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November 15, 2012 6:53 AM   Subscribe

A woman wanting a mans-style hair-cut was denied one by a Toronto barber because his religion forbids him from touching a woman he is not related to. The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is expected to hear the issue if mediation fails, as a competing rights issue where there is a conflict between two individuals exercising their rights. The OBA (warning, cheesy music autoplay) defends some Barbershops as a men's-only space tradition dating back to Ancient Greece, while others point to womens-only spaces like spas that are allowed to continue to operate while discriminating against men.
posted by saucysault (239 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I can understand someone whose religion forbids them from touching non-related women going into a field of work which services basically only men. That makes sense to me. It also makes sense that this woman would be a bit shocked and frustrated by being denied service there.

But I don't stand with the OBA trying to make this into a "this is a MAN'S SPACE" kind of an issue, because that actually IS outright gender discrimination.

The question I ask myself is, where has this woman been getting her hair cut prior to this incident, and why didn't she visit there again? Goodness knows, once I found a barber who did a great job and wanted to work with me to look the best I possibly can, I kept going back.

Interesting case all around. I can't help but compare it to the wedding planning people who have refused service to same-sex couples on the basis of religion, but somehow that doesn't quite FEEL the same to me. Something about strict religious practices vs. generalized religio-bigotry. But it's hard to explain fully why I feel it's different.
posted by hippybear at 7:01 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The women-only spa you linked to is bathing suit optional. Perhaps a better example of a comparable women's space would be a nail salon.
posted by mochapickle at 7:05 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


But I don't stand with the OBA trying to make this into a "this is a MAN'S SPACE" kind of an issue, because that actually IS outright gender discrimination.

I think you are giving too much credit to the "OBA", which I suspect of being one guy and three suckers who signed up their businesses. The site is done on WIX and hasn't beeen updated in 3 years. I seriously do not think it is a Real Thing.

Also, my nail salon does men's nails too.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:07 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, my nail salon does men's nails too.

Exactly. Which is why the whole men's space angle is ridic.
posted by mochapickle at 7:09 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


On the one hand, there's a freedom of contract thing, that buddy barber doesn't have to do business with someone he doesn't want to, for whatever reason. But by lighting up his barber pole at Bay and Dundas, without any kind of sign saying 'men only', it's an open invitation to any member of the public to come in and do business -- he would have had to have given notice of the contrary somehow. So the freedom of contract argument isn't really a winner.

On the other hand, Ontario no longer allows men-only bars, either. I'm not really seeing the distinction.

It'll all go in favour of the lady customer, eventually, and rightfully so. It's just a matter of how much noise and expense is involved getting there.
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:13 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


because his religion forbids him from touching a woman he is not related to.

There's a fix for that bug.
posted by three blind mice at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is a fascinating line of inquiry.

What would happen if a man demanded to use a women's restroom?
posted by dazed_one at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2012


It seems pretty clear cut (ahem) to me. He should be free to touch who he wants to in his personal life. However, if he's providing a commercial service, he's subject to our secular anti-discrimination laws just like everyone else. Therefore, if he wishes to not touch women, he cannot be a barber.

Or, at least, cannot be a good barber.
posted by seanmpuckett at 7:14 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Interesting, this just came up on an acquaintance's Facebook and we got into a little debate over it. I respect this man's right to practice his religion. However, this is also a business owner who is effectively denying service to 50% of the population based on their sex. His religious affiliation and whether women traditionally use barbers or not do not make it less discriminatory. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
posted by torisaur at 7:15 AM on November 15, 2012


I hadn't thought to look up the Barbershop website (I have no idea why I thought it wouldn't have one) but they actually advertise on their homepage that they are the Boys Club on Bay Street. In Canada, Bay Street = Wall St.

It looks like a really nice Victorian Style Barber shop.
posted by saucysault at 7:16 AM on November 15, 2012


The business of "showing dignity and respect for one another" under the competing rights page seems like a good place to start. It's one thing to decline service just because you disapprove of someone--if they didn't want to give her a haircut because she's a lesbian, I'd think there was a real problem there. So far as I know, nobody's religious texts, anyway, contain edicts against physical contact with homosexuals under any circumstances, or doing business with homosexuals in general, and that's more often the discriminatory issue.

Or, thinking of it the other direction, I wouldn't want a woman with a religious prohibition against touching men that made her deeply uncomfortable with the idea to be required to do some work that required her to touch men, either, if there was no emergency and it wasn't seen to be a routine part of the position. And that, I guess, is where the man's-space thing kinda fits in. Not that it should mean that other people should be allowed to discriminate, but that they went into this with a reasonable expectation that they were entering a profession where their religious requirements wouldn't be a serious obstacle. I wouldn't want to punish people for that, I guess.

If they're deliberately refusing to ever hire someone outside their faith, that's another story, but to force them to do some hiring that deliberately excludes members of some religions in order to be able to service women doesn't seem quite right, either.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [14 favorites]


That is a super-interesting case, thanks for posting it. I'm not sure what the outcome will be...I'm not even sure what I think the outcome should be. This could be a definite test case if the parties have to go to court afterwards.

I feel as if the easiest solution is for him to hire a (competent) woman, perhaps part-time, who cuts the women's hair. If he was unwilling to do that then there's some likely sexism issues going on, and that'd be a reasonable accommodation of the public service he's required to perform. And she wouldn't have a right to a specific barber, so the concept of separate services wouldn't really come up.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The style of haircut she wanted is irrelevant to the discussion and a distraction.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:18 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm stupid. A competent woman or competent man who does not have the same heartfelt prohibition on them, of course.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:18 AM on November 15, 2012


There's a fix for that bug.

Now that has to be the clumsiest kludge ever devised...
posted by fifthrider at 7:20 AM on November 15, 2012


I respect this man's right to practice his religion. However, this is also a business owner who is effectively denying service to 50% of the population based on their sex.

Ain't no however. I don't get the moral handwringing at all. If this was a cab driver who refused to pick up female passengers he should loose his license to operate a cab. Why is there any difference with a barber?
posted by three blind mice at 7:20 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


My sister-in-law is a teacher in the Ontario public school system, and this year the mothers of three of her Muslim students requested that their boys be moved into a class with a male teacher. I don't know whether the request was made on explicitly religious grounds, but in all three cases it was made clear to her that the mothers believed it wasn't right to have boys being taught by a woman. She managed to change one woman's mind but in the other two cases the request was granted, which kind of goes against the spirit of public education in Canada.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:21 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


The style of haircut she wanted is irrelevant to the discussion and a distraction.

I'd say it's marginally relevant, in that it informed her decision as to which barbershop to patronize.

But why couldn't he just pass her over to another barber?
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:22 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


This is an interesting case, and in this situation, I'm inclined to side with the business owner. We make all sorts of exceptions in special circumstances, women-only gyms for example.
posted by jamincan at 7:22 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


My go to quote for things like this.
posted by gwint at 7:23 AM on November 15, 2012


He did, in effect, pass her over to another barber.
posted by dazed_one at 7:23 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Ain't no however. I don't get the moral handwringing at all. If this was a cab driver who refused to pick up female passengers he should loose his license to operate a cab. Why is there any difference with a barber?

OK. And legally, where does that leave the services that explicitly cater for women only (gyms, spas etc)?
posted by MuffinMan at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think that people should be able to service anyone they feel comfortable servicing. I don't think it's right for the government to force anyone to service anyone they don't feel comfortable servicing. I don't even think the reason has to make sense. Then let the free market decide if they want to support someone who engages in such discrimination.

I should also be perfectly within my rights as a business owner to refuse to hire someone who has those restrictions as it would limit my potential business.
posted by inturnaround at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think it's really, hard, though. While I find these religious prohibitions a little...weird, to say the least... it would seem that if he wasn't allowed to refuse customers, he wouldn't really be able to have his job.

I also strongly, strongly endorse the ability to have female-only spaces, which makes the issue of men-only spaces kind of tough. On the one hand, men-only spaces have been used to discriminate for long periods of time. On the other hand, it's a little screwed up of me to say "I want my female-only spaces, but men-only spaces are just no good."
posted by corb at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


The style of haircut she wanted is irrelevant to the discussion

It'll be irrelevant to what she gets as well if the barber's working under legal compulsion.
posted by Segundus at 7:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [11 favorites]


I would like the right to work in a man-free space. I support this. I have suffered way to much sexual harrasment and sexual advances by male coworkers and I don't like men in my personal space vibing on me where I don't have the right to remove myself from their physical encroachment on my personal space. I don't like having to bend over and do work while men attempt to stare at my ass without me seeing.

Sure maybe there are lesbians like this, but even among bi-and lesbian women in my life I've never experienced the same level of sexual presence while trying to work I have with men. If I'm at work, I want to work and I don't like dealing with men.

I personally think is a reasonable thing for either men or women to want. I don't know how to make that possible while ensuring both men and women can work in their chosen prefessions- or recieve needed services--

But I believe a female who wants a female prefessional- or to be a professional that only serves women--- there are many professions where this SHOULD be a human right to request gender prefernces of who will touch your body or be involved in your personal space or psyche.
posted by xarnop at 7:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Or, thinking of it the other direction, I wouldn't want a woman with a religious prohibition against touching men that made her deeply uncomfortable with the idea to be required to do some work that required her to touch men, either, if there was no emergency and it wasn't seen to be a routine part of the position.

This angle is interesting to me. Presumably, he went into barbering, in part, because he expected that he could do his job without violating his religious beliefs. The analogous case would be a woman who went into doing manicures or waxing or some sort of personal grooming that is typically female only. I would feel really weird telling an orthodox Jew who did manicures (I have no idea if this could even possibly be a thing) that she had to touch a man when her religion told her that was a problem.

I also think there has to be some distinction between "I don't want to serve gay people" style straight up bigotry, and people with genuine religious convictions simply because forcing people to violate their religious convictions can cause more psychological harm. Admittedly I'm making an exception that I would apply more easily to more established religions (I don't think I would feel the same way about a religion that cropped up tomorrow and had 'don't serve gay people' in its founding creed), but life is messy and there's always going to be inconsistencies, so I'm fine with that.

