Why do we continue to discriminate against men with long hair?

January 16, 2013 in Body Image, Current Affairs, Fashion, Gender, Hair, Human Rights, Self, Society by John James

When I saw this story in the SMH this morning - Long-haired Virgin steward wins back his job – I thought to myself, yes, finally a win for men with long hair. As a man who likes to wear his hair long, I’ve long fought against any form of male hair discrimination. Unfortunately, when I came to read the article, I realised there was a twist to the story. It seems the reason that Mr Taleski won his case against Virgin Airlines was because he felt compelled to wear his hair long because he was suffering from a body-image disorder.

JJ's sleek and practical  ponytail...

JJ’s sleek and practical ponytail…

Now I don’t want to dismiss this as a valid reason for a man wanting or needing to wear his hair long. Body image issues are complex and understandable. But for once, I’d really like to read a story where a man with long hair wins an anti-discrimination case simply because it’s wrong to discriminate against a man who chooses to wear his hair long.

As I’ve written before on KiKi & Tea, all men have long hair. In our natural state, there’s no difference between men and women in this regard. If we all stop having our hair cut, we all end up with long hair. That’s a simple fact. I also understand and acknowledge that there are valid reasons why long hair isn’t allowed in some workplaces, especially for safety reasons. All I’m asking is that when there are rules about how people should wear their hair in the workplace, that they are applied equally to both men and women.

Virgin Airlines has a personal grooming manual called The Look Book. In the section in The Look Book for females it describes a ponytail as ”sleek, practical and shows off healthy hair to its full advantage“. So why can’t this description be applied to men as well? Why one rule for men and a different rule for women? I don’t get it! This is discrimination, pure and simple.

A page from Virgin's The Look Book, which dictates hair length, general grooming and dress code.

A page from Virgin’s The Look Book, which dictates hair length, general grooming and dress code.

In the court case, a Virgin manager said The Look Book “simply reflected how a typical guest expects a male employee to look”. The manager conceded though that the manual ”reflected the most conservative interpretation of what the typical guest would expect”.

Well, I don’t care if this is what the most conservative opinion is. Any form of discrimination based on gender is wrong and should be stopped. If it is appropriate for women to wear long hair in the workplace – even if it must be worn in a sleek and practical ponytail – then it should be equally appropriate for men to do the same. Why the gender-specific difference in your grooming guide, Virgin Airlines? Sounds like discrimination in my book!

Do you think it is unfair for men and women to be treated differently when it comes to personal grooming in the workplace. Or do you think its OK for different rules to be applied to men and women?

Image via The Sydney Morning Herald.

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JJ is a co-founder of KiKi & Tea. He describes himself as a "subversive blogger" who enjoys experimenting with different styles of blogging. He is currently writing a book, and writes about his life over at The Stuff That Comes Out Of My Head....

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