Human Rights

About Time Women and Men Got Charged the Same Rates for Hair Cuts

From Denmark to New York City, governments are cracking down on the practice of overcharging women for haircuts.

Denmark, the feminist paradise of subsidized childcare and socialized healthcare, upped the ante this year with a new gender equality ruling to outlaw expensive women’s haircuts.

The Board of Equal Treatment (great title for the board, by the way), fined a salon that charged more for women’s haircuts than for men’s haircuts, effectively calling the price differential illegal.

The industry has all but threatened to bear their scissors in protest, denouncing the ruling because women’s hair generally takes longer to cut than men’s, while men often have to get more frequent cuts to keep their short styles. 

Don't let big tech control what news you see. Get more stories like this in your inbox, every day.

The ruling does not bar salons from charging different prices for different cuts, but merely the practice of denoting the price differences by gender. Hairdressers warn that sorting out these differences without naming gender, however, could cause “price chaos,” which--given the actual economic chaos in Europe right now--feels like something of an exaggeration.

While this ruling might strike women in the U.S. as yet another reason to buy a warm coat and catch a flight across the Atlantic immediately, New York City has actually long had a similar (although little-enforced) provision to protect against haircutting discrimination.

Since 1998, the city’s Department of Consumer Affairs has had legislation on the books that prohibits gender-pricing discrimination.

In 2011, the department doubled down on the law, issuing 580 violations, mainly to salons and barbershops that were overcharging one gender for services like manicures (men’s are often more expensive given larger and tougher nails) or haircuts (women’s cuts are often double the price, justified by demand for wispy layers and Rapunzel-length locks.)

As in Denmark, the city’s beauticians are indignant over the fines.

"If someone's waxing a man's back and a woman's back, it's like day and night," one spa manager complained to the Wall Street Journal. "Of course it takes longer for men. It's more labor, more product."

So far, the city’s cosmetic industry has far from acquiesced to the laws, and price differences in salons and spas remain rampant.

Laura Gottesdiener is a freelance journalist and the author of "A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home," forthcoming from Zuccotti Park Press.