I do agree that the "male space" angle is a total red herring in this case. He's not saying he can't serve women because they'll would make him turn off the game or object to the Playboy on the counter (presumably the Playboy is not a feature of the barbershop of a devout Muslim, it's just a feature of most of the 'for men' barbershops I've been in). I actually think the to question of to what extent we should permit sex specific spaces is an interesting one, but it's not really germane to this case.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:29 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


He isn't discriminating based on her sex (which seems to be the legal issue) he's only refusing to cut her hair because she isn't a relative, not because she is a woman. From my meagre understanding, the whole sex separation in Islam thing is pretty well known and being unable to touch non-related women as an Islamic requirement (for some levels of belief in it) is hardly a shock. It also doesn't really matter if you think it's wrong if you also claim to respect all religions. It is what it is.

He needs to cut his wife's hair tomorrow, thereby proving it is not a sex thing (so illegal) but a familial connection thing (so a respecting religion thing). If he had a non-Islamic barber then he could have offered that service, but if he doesn't then his right to respect his religion and not touch that woman's head has to be respected for all his employees.

If he had a non-Islamic barber working for him, this would be a non-issue. This is more a freedom of religion in the workplace argument than a sexism issue - how can they make a rule that someone can only offer a service if their religion allows it to comply with everyone else's religious expectations?

Much as I think the religious requirement itself is dumb, I think the woman in question is just being a sanctimonious arse by kicking up a fuss. If someone disagrees with the rules regarding separation of sex within a religion then causing an issue for person of that religion's business doesn't seem the right way of doing it to me.
posted by Brockles at 7:29 AM on November 15, 2012 [24 favorites]


Honestly, if she wins, do you think he'll even give her a good haircut at this point?
posted by inturnaround at 7:32 AM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Therefore, if he wishes to not touch women, he cannot be a barber.

"A barber (from the Latin barba, "beard") is a person whose occupation is mainly to cut, dress, groom, style and shave males' hair."
posted by alexoscar at 7:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]



He isn't discriminating based on her sex (which seems to be the legal issue) he's only refusing to cut her hair because she isn't a relative, not because she is a woman


He is not cutting her hair because she is a woman who is not a relative. If it were only an issue of familial connection, he wouldn't be able to cut men's hair who were not relatives. This is a sexism issue.
posted by torisaur at 7:36 AM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Honestly, if she wins, do you think he'll even give her a good haircut at this point?

If she wins he personally won't have to give her a haircut. He'll probably have to pay a fine and make the decision to either close up his shop or have someone on staff at all times that will cut women's hair.
posted by papercrane at 7:39 AM on November 15, 2012


I don't think it's sexist to want to acknowledge sexuality exists and can present issues when close proximity, intimacy, or touch are part of the work environment. For heterosexual people, which is the larger percent of the population, that involves specific issues that come up when men and women interact. Also, while there is no culture that is effective at stoping sexual assault or boundary violations, I actually think cultures that force accepting intimate interaction from people you are attracted to or who are attracted to you- and you would therefore prefer not to be forced into interaction with-- is it's own form of oppression.
posted by xarnop at 7:41 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Exactly. Which is why the whole men's space angle is ridic.

Because one person's spa is not women-only, certain barber shops are not primarily for men?
posted by kenko at 7:42 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What if an esthetician only offered brazilians to women and refused to perform a manzilian? Would that be different? I can't help but think we would offer the practitioner the benefit of the doubt in that case.
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am not a fan of businesses and public places enforcing gender-based segregation or differential pricing, and I would not be comfortable in a male-only establishment, but it's pretty much an accepted part of our culture. There is a gym down the street that only women can go to. There are clubs that only accept men as members. It seems strange to have a problem with only some of these.
posted by Nothing at 7:44 AM on November 15, 2012


This is a sexism issue.

Not if he cuts his wife's hair, and that of his sister and his daughters and cousins etc. Then he clearly serves women just not without familial connection. It is absolutely not purely a sexism issue if there is even the remotest desire to respect a religion even if you don't agree with its rules.

That is the issue. I don't think you can legislate both things at once, which is why this will be a clusterfuck decision either way. Western sensibilities require parity of the sexes, a religion demands separation. Either you respect the religion or you enforce your own morals on that religion and discriminate (in terms of freedom of religion or job possibilities) on that basis.

It doesn't matter if you or anyone thinks it is wrong for the barber to refuse to cut the hair or not, because you have to (according to another rule) respect his religion without question, not just when it fits our rules. Vicious circle.

The only thing an official decision will do is specify which is more important - gender or religion. That's a hell of a call to make. The only possible good outcome is for the Islamic faith to allow an exception for Barbers, because if the government makes a decision it'll be hell to pay no matter which way it chooses to rule. But then that is pressuring a religion to change its rules to suit Western legal discrimination regulations, or allowing a religion to explicitly ignore a parity rule of great importance, which is a bit of a can of worms, no?
posted by Brockles at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


If someone disagrees with the rules regarding separation of sex within a religion then causing an issue for person of that religion's business doesn't seem the right way of doing it to me.

Yeah, but this wasn't a "men's only" or "Islam only" space; it was a barbershop open to the general public. If it had been a "men's only" space this might have been a different story, but it wasn't, so you know all bets are off.

It seems to me that this is pretty cut and dried case of gender discrimination - which is why it also seems like a stunt. I hope the fine is minimal and the barbers can find some accommodation with the female public.
posted by three blind mice at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Our next-door neighbors, who we're quite close with, are hassidic Jews. Their daughter works at a spa that's not owned by or directed at hassidic Jews but which caters to women from the general public. Needless to say, our neighbor is deeply religious, and as such doesn't touch strange men. She took the job because she had the necessary skills, and because she would not have to compromise her own values in using them.

If a man came in wanting a facial, I know it's safe to assume she would quit her job rather than comply. I also think that the man would be wrong for pushing the point that far.
posted by awenner at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2012 [19 favorites]


There's a fix for that bug.

Yeah, I kind of doubt that's going to be an option for a guy named Omar Mahrouk.
posted by atrazine at 7:46 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'm kind of with xarnop. If I could work in a women-only space that was guaranteed, there's a good chance I'd jump on that shit so fast it'd make your head spin.
posted by corb at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's sexist to want to acknowledge sexuality exists and can present issues when close proximity, intimacy, or touch are part of the work environment. For heterosexual people, which is the larger percent of the population, that involves specific issues that come up when men and women interact. Also, while there is no culture that is effective at stoping sexual assault or boundary violations, I actually think cultures that force accepting intimate interaction from people you are attracted to or who are attracted to you- and you would therefore prefer not to be forced into interaction with-- is it's own form of oppression.

Speaking as a butch woman of approximately the complainant's age, a woman who, moreoever, has had her share of barbershop haircuts, I would be astonished if sexual attraction entered into the equation on either side. I'd expect, in fact, that a comparatively strict Muslim would actively disapprove of a woman who was a lesbian and wanted a man's haircut as a visible aspect thereof.

I do think this woman is being an enormous douche and should stop. Stuff like this is exactly why many people of color don't like white social liberals. It's also why procedural liberalism is not a good solution for small problems like this one, problems that are essentially interpersonal and do not really impact anyone's quality of life. We're not exactly in a society where butch women can't get haircuts, although I know as someone who likes to keep looking dapper that it can be a bit irritating to have to be shaggy-headed for longer than necessary.
posted by Frowner at 7:47 AM on November 15, 2012 [32 favorites]


I also think it's worth distinguishing between forcing a business owner or employee to do business with a customer who is violating the owner's beliefs and requiring the owner/employee to violate their own beliefs directly. For example, if his belief were that women shouldn't have male haircuts, then I would have less sympathy for him, because the person who is violating that requirement would be the woman, not him. Here, he would be forced to directly violate his own religious beliefs personally, which (I think) makes the case intellectually distinguishable from pharmacists refusing to sell contraception.

What if an esthetician only offered brazilians to women and refused to perform a manzilian? Would that be different? I can't help but think we would offer the practitioner the benefit of the doubt in that case.

I think we (meaning Metafilter generally) would have less of a problem because we think of Brazilians as intimate and personal, and we give more leeway to gender separation in that context. From someone from a traditional religious background, (what we would think of as mere) touching can also be considered intimate and personal, and I think we'd do well to respect other people's comfort levels in this areas.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:48 AM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


The only thing an official decision will do is specify which is more important - gender or religion. That's a hell of a call to make.

I go with gender equality every time.
posted by King Bee at 7:49 AM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


When the fuck is humanity going to get over its stupid hangups about this sort of thing? Any mature and psychologically healthy person should be able to perform something like a haircut on someone of the opposite/same gender without getting their knickers in a twist. If you can't disambiguate that sort of physical contact from explicitly sexual contact, you have some demons it's time to face.

I'm tired of people using the Abrahamic religions as an excuse to justify sexism, racism, homophobia, or any other form of intolerance and bigotry. If you refuse to provide someone with the service you are in business to provide solely based on her gender, you are being a sexist asshole regardless of which magic fairytale book told you to do so.
posted by spitefulcrow at 7:50 AM on November 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


I know this place and get my hair cut there every now and then. I can be in and out within 20 minutes without an appointment and end up with a good haircut at a very fair price, and the gentlemen working their are polite and friendly without being overbearing. I can understand why this woman would be upset that she can't get her hair cut there - it's incredibly convenient, especially if you work in the area. That being said I'm not sure if the appropriate response is to file a human rights complaint - don't we have bigger fish to fry than a woman being denied service at a men's barber salon? Can't she just go to another establishment?

I really hope they work this one out without forcing these folks out of business.
posted by sid at 7:51 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


(I add that I live in a milieu where there have been coalitions between non-Muslim GLBT folks and Muslim immigrants' organizations working on voting and immigrants' rights, and if GLBT people, Muslim and non- (and there are Muslim GLBT people, which fact sometimes gets dropped out of discussions like this) want to build good relationships with traditionalist Muslim communities, making a big ol' fuss because you can't get a haircut - especially in a climate of Islamophobia and ZOMG-Sharia-law - is not the way to go about it.)
posted by Frowner at 7:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


Yeah, but this wasn't a "men's only" or "Islam only" space; it was a barbershop open to the general public. If it had been a "men's only" space this might have been a different story, but it wasn't, so you know all bets are off.

Traditionally, barber means men only. Are you suggesting that the solution to this problem is just to put a sign in the window that says "Men Only" and no-one would take issue with that?
posted by dazed_one at 7:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Framing this as a civil rights issue, wherein the woman is being oppressed because she wants a haircut from this specific barber whose particular religious belief has a cogent reason (whether or not you agree with it) not to cut her hair, is about as convincing as the men who sue bars that offer "Lady's Night" discounts. Which is to say, not terribly convincing to my mind.

