Friday, 16 November 2012

Of Hijabs, Burkas and Haircuts ...

At DJ! we have approached the question of women wearing religious coverings in the same manner that we consider the sexual violation of women and children, femicide, access to abortion, and the eradication of female genital mutilation.

How does it affect women facing these situations, what have women with knowledge and experience said and how can we support leurs revendications?

We have also pointed out Islamophobia in all its overt and covert forms.

Thus, we're perplexed that this complaint has not been challenged by other women.

Could it be that there's a fear of being slagged for being un-progressive, sexist and homophobic for not supporting Faith McGregor's grievance?


[...] a woman with a penchant for men’s hairdos walked into the Bay St. Terminal Barbershop. Faith McGregor asked the male barbers if they offer the “businessman cut” and, of course, they do but when it became clear she wanted the cut for herself the men demurred, saying their Muslim religion forbids them from touching women who are not their relatives.

Almost immediately, McGregor filed a human rights complaint with the tribunal, saying she felt like a “second class citizen.” Later, on a point of principle, McGregor declined the barbershop’s offer of a haircut from a different barber.

Life in Toronto is already complicated, with gridlock, unaffordable housing and Rob Ford’s football schedule, and now we have to contend with this?

In the barbershop case, a wise coach, or adjudicator, would say that both rights must be accommodated. So here’s a solution that won’t require months of testimony before a quasi-judicial hearing: In the future, barbershops whose staff have particular religious restrictions must ensure they can serve all clients by hiring a person with different beliefs or by offering an appointment with a fill-in barber willing to do the job.

Even better, here’s another way out: Let market forces prevail by giving your $20 polymer bill to a welcoming barbershop down the block.

How would an Ontario Human Rights Commission resolution - in favour of McGregor's demand - advance in principle or improve in practice the status of women in Toronto or anywhere, whether they're lesbians, muslim, or struggling to survive in a misogynist world?

There are many battles worth fighting but I don't see how this one is valid.

Like knee-jerk legislation here and elsewhere that forbids niqab face coverings, I sense that this complaint veils a deliberate expression of islamophobia.

UPDATE: Information about the business in question. Mixed reviews from the male clientele, it would seem.

18 comments:

fern hill said...

This is just silly. It is not systemic. If no barber in Toronto would cut women's hair for whatever reason, then it would be a thing.

It's not.

There are lots of barbers who will cut women's hair.

This woman is a drama queen. And is undermining real gender issues with this trivial crap.

It may also be a case of islamophobia. But I'll go with the simpler explanation.




Beijing York said...

"Later, on a point of principle, McGregor declined the barbershop’s offer of a haircut from a different barber." This case should be thrown out on this alone. That is accommodation of her right to a haircut.

This is not some feminist quest to right a wrong since I'm sure Ms. McGregor could have found countless barber shops that would give her the cut she wanted as fern pointed out. What a waste of time and a disservice to community harmony.

Godel Noodle said...

Wow, I'm not sure how I feel about this at all, but thanks to the three of you for explaining your position. I'll think about what you have written.

I guess I'm inclined to agree with you because this feels like a situation where the cure will be worse than the disease. My hesitation to agree, however, is on the principle that a completely gender-independent service has been refused solely on the basis of gender. After all, hair is hair.

I think perhaps I'm in favour of bring the barber's refusal of service to the public's attention so that customers are aware of what they're supporting if they choose to patronize this business, but keeping the case firmly in the market and out of the courts (as The Star's editorialist opines).

fern hill said...

Funny, in comments elsewhere I see there is an assumption that McGregor is lesbian and this can be construed as matter of conflicting 'minority' rights.

I didn't know that 'woman with penchant for men's hairdos' is code for 'lesbian'. Having recently had my hair cut very very short, I guess I should have been clued in to that fact.

deBeauxOs said...

Then, there are lesbians such as myself who don't have very short hair and who'd rather let it grow long than bully, intimidate and force - through a human rights complaint - some barber to butcher their crowning glory.

deBeauxOs said...

PS: I don't always wear "comfortable shoes" either. Recently I've been flashing some stylish high-heeled creations.

Godel Noodle said...

Funny, in comments elsewhere I see there is an assumption that McGregor is lesbian...I didn't know that 'woman with penchant for men's hairdos' is code for 'lesbian'.

THANK you! Geez, that's one of those things I'd been waiting for someone to point out and didn't even realize I was waiting for someone to point it out.

When I started to see comments in which it was taken a priori that she is a lesbian, somehow I just assumed the commenter had read a more detailed report of the incident than I had.

Námo Mandos said...

You are right, of course. In the "elsewhere" I think you are talking about, I adopted the assumption that this had to do with her lesbianism as one of the other commenters, taking McGregor's part, decided to bring it into the discussion.

And of course it became a constructed hypothetical about a conflict between lesbians and Muslims. I was happy to entertain the hypothetical in the "elsewhere", but I realize it has become fully disconnected from the actual situation. Oh, well.

Námo Mandos said...

Actually it not only became a constructed (admittedly fun) hypothetical, but one between Jim Crow and a mediocre barber. Gack.

deBeauxOs said...

As they used to say in the US south, it's all fun and games with Jim Crow until someone has to eat crow.

Gack indeed.

Beijing York said...

