It’s the haircut, not the customer’s sex, that makes the barber

by Stephen Whitworth editorialLast weekend, an epic Facebook and Twitter brawl broke out over a beloved Regina barber shop’s male-customers-only policy. It’s a crummy scrap, because from the accounts I’ve heard, Ragged Ass Barbers is a great place run by fine people. As for Evie Ruddy, the scorned customer who says she’s launching a human rights complaint against the shop, well, this is Regina — of course I know her. As far as I can tell, she’s terrific.

It stinks when good people fight.

The problem started when Evie, who was unaware of the no-ladies policy, called to book an appointment at the Cathedral shop to get a men’s-style haircut called a hard part.

“I had no agenda,” she wrote in a comment on our blog. “I felt and still do that this is an unjust policy. I wanted a men’s hair cut and they specialize in that, but won’t give me one because I’m not a man. It is sex discrimination.”

As for Ragged Ass Barbers? At press time, their Facebook page suggests they don’t think they’re doing anything wrong. I understand where they’re coming from. Owner Craig Zamonsky has worked hard to meet a demand for men’s grooming in Regina, and on the surface, it seems like a place specializing in men’s grooming shouldn’t be forced to accept female customers any more than gynecologists should examine scrotums.

But I think we need to look a little deeper than the surface.

We have a much better understanding of gender in 2014 than we’ve ever had before, and once you get past beards and boobs, there’s a lot of grey area in how masculinity and femininity play out in human beings. For example: some women identify with traditional masculine imagery. Dresses and make-up? Fuck that. Pants and buzz cuts all the way. And some men feel more comfortable with a more androgynous look.

Gender identity exists on a spectrum, and while most of us are lucky enough to slot into unambiguous, easy-to-explain points on it, others sit near the middle or even closer to the side opposite their birth biology. That’s just the way it is.

Evie may or may not win her discrimination complaint against Ragged Ass Barbers, although she’s certainly facing extreme levels of abusive and threatening comments for her position, which should probably give Ragged Asses Barbers’ supporters pause. But I think the human rights complaint is blinding people to the fact that Ragged Ass’ policy is a barrier to them attracting real Ragged Ass customers.

Evie Ruddy tried to book an appointment at Ragged Ass Barbers because it felt to her like a place she’d fit in. As she explained on Dog Blog: “I don’t wear makeup, have gel nails or use a lot of hair product. Just because I was born biologically female doesn’t mean I belong in a female-dominated salon anymore than men do. I do not identify with mainstream femininity.”

She probably went to the right place. Problem is, the right place didn’t realize it.

No one wants Ragged Ass to change its business. No one’s asking it to put up pink wallpaper or start doing women’s haircuts or stop talking about sports, beer and ball-scratchin’ or whatever. Their identity is perfect as it is.

But so is Evie’s.

Real barber shops give men’s haircuts to customers who like spittin’ and cussin’ more than knitting and nesting. I’ve never seen Evie hock a loogie, but I’m pretty sure she’s a true-blue Ragged Ass regardless. The sooner Ragged Ass Barbers changes its completely pointless no-woman rule, the sooner customers like Evie can get their hair cut at the place they belong.

And Ragged Ass Barbers can get back to being the best damn barber shop in Regina. 2014-09-04