It seems that most arguments here that conclude in her favor seem to pretty straightforwardly say, "Yeah, he believes that, but I don't, so he shouldn't either." Perhaps you should examine which of your beliefs you would have a problem with being forced to violate for the sake of making a living.

And from the practical perspective, even if every barber was a practicing Muslim and had the same policy, there would still be spaces for women to get their hair cut, no? Separate but equal was problematic because the schools/buses/water fountains were quite intentionally inferior. Are we arguing the same for barbershops? Are we arguing that Curves, the women-only gym, is forcing men to go through life unable to work out, weak and out of breath?

I think Bulgaroktonos has some good points disentangling this from the pharmacist-dispensing-birth-control issue. I agree that everyone should mentally try on the bikini-wax corollary, too.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


Twist: the haircut she wanted was a fade with a shaved-in portrait of Muhammad
posted by theodolite at 7:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


Why does there have to be one rule to cover everything? Why can't there be some private discrimination? If it is difficult for a woman to find a barber to cut her hair, then it seems like a problem and probably contributes to a broad culture of discrimination. But if it's just this one barber who won't cut (unrelated) women's hair, it just doesn't strike me as a big problem and trying to force the issue might make overall cultural conflicts worse. I think it's crap that someone *would* discriminate for like this but it doesn't seem like it's worth enforcing via the power of government. The point in anti-discrimination rules isn't to make it so you are never affected by a discriminatory asshole but rather to break the power of institutionalized, broad and historically persistent forms of discrimination.
posted by R343L at 7:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I had a bit of a telephone bust up with my sister over a similar issue during the UK Olympics.
I've tried to find a non UK Daily Mail digest of the story - this one isn't brilliant but it'll do:

"An Iranian paralympian refused to shake hands with Kate Middleton at a medal ceremony because the country's customs forbid a man from shaking the hand of a woman who is not related.

Mehrdad Karam Zadeh instead bowed and clutched his hands to his chest when the Duchess of Cambridge presented him with a silver medal for Men's Discus Throw in front of 80,000 onlookers Sunday, according to The Telegraph.

The 40-year-old athlete's response immediately stirred controversy, leaving many wondering whether his refusal to shake hands signaled worsening relations between the UK and Iran."


My sister happened to be in the audience for this ceremony. She argued that his piety was fine - and not something to get heated about - because the athlete was so obviously joyful at winning/receiving the medal & because he - said my sister - did everything he possibly could to physically signal he was not being disrespectful to Kate Middleton, but just "obeying" his religion. (She meant he was beaming & bowing rather adorably.)

I (weakly) disagreed that his behavior was totally dandy.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:55 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Much as I think the religious requirement itself is dumb, I think the woman in question is just being a sanctimonious arse by kicking up a fuss. If someone disagrees with the rules regarding separation of sex within a religion then causing an issue for person of that religion's business doesn't seem the right way of doing it to me.

On the other hand, were I using the services of said barber, I'd like to know so I could take my custom elsewhere.
posted by ersatz at 7:56 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Are there no other barbers in Toronto? Dumb religious hang-ups are dumb, but the idea this is worth anything other than taking your money elsewhere is baffling.

Twist: the haircut she wanted was a fade with a shaved-in portrait of Muhammad

Pffft. Everyone knows you can't get a decent fade north of the Cross-Bronx.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I think it's more cultural than religious. In India, for instance, there's no way even Hindu or Christian barbers would serve (non-family?) women for precisely this reason.

I honestly find this a strange venue to complain of discrimination. I can see why the lady might feel discriminated against, but really, there are some battles that are not just worth fighting, at least, not through the prism of governmental penalties and such. A more softer approach might work better; now what that approach can be, is something I don't know.
posted by the cydonian at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The point in anti-discrimination rules isn't to make it so you are never affected by a discriminatory asshole but rather to break the power of institutionalized, broad and historically persistent forms of discrimination.

Hm, let's see about the Islamic religion then:

✓ Institutionalized
✓ Broad
✓ Historically persistent

Well. Can you see what the problem is now?
posted by spitefulcrow at 7:57 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm going to make friends with the woman from this story, and maybe we can hang out and help each other learn to use a Flowbee
posted by King, in the hall of the mountain at 7:59 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is a ridiculous overreach for people to think they can dictate that these men must cut that woman's hair.

In some cases, this makes sense, especially in the medical field. Pharmacists, for instance, must be required to dispense birth control to anyone with a prescription, regardless of their personal feeling on the matter. This is because pharmacists are gatekeepers appointed by society, and thus society determines the rules for using the gate. If you want to be a pharmacist, you don't have the right to interfere in someone's medical care because of your religious views. It is not your gate, you don't get to make the rules for using it.

But cutting hair? That's not a gate. Anyone can cut hair. All you have to do is pick up scissors. Telling people that they first need a license to cut hair, and then that, as a condition of granting the license, they must violate their religious views, is a crock of shit. That woman can go anywhere and get her hair cut; she can do it herself. It's not a good in limited supply, and it's not a service in need of regulation of any kind. Government has zero right to intrude here.
posted by Malor at 8:00 AM on November 15, 2012 [21 favorites]


Hm, let's see about the Islamic religion then:

✓ Institutionalized
✓ Broad
✓ Historically persistent


Institutionalized persistent Islam is the bane of Toronto and has been ever since Muhammad de Champlain first visited the region.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:01 AM on November 15, 2012 [30 favorites]


Anyone can cut hair

I don't know about Canada, but in the US, most states license haircutting.
posted by Slothrup at 8:02 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


"Much as I think the religious requirement itself is dumb, I think the woman in question is just being a sanctimonious arse by kicking up a fuss."

Exactly. How it could have gone:

"I'd like a haircut, please."
"I'm sorry, none of us here can cut the hair of an unrelated woman. It's against our religion."
"Shoot. Can you recommend another barber?"
"Sure. The gentleman at the end of the block can give you an excellent cut."

The end.
posted by ceiba at 8:03 AM on November 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


Hm, let's see about the Islamic religion then:

✓ Institutionalized
✓ Broad
✓ Historically persistent


To emphasize what Bulgaroktonos said. Islam does not have that power in Canada of today. The culturally similar Christian-origin versions of similar anti-woman beliefs also have very little power in Canada of today (at least not in urban areas). No one needs to make this barber not discriminate in order to fix a broad societal problem. In Canada.
posted by R343L at 8:07 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I mean, I do want to add that there is cultural crap that makes it hard for a woman to get a "man's" haircut, and I hate that cultural crap. (I wish I had a good barbershop nearby - there used to be one run by a really old-school butch dyke, but it closed in the recession.) You don't need to be a conservative Muslim to be a sexist asshole to a woman who wants a butch haircut - there are plenty of barbershops run by men of all backgrounds that are like this. And that is homophobia and sexism, and I hate it.

(Men who hate having non-fuckable women in 'their' spaces, men who hate it when women assert that they don't have to look sexually attractive to dudes, men who hate it when women have "men's" things because it seems like theft of property and because if a lowly woman has something that devalues it.)

And heck, maybe this guy is a homophobic, sexist asshole and he smiled smugly at the woman as he told her that he couldn't cut her hair, knowing that he could beam disapproval and sanctimoniousness at her under the guise of religion. Who knows? I've met dudes like that.

But you've got to ask yourself: what is the outcome? The outcome is not going to be happy haircuts for all. The outcome is going to be more Islamophobic ranting and fuss, and a very hard time for these guys, and maybe a boycott, and worsened relationships between straight Muslims and non-Muslim GLBT folks, plus giving many people the impression that white lesbians are self-centered and complainy.
posted by Frowner at 8:08 AM on November 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


The Barbershop down the street is called Terminal 2 and owned by the same gentlemen I believe. Looking at Yelp it doesn't look like there are too many Barbershops in Toronto. I don't know if any of the others would also refuse service to women.
posted by saucysault at 8:10 AM on November 15, 2012


The outcome is going to be more Islamophobic ranting and fuss

I have a weird, probably-wrong, suspicion that this is the whole point.
posted by aramaic at 8:11 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everything Frowner is saying, that is what I think too.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:15 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Looking at Yelp it doesn't look like there are too many Barbershops in Toronto.

FWIW, the Googlemaps list another three in the Dundas-Yonge-Queen area.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:17 AM on November 15, 2012


I mean, I do want to add that there is cultural crap that makes it hard for a woman to get a "man's" haircut, and I hate that cultural crap. (I wish I had a good barbershop nearby - there used to be one run by a really old-school butch dyke, but it closed in the recession.) You don't need to be a conservative Muslim to be a sexist asshole to a woman who wants a butch haircut - there are plenty of barbershops run by men of all backgrounds that are like this. And that is homophobia and sexism, and I hate it.

And then they want to charge you more money, just because you have ovaries.

As a XX, my head is smaller than the typical XY's, so I should get a size discount, not an extra charge.
posted by jb at 8:18 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


While there is no hierarchy of rights, there are rights in opposition here and there does need to be some way to figure that out.

The test to me, would be the level of infringement on those rights. She's asking for equality of service, he's asking for freedom to practice his beliefs. How infringed are those rights?

She's in downtown Toronto. Another barber is likely within a 10 minute walk. She's out a mild inconvenience, and maybe a bit of money if she has to pay more at a salon or take a bus. He's either breaking a religious law or having to hire additional staff to serve occasional clientele.

I'd argue that he can do this for the same reason women-only gyms continue to exist. He's offering a service that is not limited in access---anyone can open a hairdressing business in Ontario without licensing. There are many other barbers in Toronto who will cut her hair. The infringement on her rights is minimal. In the same way that men can easily find another gym, she can find another barber without a lot of trouble.

Single-sex cabs, on the other hand, would be likely impossible to support. Taxis are highly regulated in Toronto and scarce. Because the provision of service to the customers is limited, cabs become almost an essential service, and thus have to be non-discriminatory. If you call a cab at 2 am, there are not a lot of other options available to you. The cab should have to take you. Limiting equality of access to a cab is a severe impingement on the customers' rights. This argument has been used, for example, to ensure that cab companies can accommodate the disabled.

While there needs to be no hierarchy of rights equality over religion or vice versa, when rights come into conflict, I think we have to balance those rights and judge who is most harmed by the possible outcomes. In this case, a minor inconvenience is being balanced against breaking a moral code and/or significant outlay to hire more staff on the off chance she comes back. It's not a perfect compromise, but it's one which does least harm to everyone involved. If we truly want a diverse society, we also have a duty to accommodate. No right can be absolute.
posted by bonehead at 8:20 AM on November 15, 2012 [26 favorites]


Looking at Yelp it doesn't look like there are too many Barbershops in Toronto.