I wanted to pipe in elsewhere but thought better of it. McGregor may have wanted it to be an LGBT issue or not, I have no idea but the rejection from what I understand was based entirely on gender.

As far as gender inequality goes, this is certainly not high priority in my books and detracts from such serious battles as pay equity, reproductive rights, national daycare, etc.

There are many personal services businesses that are segregated by gender and I have no objection with that. It has more to do with personal comfort in what are considered more intimate services. I have no problem seeing a male OB-GYN but I would uncomfortable getting my legs waxed by a male esthetician. Yet I know other women who insist on a female OB-GYN but have no problem getting massages from a male.

Degrees of intimacy vary individually and culturally. Women only spas and gyms operate throughout the world, including in most Canadian cities. I don't see that as problematic. Treating genders equally is not the same as erasing gender differences.

Anyway, as in charter challenges between competing interests, courts usually decide on what is the lesser harm. Punishing this barber and his business is not the lesser harm given that McGregor could have gone to another shop AND was offered services by another barber by the offending business owner.

deBeauxOs said...

Grand merci for your well-considered contributions, Beijing York.

Now if Niles drops by too, that would be grand!

Niles said...

I don't know the details of the case. I don't know why the woman in question picked that specific barbershop. I'll leave it to the human rights review to see if it flies or not.

I am biased. I am personally aware that barbershops are still bastions of mancave gender privilege that look aghast when women enter the premises, let alone want a 'masculine' haircut.

It is a private business not a government org, however I think if I take out the reason for her being refused service at a city shop open to walk-in customers as her gender and substitute race, I can see where she's going with the humans rights complaint. Was there signage saying no women served? Or was the shop depending on the invisible gender line that would keep women from intruding so they never actually had to say anything?

I also wouldn't want to go back to a shop that-would-cut-my-hair after I called them on their behaviour. That's too personal and too able to go wrong, oopsie.

I am morbidly bemused at this being considered a small potatoes pshaw complaint, the publicity of which will hurt the efforts of the homogenous megalith of women's rights activism.

Seriously, when the anti-women lobby revs up, looking for feminazi ball-stomping hysteria, is there *anything* individual women do that can't be ginned into zomgsluttlezmankillerWIMMINZ!!!11!!? Hasn't the last year in the US proved that?

I live in a world where a woman said to the atheist/skeptic community "guys don't do that" and baBOOM backlash yelling at her she's got nothing to complain about becuz 'dear muslima' that's why. In light of that, I fully expect whatever way the haircut woman's complaint goes we're going to hear shrieking and waving of this how women are ruining everything but I'm willing to let her have her day in 'court', not tell her to shut up and go away down the block.



deBeauxOs said...

Niles, you're correct about the double standard with respect to how an individual woman's complaint/critique is applied.

Mandos' thoughtful opinions (posted elsewhere) regarding the various elements of this contentious situation have added much to my understanding of the issues involved.

Námo Mandos said...

To me the dispositive component of this conflict is the nature of the service to be provided, as I emphasize on the "elsewhere" thread. It's a cosmetic (non-health-related, for the most part) service that is performed directly on the body of another. Our personal spaces are, for better or for worse, still "gendered", for the most part. If it had been, e.g., sitting across the counter from someone trying to buy a microwave, I'd have a different opinion.

But I haven't heard of retailers refusing to sell to women for religious reasons in Canada.

For all we know, these business owners probably never conceived of the idea that there is any *real* daylight between the concept of "masculine" and "biological male". It's a real and unfortunate conflict that cannot end, in this case, with everyone getting what they want.

Niles said...

When the 'religious' defense gets raised, I do wonder where the cherry picking and religious boundaries stop. If the ad hoc defense argument is against touching the hair of a woman who is not a relative...or the like based on religious dictates, what about shaving male customers so they don't have beards or even associating with non-co-religionists?

It's very probable it doesn't reach a level of legal standing for humans rights incivility but I do have a hrmm problem if I think about the refusal being based on skin colour or perhaps other religiosity instead of gender. Would refusal then meet a standard gender does not? If yes, when do we treat unequal service because of gender/sex on a level with those other 'minority' identifications?

But then, is my circling around the situation in a more general fashion fitting to the specific situation? Are cases like this where the standards are tested and proofed in proceedings?

deBeauxOs said...

Years ago I had the honour of participating in an Aboriginal summer solstice event. A pipe was part of the ceremony and the facilitator, a FN man, respectfully requested that menstruating women not touch the pipe. One (non-indigenous) woman indicated she was in that situation; she remained in the circle. A FN woman took the pipe, leaned in and blew sacred tobacco smoke very close to her face. In that way she was included, in spite of the interdiction.

It would appear she should have filed a human rights complaint against the FN organizers of the ceremony, if I understand the HR principle some people seem to insist needs to be absolutely applied.

Line Merrette said...

Assumptions people make are obvious in the comments :

> All lesbians look or dress alike
> Gays are pedophiles or raving sex maniacs
> GBLTI people have no children (right, Mitt?)
> Bis are systematically unfaithful *cough*
> All GBLTI are (annoyingly) militant and publicize it

Judging and assuming.

Now there are annoying people on all sides and someone who picks a fight for nothing annoys me.

I tend to agree with you all people.


BTW this is fem_progress

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