hair wax like men do. I just tell them to chop. So what is the rest of the Rs 400 bucks for, exactly?

Actually kya hai na, hum aapke baalon ko zyaada style karte hain. Ladko ke baalon main itni zarurat nai hoti hai. Unke baal alag hai (Your hair has to be styled more than men’s hair).”

I think it is time for me to take a chance and head for the neighborhood barber’s. I’ll also figure out what’s so special about his head massage.

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