Yelp isn't an exhaustive directory. There are 11 pages of barbershops listed in YellowPages.ca. And I doubt that every barbershop is mentioned online.
posted by ceiba at 8:22 AM on November 15, 2012


As a XX, my head is smaller than the typical XY's, so I should get a size discount, not an extra charge.

The type of hair you have and how much time it takes to style may be more likely to dictate price. Men's barbershops in my area will charge me a little more because I have curly / wavy hair and don't get a buzz (close to the scalp) cut. The texture difference means it takes a little longer to do my hair properly than a guy with straight hair. Otherwise it will look awful when it grows back in.

Also, I'd like to think my head is no bigger than most other guys. :)
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on November 15, 2012


Some really insensitive people here.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:25 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


And then they want to charge you more money, just because you have ovaries.

That's interesting. I knew that was true of haircuts generally, but I had no idea it was true of women looking to get men's haircuts. There are some good reasons why a typical women's haircut would cost more than a typical men's cut (it takes more time and ability), but everybody should be able to get clippers run over their head for 15 minutes at the same price.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:25 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


And then they want to charge you more money, just because you have ovaries.

This is true. But the solution isn't to sue the people who don't do that.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:28 AM on November 15, 2012


Looking at Yelp it doesn't look like there are too many Barbershops in Toronto.

But there are lots of men in Toronto, and unless they're getting their hair cut at home or they all have long, luxuriant nineties-style hair (a fashion that's coming back, men of metafilter!) they're getting their hair cut somewhere.

The real reason to go to a male haircutting-person if you want a man's haircut is that straight women stylists have an unconscious psychic resistance to giving women very butch cuts, plus they have less experience. I hate the endless fuss of trying to persuade a straight woman hairstylist that I want a very short, mannish cut - and I never really get one, either - it always ends up being layered or fussy or whatever because the stylist thinks that I don't really want to look that "ugly" or "masculine".

Plus it's more expensive, of course - I can get a "man's" haircut at a salon and it costs the same as a fancy "women's" cut even though it's just done with clippers. At a place that does a lot of guy haircuts, I get the guy price.

Gosh, I want to get a haircut now, but the friend who cuts my hair is out of town.

I add that if we charged by head-size, I would pay the most of anyone - I have a simply enormous skull and even the biggest sizes of men's hats don't fit me. Luckily I also have wide shoulders and so on, so I don't look like a bobble-head. (I think.)
posted by Frowner at 8:31 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't know about Canada, but in the US, most states license haircutting.

I am truly fully licensed hair stylist. (via MeFiMu)
posted by grog at 8:32 AM on November 15, 2012


For example, if his belief were that women shouldn't have male haircuts, then I would have less sympathy for him, because the person who is violating that requirement would be the woman, not him.

The funny thing is that I'm sure there are plenty of barbershops that would refuse to cut a woman's hair on those grounds. Odds are this woman went into a barbershop in the first place because whoever normally cuts her hair was resistant to giving her a more 'masculine' haircut.

I think that's what make me uncomfortable about the complaint--it's setting off my "let's target Muslims/religious people/people not like us" detector. This situation arose because someone else already made the same decision or because she expected someone else to make the same decision.
posted by hoyland at 8:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


bonehead, I was drafting a comment but after seeing yours there's nothing to add. Flagged as fantastic. Duty to accommodate extends to both parties in these disputes - not just the alleged wrongdoer.

I am still curious to see how this will all turn out. The HRTO seems to be trying to stay off the radar lately, which isn't surprising given some recent publicly-scorned decisions and the fact that they became a bit of an issue in the last provincial election. Since this case is going to attract a lot of media attention, I wonder how it will all be resolved.
posted by ZaphodB at 8:37 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Single-sex cabs, on the other hand, would be likely impossible to support.

They actually totally do this in Dubai which is a place with more of a state-supported religion thing going on.

I'm a lady who wants a butch haircut and in my town if I couldn't get this at the barber I'd have to drive 20 minutes. The barber shop in town has a lady barber (cuts women's hair, more or less the same cost) and I've seen the men cut women's hair. There may be men who don't cut women's hair there but it's a non-issue because when I show up someone can cut my hair.

I guess the issue is if you're operating as a business that is sex segregated by custom and not by actual edict (whether their own or someone else's) once you have to spell it out, things get dicey. We had a not-entirely similar issue in Vermont when we first got civil unions, some of the town clerks would refuse to do the paperwork for them citing religious reasons. Which, okay fine, but the state decided that a town could not as a town, forbid civil unions, so those towns had to hire extra staff who explicitly would provide the paperwork.

I guess I'm just a little surprised that this became A Thing and I'm curious how it works out.
posted by jessamyn at 8:38 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


There are 11 pages of barbershops listed in YellowPages.ca

Toronto is really sprawled out, on that first page there are barbershops a good twenty km from Bay Street. Or if she hit three barbershops on Bay St and none of them would cut her hair?
posted by saucysault at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2012


I fear that the publicity this case is receiving and its potential for both anti-Islam and and anti-Human Rights Tribunal angles will drive more people more firmly into Conservative mindsets. With a provincial election in Ontario on the not-too distant horizon this could be damaging.
posted by rocket88 at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2012


Ain't no however. I don't get the moral handwringing at all. If this was a cab driver who refused to pick up female passengers he should loose his license to operate a cab. Why is there any difference with a barber?

Cabs are part and parcel of the public transit system.

I would not blink twice at all if I called up a hair salon and they told me, "I'm sorry, we only handle women's hair" or if one of the hair-cutters told me that she only cuts women's hair and handed me off to one of her colleagues.
posted by deanc at 8:44 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It doesn't matter if you or anyone thinks it is wrong for the barber to refuse to cut the hair or not, because you have to (according to another rule) respect his religion without question, not just when it fits our rules. Vicious circle.

No, public law trumps religious law. For example, if this barber suspected his wife was unfaithful, we wouldn't let him kill her. No matter what his religion says.
posted by Triplanetary at 8:47 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The funny thing is that I'm sure there are plenty of barbershops that would refuse to cut a woman's hair on those grounds. Odds are this woman went into a barbershop in the first place because whoever normally cuts her hair was resistant to giving her a more 'masculine' haircut.

Oh, I have no doubt that this is the case. My barbers have almost universally been older men from Europe, and I have no doubt that the 80 year old Macedonian guy who was constantly raving about the glories of the Ottoman Empire might balk at giving a woman a butch hair cut. Barbershop culture is plenty sexist, even if I think the religious angle is more salient here.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:48 AM on November 15, 2012


I'm as liberal-minded as they come and I'm left wondering if Canada just doesn't have signs that say "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason" because that is the sign on the door of literally every private business in the United States of America.

From the filter of how American enterprise works, it's a private business, it's not an essential service, and she did not "need" said service let alone for any life or health-threatening reason. If this was a government-run barber shop, or he received even a cent of government business funding, then yes, he should conform to non-discrimination rules. If he doesn't, then are we really arguing that he is obligated to serve every customer? Is it even worth going through a handful of the infinite number of hypotheticals showing how that is a terrible idea?

If he said "no I'm not cutting her hair because I just don't want to" this wouldn't even be a news article. Instead we get this grandstanding, both by the patron and those who will use this to rail against their maligned "thought crime PC waaah" boogeyman. What a terrible hill for progressive-minded people to die on that will offset support for actual changes in our culture.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:50 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I tend to believe that it's worthwhile to force businesses to abide by secular ideas of equality.

The problem with the scenario isn't that the barber refused to cut her hair, it's that the barber shop did not arrange for her to receive service.

Just like the state has no obligation to support particular business models, the state has no obligation to support particular religious practices that otherwise conflict with core societal values. Broad leeway should be given for preferred dress and activities such as prayer; broad leeway should not be given for any religiously mandated activity that negatively impacts a non-believers core right to personal safety and equal treatment.

In my ideal (and yes, imaginary) secular humanist nation, this kind of interaction would lead to a fine on the business and a requirement that they develop a plan to serve female customers.

If you want to be a waiter but cannot serve food to a woman, or if you want to be an EMT but cannot touch a woman you're not related to, or if you want to be a butcher but cannot handle pork, then you have an extra burden in your life that you have willingly adopted. No state actor will stop you, but you will have to find an employer who is willing to accommodate the difficulties your restrictions will add to what the state actors do require: that the business serves all citizens equally, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and any other relevant protected classes.

Gender segregated places, like women-only gyms or spas, are a complicated question. I think different cultures would have to approach them differently. Part of the difficulty is that phenotype is not genotype, and neither of those need to have anything to do with your personal gender identity, and gender is not binary even though most of these exclusionary places are built around binary assumptions of gender. Another difficulty is the current reality of gender-based discrimination coupled with cultural issues around gendered sexuality and acts of violence that seem to exist in every country in the world in one form or another. Abstract secular humanist ideals aside, when it comes to the day-to-day cultural reality of women and men there are differences in how they are treated, courted by businesses, portrayed in media, etc., and it would be morally wrong to enforce a system that did not acknowledge those issues and allow for the possibility of safe spaces within the existing context.

However gender segregated places are dealt with in a culture, I think it's absolutely fair for heightened and special demands to be placed on any business that wants to play that kind of ball. Just sticking a sign up on your restaurant, pharmacy, golf club, gym, or Wal Mart that says men only, or women only, or Vietnamese only, or Jews only, shouldn't be sufficient. It might be sufficient in some places today, but it shouldn't be.
posted by jsturgill at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The type of hair you have and how much time it takes to style may be more likely to dictate price.

The irony is that, until recently, I had long, straight, fine hair, and all I wanted was a simple straight trim of the ends -- and that would have cost me more than a man's cut from most places. I don't mind paying more for having my hair layered or styled or fancy stuff, but I minded being charged more for what was arguably a much simpler cut than my male SO's (who also has thick, curly hair).

My mother has also run into problems: she has asked for man's cut at a unisex salon, and they still wanted to charge her more (for the same cut) because she is a woman.

But back to this case: I'm totally torn. One part of me thinks that one person's religious belief does trump another's right to a hair cut (seeing as that shop has no monopoly on hair cuts and she could get the same service many other places) - and I also recognize that most of the laws regarding discrimination are just for governments, not private businesses.

But the other part of me hates the exclusivity - I abhor this shop's policy, just like I abhor invitation-only places which end up being de facto segregated (whether by gender or race) -- and I totally feel for her. She may have wanted to go to this shop precisely because it was so traditional and classic, and it's wrong to deny that to her based on her gender, just as it would be wrong for a woman's shop to refuse to do a man's nails.

And I think that women's only gyms are just as wrong men's only barbershops - you can't justify one without justifying the other. I won't go to Curves because of that policy - and also because the person I would like to go with happens to have a penis. He shouldn't be denied access just because someone else with a penis might happen to ogle women - he should have the right to be judged on his own actions, not the actions of others who happen to share a chromozone with him.
posted by jb at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2012


saucysault: " Toronto is really sprawled out, on that first page there are barbershops a good twenty km from Bay Street. "

There are three shops within walking distance. Respectively 1, 3 and 4 blocks away.

Or if she hit three barbershops on Bay St and none of them would cut her hair?

Exactly. That's why she has taken it to the tribunal. She has said it's a discrimination issue. Not a matter of being inconvenienced.
“For me it was just a haircut and started out about me being a woman. Now we’re talking about religion versus gender versus human rights and businesses in Ontario,” said McGregor.

She filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario almost immediately, saying she felt like a “second-class citizen.”

Mahrouk’s response to the tribunal, provided through his lawyer David Kolinsky, doesn’t dispute McGregor’s complaint but says being forced to cut a woman’s hair would violate his freedom of religion.

“We live for our values. We are people who have values and we hold on to it. I am not going to change what the faith has stated to us to do. This is not extreme — this is just a basic value that we follow,” said Karim Saaden, co-owner of the Terminal Barber Shop.

He noted that it was a matter of adherence to faith, not a gender issue.

“In our faith, for instance, I can cut my mother’s hair, I can cut my sister’s hair, I can cut my wife’s hair, my daughter’s hair,” said Saaden.

The barbershop suggested a solution to McGregor toward the end of August, offering her a haircut from a barber willing to do so.

“It’s the principle of the matter so I turned down their lawyer’s offer and said, ‘No, I wish to continue with the tribunal,’ because this needs to be discussed and now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon,” said McGregor.

She is asking the tribunal to force Terminal Barber Shop to offer its men’s haircuts to both genders, and suggests in her application that the shop post a sign indicating it serves both men and women. She is not seeking money.

posted by zarq at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm as liberal-minded as they come and I'm left wondering if Canada just doesn't have signs that say "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason" because that is the sign on the door of literally every private business in the United States of America.

And yet it became illegal to refuse service based on race.

I'm curious: how does that stand? Or did the laws just lay out race as the one reason you couldn't refuse service.
posted by jb at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2012


Dear Priviledged White Lady:

Some people have real problems.

You, apparently, are not one of them.

You are not the brave soldier in the battle for sexual equality that you seem to think you are; you're a petulant bully. This kind of behaviour is the reason that society at large is unable to have sincere and effective dialogue about gender discrimination and why discussions of such are often preemptively disregarded as illegitimate. You are making things worse, not better. You are being a nuisance. If you would like your beliefs respected, please respect those of others. Not having your hair cut by this particular barber has not harmed you in any way. Please stop clogging up our already-overburdened legal system with your self-righteous nonsense.

Sincerely,
Me.

P.S. that Islamic barber has probably faced more real discrimination than you will ever be able to comprehend.

P.P.S. just because you don't like his religion does not give you the right to try and force him to stop practising it. You are acting like a spoiled child.

Just because his faith is unpopular does not make it acceptable for you to pick on him. Something you'll learn when you become a grownup is that, sometimes, in life, you don't get to have things exactly the way you wanted them. Until then, play nice with the others. Not everything is about you.
posted by windykites at 9:00 AM on November 15, 2012 [17 favorites]


jb: " The irony is that, until recently, I had long, straight, fine hair, and all I wanted was a simple straight trim of the ends -- and that would have cost me more than a man's cut from most places. I don't mind paying more for having my hair layered or styled or fancy stuff, but I minded being charged more for what was arguably a much simpler cut than my male SO's (who also has thick, curly hair).

Completely understandable.
posted by zarq at 9:01 AM on November 15, 2012


I've always thought it made more sense to charge by the 15 minute increment or something, and avoid the gendered pricing issue altogether. /derail
posted by torisaur at 9:01 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this is interesting. It reminds me of some stories I read a few years ago of grocery clerks who won't touch pork products and ask customers to scan and bag their own bacon/sausages/etc, and taxi drivers who refused to pick up passengers who were carrying alcohol.

In those cases, I sided pretty clearly with the customers, because I think if you have a religious restriction that prevents you from doing a significant portion of your job, you need to find a new job and not push your restrictions on other people.

But in this case, it kind of seems like becoming a barber is a pretty good career choice for someone whose religion doesn't let them touch women, because, for the vast majority of the job, barbering doesn't involve touching women. So he did find a suitable job and it's still not working out.

I mean, in an ideal world, there wouldn't be this kind of sexist crap built into several major religions, but this isn't an ideal world, and thus there's a lot of grey area in all of this.

I guess the barbershop needs to hire some non-muslims to cut hair on the off-chance that a woman comes in looking for a cut, so that as a business they can accommodate both their human rights responsibilities and their employees' religious requirements.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:03 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Are female employees/owners of women's only spas and gyms, allowed to bring their husbands and male relatives in, to use those services? Not that I know of.

I don't have any problem with strictly male or female only establishments - but to allow for exceptions based on relation, means that the issue isn't someone's gender or sex - it's something else. If the barber cuts his wife's, daughter's, sister's (etc) hair on premise, then they are not just "men's spaces."
posted by raztaj at 9:05 AM on November 15, 2012


Yelp isn't an exhaustive directory.

Even if it was, there are 134 listing in search results linked above. Sure, Toronto is a big city and many of those shops aren't close to Bay/Dundas, but there are at least a half-dozen more in the area.
posted by asnider at 9:07 AM on November 15, 2012


Let's look at the possible outcomes of this case. If we find in favour of the customer then the barber is forced to either:

a) Violate his deeply held religious beliefs
b) Quit his profession and find another line of work
c) Hire non-Muslim barbers so that there's always someone available to cut womens' hair, when needed.

I think c) is arguably the least damaging to him, assuming his business is able to support it financially.

If we find in favour of the barber then the customer is forced to:

a) Get her hair cut somewhere else

Applying the principle of inflicting the least damage, the choice is pretty clear.

That's not what will happen, however, knowing the Human Rights Tribunal.
posted by rocket88 at 9:08 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm as liberal-minded as they come and I'm left wondering if Canada just doesn't have signs that say "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason" because that is the sign on the door of literally every private business in the United States of America.

Refusing service to people for absolutely any reason you want is not a right anyone has, sign or not. (It's like those signs in parking lots that say the management is not responsible for any damage to your car. They aren't, unless they are, and the sign is no protection against that.)
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:10 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Frowner, I totally and completely agree with what you're saying and that the driving force behind segregation of sexes in many religions is frequently rooted in mysogeny rather than respect of human rights to have their body, space and psyche respected. But I also, not knowing why the segregation is in place, can see perfectly legitimate non-religious reasons that people might prefer to have sex segregated spaces and to give and recieve services that includes gender boundaries on what you will andwon't do with regards to intimacy, touch and personal space.

I can remember many times as a child being foced to endure gential exams by male professionals, being forced to discuss my sexuality with male psychologists-- all because we are supposed to be "genderblind"

I can assure that being forced to endure interaction with males evenwhen I can tell their sexuality is involved and interested did NOT serve me well and I don't like it as a cultural trend. I will do everything in my power to assert my right to not be forced into interaction with people who are using my presence for their sexual fulfillment or who I feel uncomfortable with regardless of their intents. Just because a man has a professional title does not mean they don't hav active sexuality that could be unpleasant for me to interact with. And I respect men's rights to have sexual boundaries with regard to women as well. (And GLBT people getting to have gender preferences in their personal space as well.)

I don't like the cultural attidude that "it's just a little touch, what's the big deal"? It can be a very big deal to some people. I have had many bosses I got sexual vibes from and I could SEE it rightin front of me, but I'm supposed to pretend it';s not there. And then SURPRISE they DO make sexual advances! What do you know? I don't like being told what I am or am not allowed to be comfortable with in regards to being touched or served in professional spheres or work environments. And I personally think it would be ok to give professionals the right to make the same determinations-- the goal would be to make sure that all people can get the goods and services they need. And that regardless of legtimate reasons for requiring a safe space that all humans are still seen as equally worthy of services and having their humanity respected regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race etc.

Sometimes I don't want a man staring at me and thinking about fucking me while I have to pretend I can't see it plain as day because "maybe I'm wrong! Men aren't all THAT horny! You're interpereting it wrong! Give him the benefit of the doubt!"

I could do without the entire exhausting exercise of pretending men are as non-sexual and trustworthy as they like to pretend to themselves/others they are. Until they have me in a bad spot and suddenly I'm at fault for having trusted a predator because I saw it a mile away. Or he's just a decent guy who suddeny I've lead on! By being friendly! What a terrible tease I am believing men when they say their intentions are platonic! What was I thinking trusting a man?? And then if I'm expected to see a man to talk about my rape trauma issues which I HAVE been required to do and scolded for prefering a woman in a rather sneering fashion-- I think it's balogna. Many people, male and female, have arousal hearing about others sexuality. In fact it would be more abnormal not to. And just because, as a professional, you know you won't act on your feelings, that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable for a client when you ask if they can remember the point of penetration and can feel how you're hanging on to their response with a little to much interest. Or uncomfortable for a client whose hair you're cutting when you lean into them and enjoy the contact of their body and they can't call you on it because "it's not a big deal"

I think there are valid and non-sexist reasons that people might want to create gender specific spaces and there should be some legal manner of doing so for people who want that.

I think it's normal, and ok, for people to be horny. I also think it can affect people around you when you're hot for them and hiding it from them and requiring they act like everything is normal.

It seems to me that this is restriction designed to address sexuality between heterosexual men and women. Not innately to treat women inferior or out of sexism.
posted by xarnop at 9:12 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


But I also, not knowing why the segregation is in place, can see perfectly legitimate non-religious reasons that people might prefer to have sex segregated spaces and to give and recieve services that includes gender boundaries on what you will andwon't do with regards to intimacy, touch and personal space.

I think this is also an important point with regard to the exception for relatives. Not only are they not likely (or socially acceptable) sex partners, they're already within the sphere of intimacy. It seems perfectly consistent to me to say "I'm not comfortable with this type of interaction with people of the opposite sex" and then to say "unless they're related to me."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:16 AM on November 15, 2012


Applying the principle of inflicting the least damage, the choice is pretty clear.

That's not really how courts work. Sometimes there are bigger issues in play. It's entirely possible that the courts will decide that gender-based discrimination is Not OK, and the barber will go out of business. That might suck for him, but I'm not sure if it's any worse than someone who ran a Whites Only lunch counter closing up shop when they had to start serving blacks. Sometimes you have to choose between your beliefs, wherever they come from, and engaging in public, commercial activity.

Fiat justitia ruat caelum.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems a lot like pitching a fit because a vegetarian restaurant refused to serve you a hamburger.

> --it's setting off my "let's target Muslims/religious people/people not like us" detector.

Yep. It's ironic she's going through the Human Rights Tribunal to do this.
posted by nangar at 9:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


In Ontario the HRT is the appropriate venue (enshrined in law - legally there is no other venue) when faced with alleged discrimination on protected grounds. What do you think is more appropriate place?
posted by saucysault at 9:21 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This seems a lot like pitching a fit because a vegetarian restaurant refused to serve you a hamburger.

I don't think that's a fair comparison. The expectation in going to a vegetarian restaurant is that they're not going to serve meat. The expectation in going to a barbershop is that they'll cut your damn hair -- maybe they won't do as good a job with women's hair, since they're not used to those styles, but the expectation is that you'll get a haircut. Given that she wanted a style that is typically for men, she could reasonably have expected that the barbers would do a good job with that style.

I'm not saying that she's in the right here -- it's a complicated situation and I'm not really sure how I feel about it -- but the expectation in this situation is different than that of your analogy.
posted by asnider at 9:26 AM on November 15, 2012


It's entirely possible that the courts will decide that gender-based discrimination is Not OK, and the barber will go out of business.

I agree that such an outcome is certainly possible, but I still would like the people advocating this position to thoroughly lay out for me a philosophy that allows women-only train cars (such as in Japan), Curves, allows--um, whatever the joints are that do bikini waxes--to do bikini waxes on women but not men, while still maintaining the (reasonable, to my mind) bans on white-only restaurants, male-only taxis, pharmacists not dispensing birth control because religion, and so on.

To me, it clearly comes down to the actual harm from being refused a haircut/bikini wax/gym membership versus not getting birth control/a taxi/a meal. The cultural milieu (e.g. 1950's American South) counts towards that harm, of course. If we really had a problem with women (or blacks, or whites, or children...) being unable to get quality haircuts, I'd change my position.

(And as for women's haircuts being more expensive regardless of difficulty--I agree, but that's kind of unrelated to this lady wanting a haircut from this dude.)
posted by daveliepmann at 9:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


public law trumps religious law

It does in some situations, but not all. The test is the same: who is harmed least?

In the case of a criminal act, that's easy. The impingement on the right to personal security is huge and outweighs pretty much every other benefit another right might grant.

On the other hand, imposing a secular humanist code of conduct on everyone else, regardless of the effects on moral or religious belief goes against everything in our Charter as well. It would be insane to tell kosher delis that they should sell bacon, problematic to tell a catholic pharmacist to sell birth control pills.

While I can't ever imagine a case where the public benefit would outweigh the religious requirement to practice a dietary law, it's easy to imagine a case where the public would require service from a devout pharmacist.

There has to be a balance. Absolutism of rights necessarily leads to a hierarchy of rights, and that gets you single-sex cabs in Dubai. Canadians don't want that kind of society, so we have to live with compromises and the resulting duties to mutually accommodate.
posted by bonehead at 9:34 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The women-only spa you linked to is bathing suit optional.

Arguing the specifics of that example misses the point that Canadian law permits women's only spaces (in particular) -- bonehead provides the more apt example, which is a women-only gym. But this doesn't have to be a "men's only" space. The barbershop could have a non-Islamic barber.

What's interesting to me about this is that in the Canadian context, all the CHRA matters I'm familiar with deal with accomodation from the customer's perspective. eg: you're disabled and cannot access a particular brick and mortar business, or a government service online. What I hear regarding service-based accomodation (I'm religious and won't sell you birth control) is always from the States.

Yep. It's ironic she's going through the Human Rights Tribunal to do this.

Metafilter often hasn't seemed to get that this is the purpose of human rights tribunals in Canada. The Charter (and Bill of Rights before it) are focused on government action, but the human rights tribunals absolutely delve into the practices of private businesses. It's largely what they do.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


The barbershop could have a non-Islamic barber.

How would that jive with the laws governing hiring practices? "Barber wanted - Muslims need not apply"?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hard cases make bad law. Even if you want to carve out an exception here, how do you honor the religion of the Muslim barber while refusing to allow an Aryan Nations Church of Jesus Christ–Christian restaurant owner to discriminate against people of color?
posted by tyllwin at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


public law trumps religious law

Like sharpened kirpans in public schools? I think specifics trump generalities.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:38 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


"She is asking the tribunal to force Terminal Barber Shop to offer its men’s haircuts to both genders, and suggests in her application that the shop post a sign indicating it serves both men and women. She is not seeking money."

Emphasis mine. She's asking the guy to directly violate his religious beliefs. Because she doesn't respect his beliefs and is making a crusade about it. That's a dick move.

How on earth is he supposed to advertise for a non-Islamic barber? How can he employ someone or not-employ someone based purely on their religious beliefs? How's THAT going to play in the discrimination lottery?
posted by Brockles at 9:41 AM on November 15, 2012 [7 favorites]


It's also not really a question of religious versus public law, being free from being compelled to violate your religion is public law. It's a question of the extent of each public law. It's also (obviously) a much harder question than "do we let people murder people because of religion."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:42 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


From the second link:

The barbershop suggested a solution to McGregor toward the end of August, offering her a haircut from a barber willing to do so.

“It’s the principle of the matter so I turned down their lawyer’s offer and said, ‘No, I wish to continue with the tribunal,’ because this needs to be discussed and now it’s bigger than what occurred with me that one day, in one afternoon,” said McGregor.


She seems to be on a crusade (for lack of a better word)
posted by rocket88 at 9:46 AM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


How would that jive with the laws governing hiring practices? "Barber wanted - Muslims need not apply"?

That's easy.

"Barber Wanted - Must be willing to cut any women's hair"

It would be like an Orthodox Jewish barber trying to find someone to cover a shift on the Sabbath.
posted by papercrane at 9:47 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


How would that jive with the laws governing hiring practices? "Barber wanted - Muslims need not apply"?

It would jibe (sorry, pet peeve) with existing laws by hiring someone explicitly who is willing to cut women's hair. By focusing on the activity you need performed you do not have to dictate the religion of the practitioner. This could rightly be construed as constructive discrimination, but it would be for a legitimate purpose.

However, how many customers do they get where this is an issue? Just the one? What if the applicant to the above advert is herself a woman -- and thus can't serve Islamic customers? The HRTs perform valid work, but often come down very hard on small businesses in terms of what they can actually afford. (If you're a small business with no wheelchair access, for example, it doesn't matter that only one disabled customer wants access to your store, or that the product can be had elsewhere nearby -- the test is whether the expense would put you out of business, which seems ludicrously strict to me)

being free from being compelled to violate your religion is public law

I'm reminded of the oft-spoken fear that if gay marriage were legalized, clerics would be forced to officiate -- which was never to be the case.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:48 AM on November 15, 2012


How on earth is he supposed to advertise for a non-Islamic barber? How can he employ someone or not-employ someone based purely on their religious beliefs? How's THAT going to play in the discrimination lottery?

There are Muslims who are more or less strict about the restrictions against touching women, and other religious groups that also self-segregate. So you make it not about the religion but about the job requirement -- must have a valid license, a minimum of three years professional experience and be willing to work with a clientele of mixed genders.

If you were a business that was open 7 days a week, you wouldn't hire a staff composed entirely of Orthodox Jews, because you'd need some staffers who are available to work Friday evenings and Saturdays. You might hire some Orthodox Jews, in the same way you might hire some University students who need all day off on Tuesdays because that's the day they have the 6 hour Chem Lab and you have enough staff to be flexible on scheduling. But it's not about the person's religion (or status as students), it's about their willingness/ability to work the schedule you require.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


While we're on the subject, could somebody tell me about African-American barber shops? They seem to be distinct from the Old White Guy variety, but I don't know much about them.
posted by zamboni at 10:05 AM on November 15, 2012


I presume a possible outcome of him being forced to accept the odd female customer is that he would ask them to schedule in for a specific time when a different barber was available. As a small one man shop with no need for a second barber, that window would be infrequent and short enough as to be useless.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:06 AM on November 15, 2012


While we're on the subject, could somebody tell me about African-American barber shops? They seem to be distinct from the Old White Guy variety, but I don't know much about them.

Well there are probably cultural differences, but people of African heritage do have different hair care needs. Chris Rock's movie "Good Hair" is a great documentary about this by the way, but it's mostly about women's hair.
posted by papercrane at 10:12 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


She seems to be on a crusade (for lack of a better word)

Not an awesome word, true, but possibly fairly apt. But that's how these things happen -- test cases, representative plaintiffs, small groups fighting for broad rights, etc.

Whether that was a legitimate offer kind of depends what form that offer took, which isn't really clear. Was it a one time, we will get this guy to come in and cut your hair once? Was it basically referring her to another barbershop? Was it actually making their services available to women on a regular basis by hiring/associating with this additional barber?

The third thing is what she's trying to achieve, but it's not at all clear that it is what was on offer. Walking away from a fight for equality because you had personally been thrown a bone would be kind of shitty behaviour, too.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:17 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Was it basically referring her to another barbershop?

This seems to have been what happened, by my reading. Why would that not be a suitable accommodation, making a deal with another shop nearby (assuming same price, level of service etc..)? Must the service be offered in that specific shop at any time the business is open? How far does accommodation have to go?
posted by bonehead at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


"She is asking the tribunal to force Terminal Barber Shop to offer its men’s haircuts to both genders, and suggests in her application that the shop post a sign indicating it serves both men and women. She is not seeking money."

Emphasis mine. She's asking the guy to directly violate his religious beliefs. Because she doesn't respect his beliefs and is making a crusade about it. That's a dick move.

Re-emphasis mine. In your quote, at least, she's asking the business, not the barber, to provide its service to women.

I don't know her, have no idea what her actual court filing says, she might actually want to force that particular barber to cut her hair, whatever. But framing it as a business that is discriminating against women, rather than an individual who is exercising his rights, sheds a lot of relevant light on the situation in my humble.
posted by jsturgill at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2012


Durn Bronzefist: I'm reminded of the oft-spoken fear that if gay marriage were legalized, clerics would be forced to officiate -- which was never to be the case.

Right, this is very similar. At least in the US, we'd obviously never allow that, because we have an inherent respect for Christian belief, even if we don't practice it. Same-sex marriage, where it's legal, can be granted by the state, and no religious entity needs to be involved whatsoever, so nobody's religious code is being violated.

Believing that it's okay to force Muslim men to cut the hair of unrelated women is exactly like thinking that that's it's okay to force a Catholic priest to marry two men. We don't require that of Catholics because they're not the only easy source of marriage, and we can't expect of the Muslims because they're not a monopoly on hair care.

If you think that it's okay to violate the Muslim code, but not the Christian one, in my view, that's bigotry; you don't respect their beliefs as much as Christianity's. They're not as good as everyone else, they're not full members of your society.

I don't know how the same sex marriage argument is playing out in Canada, but if you folks up there were willing to give a pass to priests, then failing to give the same pass to barbers is showing severe double standards, and discrimination against religious belief.
posted by Malor at 10:23 AM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


GoodLife Fitness, for example, does exactly this, offering different levels of service---women-only gyms---at some locations while full access at others. Would that not meet the same standard?
posted by bonehead at 10:24 AM on November 15, 2012


Why would that not be a suitable accommodation, making a deal with another shop nearby (assuming same price, level of service etc..)? Must the service be offered in that specific shop at any time the business is open? How far doe accommodation have to go?

Separate but equal has not always turned out that well in the past.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:28 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Separate but equal has not always turned out that well in the past.

Oh for fuck's sake, jacquilynne, it's not like the tiny minority of Muslim male barber shops could even vaguely be a real threat to women. They're outnumbered, what, a million to one?

Let them turn up their noses. Who the fuck cares? There's squillions of hair places, and there always will be. This is not a service in short supply.
posted by Malor at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


jacquilynne, as stated above, separate but equal was problematic because it was systematically ensured to not be equal, because it was part of a recognized attempt to harass, intimidate, marginalize, and oppress, and because the harms were severe, and because the remedy did not violate any religious beliefs (that I know of).

Hair cutting is not public education.
posted by daveliepmann at 10:35 AM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm ok with some places being male/female only (although I feel they should require city approval in some form, not everything should be allowed to enforce this distinction). But if you own a business and it's not a male/female only clientelle, you do not get to refuse service based on a persons sexual orientation. If you want to open a business, you need to follow non-discrimination laws. If one or more employees/workers choose not to do something that would put you in violation, you need to ensure another employee is available to assist and prevent your business from violating the client's rights.

Also, I really don't think it matters if the guy right next door isn't discriminating. For example, you can buy condoms just about anywhere in NYC. But that doesn't give a person the right to refuse to sell condoms to homosexuals, teenagers, women, etc... and claim religious freedom simply b/c the clients can just go down the block.
posted by Crash at 10:38 AM on November 15, 2012


GoodLife Fitness, for example, does exactly this, offering different levels of service---women-only gyms---at some locations while full access at others. Would that not meet the same standard?

There was a case in BC where someone made a compliant against a women's gym, Stopps v. Just Ladies Fitness, but its not that exciting. He lost since he wasn't actually adversely affected by being denied membership and was just doing it to make a point.
posted by papercrane at 10:40 AM on November 15, 2012


But if you own a business and it's not a male/female only clientelle, you do not get to refuse service based on a persons sexual orientation.

This is definitely not what's happened here. Her orientation isn't a salient fact at all.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:46 AM on November 15, 2012


If I were designing a career placement test that asked the question, "do you have any religious or moral prohibitions against providing services to women," I think barber is a pretty good choice. Barber is better than pharmacist, dentist, taxi driver, politician, restauranteur or crossing guard. In fact, I'd say the test should always automatically rule all of those out in favor of "barber."

Haircutting is a fungible service, never time dependent, never emergency, and never monopolistic. There is no Hippocratic Oath for barbers. I'm glad Canada has mediators for this kind of thing and I hope it can be resolved in a manner that meets everyone's needs. But at the end of the day there are more important battles against sexism than this one.
posted by Skwirl at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Believing that it's okay to force Muslim men to cut the hair of unrelated women

This is about Ontario businesses, not Muslim men.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do totally get that in the grand scheme of things whether a woman can get a haircut at this one place is not a big deal, and that there are other places in the city of Toronto where haircuts are available. But there's an element of "she's just a whiny bitch" stridency to some of the comments that have kind of irked me and probably injected rather more stridency in the other direction in my own tone.

I think there are valid points on both sides, though I admit that I'm a whole lot more sympathetic to the side that isn't based on a doctrine of misogyny. Still, I recognize that there's a legitimate dispute here between two conflicting interests, it just feels like a lot of posters feel like there's absolutely no validity to her argument that *every* public business should be non-discriminatory. Is it enough that some businesses are non-discriminatory? How many discriminatory businesses would be too many?
posted by jacquilynne at 10:52 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


But framing it as a business that is discriminating against women, rather than an individual who is exercising his rights, sheds a lot of relevant light on the situation in my humble.

It's easy to frame this case that way because the shop has more than one chair. But a barbershop, in addition to being a business type that might seem "safe" if your religious beliefs prohibit you from touching women you aren't related to, is also a business type that is pretty ideally suited to sole proprietorship. I think that's a big part of why this is a tricky question.

Hard cases make bad law.

Generally, yes. Not every transaction should be governed by law, and not every dispute can be solved by law. Society isn't always made better when people resort to legal remedy because of principle rather than need.
posted by cribcage at 10:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


How on earth is he supposed to advertise for a non-Islamic barber? How can he employ someone or not-employ someone based purely on their religious beliefs? How's THAT going to play in the discrimination lottery?

Plenty of observant Jewish Orthodox organizations employ what are colloquially termed "Shabbos Goys" -- people who are willing to work at some point between just before sundown on Friday through to sundown on Saturday. "Must be willing to work on Fridays and Saturdays." is not a discriminatory request. Neither would "Must be willing to cut women's hair."

Besides, they could easily hire a Muslim who would be willing to do those things. Muslims aren't all uber-observant. Just as all Jews don't observe tzniut.
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


From a friend:
"She's a Facebook friend of mine. Originally when she talked about it, the religion aspect didn't come up, it was simply "you're a woman so we won't cut your hair." It's interesting that the religion aspect is coming up now."

Dunno what that means / how much weight to put on it, though.
posted by Lemurrhea at 11:08 AM on November 15, 2012


The idea of the owner hiring someone special to cut hair only for females isn't a bad one, provided its not too much for the owner to take on an employee. BTW temporary marriage is only a Shi'a thing. If the man is Sunni, that won't work.
The touch thing is very serious. If a female is not your wife, or a relative close enough to be touched, then you can't be in physical contact except if you are saving someone from a burning building or something.
I see the barber as being in a difficult position, if he puts up a sign that says 'men only' he'd be in trouble. If he just says to the woman, 'I can't cut your hair since you are a non-related female and we aren't married' he's going to be nailed.
It's really too bad. It's not like there aren't other barber shops in Toronto. I personally don't like rubbing people's nosed that way.
If someone does not want to touch or be touched, they do have that right.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:11 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is about Ontario businesses, not Muslim men.

These are not at all mutually exclusive.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:14 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think Crash misspoke and meant gender.

I think it is really shitty to walk into any business and basically be told "we don't serve YOUR kind here.". It isn't a one-man barbershop and I know enough women (including myself) that use barbershops that having a woman walk through the door shouldn't be shocking and should be planned for by the business owner (just like every nail salon I have been in modifies their treatments for men). This is an interesting, precedent-setting case where the two rights have to be weighed. A ruling that "I don't want to serve you because my creed says I can't" could have a chilling effect as people practise discrimination while hiding behind an unproven claim of "religious freedom". Everyone I know who falls into a protected class has at least once been denied a service or item "because we are all sold out" while the seller's smug smile has let them know they just won't sell to them - the other.

He is absolutely welcome to practise his religion, but as a business owner he has to obey the laws that Ontario as a whole has agreed to and enshrined in the Ontario Human Rights Code and not discriminate against his customers on protected grounds.
posted by saucysault at 11:18 AM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


These are not at all mutually exclusive.

Right, which is why it's pretty easy for Ontario businesses to hire employees that will let them provide their services in a nondiscriminatory fashion, as is required of them.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:21 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Just as Ontario churches should hire priests that will marry gays?
posted by Malor at 11:37 AM on November 15, 2012


Churches aren't businesses and have many exemptions that the latter don't. That's not a substantive objection.

(Personally I'd like to see most of them eliminated, but that's neither here nor there.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:40 AM on November 15, 2012


Just as Ontario churches should hire priests that will marry gays?

Churches do not invite the public in to do business. A more apt comparison would be "just as Ontario banquet halls should hire employees that will staff same-sex as well as opposite-sex weddings."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:45 AM on November 15, 2012


But this isn't about an unwillingness to provide service, per se. It's specifically about his religious prohibition against physically touching a woman. That's an important distinction and a valid one. The public education system approved and provided by the government taught me that my body is mine, and I do not have an obligation to touch anybody at any time, or to allow anybody to touch me, against my will. Bodily autonomy is a pretty significant right that this debate is largely overlooking.
posted by windykites at 11:53 AM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


But this isn't about an unwillingness to provide service, per se. It's specifically about his religious prohibition against physically touching a woman.

100% wrong. Read the article; McGregor is asking the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to compel the barber shop to provide men's haircuts to both genders. She is not asking the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to force Omar Mahrouk to give her a haircut.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:58 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is about provision of service, specifically, should a small business be required to hire extra staff to accommodate certain customers. As Durn says above, the OHRT may ultimately be deciding if this requirement will cause the barber to go out of business.

For a small shop, accommodation may not be a clear-cut issue. It's possible that Mahrouk would have to let some of his more observant staff go, for instance. What rights do his employees have? Would that be wrongful termination?

While it is shitty to be denied service and have your charter rights limited, it is also shitty to force someone to choose between their religion and making a living.
posted by bonehead at 12:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, but if the employees are observant Muslims, it amounts to the same thing, in my opinion.
posted by windykites at 12:08 PM on November 15, 2012


You do not have an obligation to touch anyone, but if you choose to provide a service that requires you to touch people then you cannot refuse to touch them because they might be the "wrong" gender, religion, orientation, age, ethnicity, marital status etc. You can refuse to provide service because they do not want to pay, or because they insult you, or because the service they want (a cup of coffee) is one you do not provide (oil changes). If bodily autonomy is important then choosing a career that does not require any possible body interactions would be best for everyone. Since there is no such thing as men's only barbershops legally protected in Ontario, Barbering can not been seen as a career to protect men that want to prevent touching women. No one is guaranteed a living that always fits all of their personal criteria, but everyone should be guaranteed a right to receive the same level of service as everyone else that is not in a protected class.
posted by saucysault at 12:14 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


saucysault, would you feel the same way if the genders were reversed and the level of intimacy of the touching was increased? As discussed above, would you force a women to wax a man's genitals because she waxed women's genitals for a living? There has to be some consideration for what the individual providing the service is comfortable with. Otherwise you're just paying lip service to bodily autonomy.

No one is guaranteed a living that always fits all of their personal criteria,

It's pretty belittling to people's deeply held beliefs to dismiss them as if they were people looking for a job where they can wear jeans.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


That effectively says that being a barber is barred to observant Muslims though.
posted by bonehead at 12:19 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I see that the arguments siding with the barber are (generally) at least trying to take into account the needs of the woman here: can she get her hair cut for a reasonable price, without undue burden? Is not getting a haircut by a particular barber a deep harm? I also see these arguments trying to take into account why discriminating in other instances is not okay.

I do not see the arguments siding with the woman making the same kind of nuanced argument, nor the same consideration for the barber's religious beliefs.

if you choose to provide a service that requires you to touch people then you cannot refuse to touch them because they might be the "wrong" gender, religion, orientation, age, ethnicity, marital status etc.

There are so many situations where this is simply not true. Must a masseuse take male clients? What about the male bikini wax raised several times already? How do you allow for women-only gyms? I'm 100% in favor of women's-only self-defense classes, and 100% opposed to (for instance) whites-only country clubs, and pharmacists not dispensing birth control, but we need to allow for these scenarios in our reasoning. If we just dismiss the barber's religious beliefs because we don't subscribe to them (as I don't), well, that's not terribly persuasive.
posted by daveliepmann at 12:23 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


As discussed above, would you force a women to wax a man's genitals because she waxed women's genitals for a living?

As this has come up a few times as a comparison a few times, knowing someone who waxes genitals for a living, I just wanted to say that according to her, you should be trained in how to wax male pubic hair specifically, otherwise there is a good chance of bad things happening. Bad, very painful things. In other words, I'm not sure it's a good comparison as you might well be limiting service for a different reason than that you don't want to touch male pubic regions.

Islamic barber has probably faced more real discrimination than you will ever be able to comprehend.

I'm really not sure how I feel about this case at all, but surely this is an irrelevant point: experiencing discrimination oneself does not give you to right to dish it out. Nor should complaints about discrimination in the delivery of services, *if valid*, be tied into whether or not you have in the rest of your life hit some theoretical threshold of discrimination compared to the person who denied you that service.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:31 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Believing that it's okay to force Muslim men to cut the hair of unrelated women is exactly like thinking that that's it's okay to force a Catholic priest to marry two men. We don't require that of Catholics because they're not the only easy source of marriage, and we can't expect of the Muslims because they're not a monopoly on hair care.

We don't require that of Catholics because marriage is a civil, secular matter regulated by the state. As part of those regulations, religious officials and others are allowed but not required to perform marriages. Govt offices however, whatever the religion of the members, are required to perform same sex marriages. Furthermore, Catholic organizations have been required to perform same sex adoptions in some states, even though they were not the only provider of adoption services.

If you think that it's okay to violate the Muslim code, but not the Christian one, in my view, that's bigotry; you don't respect their beliefs as much as Christianity's. They're not as good as everyone else, they're not full members of your society.

This is ridiculous and ridiculously simplistic. For some religious beliefs, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, etc, the govt decides to violate the fuck out of the them. For others, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Baha'i, the govt decides not to. There is a hell of a lot more that goes into those decisions than "likes Christians" or "don't like Muslims."
posted by nooneyouknow at 12:32 PM on November 15, 2012


In other words, I'm not sure it's a good comparison as you might well be limiting service for a different reason than that you don't want to touch male pubic regions.

Surely you're just avoiding the point though. Feel free to construct whatever comparison you wish.
posted by Justinian at 12:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, Catholic organizations have been required to perform same sex adoptions in some states, even though they were not the only provider of adoption services.

The Church has also attempted to blackmail governments into exempting them from equality legislation by saying they'll stop providing whatever social service if not exempted from the legislation. Why do they have leverage? Because they're a massive facilitator of adoptions, but more importantly, a huge provider of social services. In other words, this isn't an apt comparison--they might not be the only people doing adoptions or running soup kitchens or whatever, but they're often a significant part of the social safety net.
posted by hoyland at 12:39 PM on November 15, 2012


Under no circumstances will anyone be compelled to touch anyone else in this case. What's going to be argued, almost certainly, is whether the barber will be required to hire non-observant Muslim staff.

On one hand that does solve the accommodation issue. However, on the other hand, that makes me very uncomfortable because that would mandate hiring quotas and business practices based on discrimination of religious belief.
posted by bonehead at 12:45 PM on November 15, 2012


What's going to be argued, almost certainly, is whether the barber will be required to hire non-observant Muslim staff.

So if this was a one-man operation...he'd have to tag out to another barber that he hired expressly for this purpose?

I know he's not running a one person operation, but still...it seems off.
posted by inturnaround at 12:48 PM on November 15, 2012


In the first link employees are mentioned (and interviewed). The report states that they are all observant Muslims.
posted by bonehead at 12:50 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


whether the barber will be required to hire non-observant Muslim staff.

So.. they just don't notice the customers coming in anyway? Problem solved!!

Sorry...
posted by Brockles at 12:52 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the genitals waxing analogy goes a little off the rails, as a penis in the face is a LOT more intimate than the heads of hair that are socially accepted to be seen in public. I would not force a man to wax a woman either, especially if there were other willing service providers available in the same establishment. I see no reason why a masseuse would refuse to serve either gender and have never known one to do so; is that a common problem? As to considering his religious beliefs in a nuances way; he is free to believe and practise what he wishes in his personal life but he cannot use that as a reason for discrimination as a business owner. I personally work in a service capacity of providing information to people to that need it; I provide that service regardless of my personal beliefs about the information they are requesting. If someone asks for something I cannot provide (like personal recommendations of Christian Fiction) I pass them to someone that I know can help them with minimal disruption to the customer (so I don't ask them to drive to another library branch for example). That the business webpage actually advertises the Barbershop a "Boys Club of [code word for wealthy white men]" really rubs me the wrong way.
posted by saucysault at 1:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It would be like an Orthodox Jewish barber trying to find someone to cover a shift on the Sabbath.

Okay, I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, which has one of the state's largest and fastest-growing Orthodox Jewish communities. Do you know what the Orthodox owners of hair salons did for shifts on the Sabbath? They closed their salon because they don't work on that day as per their religion.

I'll double check with my mom when I'm home on Thanksgiving, but as a child raised Episcopalian I believe we handled this cultural conflict by either coming back on Sunday or going to Supercuts. Bringing the owner of the salon before a tribunal doesn't ring a bell.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


A penis in the face is a lot more intimate to you. An important distinction here is that while some Muslims (and Christians, and athiests...) are misogynists, and this belief of his might be related to religious practices that end up oppressing women in that religion, the fact is that this belief of his is predicated (as far as I understand) on the stance that touching of women such as is required to cut their hair is just as problematically intimate as waxing their pubus.
posted by daveliepmann at 1:06 PM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


as a child raised Episcopalian I believe we handled this cultural conflict by either coming back on Sunday or going to Supercuts. Bringing the owner of the salon before a tribunal doesn't ring a bell.

On what day of the week should she come back to get the haircut?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:07 PM on November 15, 2012


I know a few RMTs and they are permitted to refuse a massage to whoever they want. I know some who have exercised that right.

An interesting perspective to look at this from might be in relation to bilingualism in Canada and who must provide services in both french and english.

Also, as someone who worked across the street from that barber shop, there are many places to get one's hair cut within strolling distance. Both hairdressing salons and barbershops.
posted by dazed_one at 1:07 PM on November 15, 2012


BTW temporary marriage is only a Shi'a thing. If the man is Sunni, that won't work.

Well his name is Omar, so the chances of him being Shi'a are fairly slim.
posted by atrazine at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2012


asnider: "The expectation in going to a barbershop is that they'll cut your damn hair -- maybe they won't do as good a job with women's hair, since they're not used to those styles, but the expectation is that you'll get a haircut."

That is not my experience as a man with long hair. Barbers refuse to so much as trim unless I'm asking for them to cut it all off and give me the buzz cut I used to get when I was 8.
posted by wierdo at 1:15 PM on November 15, 2012


She's being interviewed on CBC Radio One in Toronto right now. She says that religion came up more or less immediately.
posted by Chuckles at 1:16 PM on November 15, 2012


Sounds like she is Rules Lawyering, just for the sake of it... Something MetaFilter is pretty familiar with :)
posted by Chuckles at 1:20 PM on November 15, 2012


saucysault: I think the genitals waxing analogy goes a little off the rails, as a penis in the face is a LOT more intimate than the heads of hair that are socially accepted to be seen in public. I would not force a man to wax a woman either

In other words, "My bodily taboos are okay and should be respected. Muslim bodily taboos are wrong and should not be tolerated."
posted by Malor at 1:21 PM on November 15, 2012 [12 favorites]


Quebec had a law restricting salons for women and barbershops for men until at least 1984. I remember making a fool of myself in a junior high history class over that issue.. When the teacher asked the class why the law might have existed, my mind went right to sex, and because I'm stupid I said so.. D'uh!! I don't remember why the law did exist, it wasn't sex, but maybe somebody does know?
posted by Chuckles at 1:25 PM on November 15, 2012


I think the genitals waxing analogy goes a little off the rails, as a penis in the face is a LOT more intimate than the heads of hair that are socially accepted to be seen in public.

This is your opinion based on your culture/religion/whatever; this guy's sees any kind of touching as too intimate. In a pluralistic society, I think you have to afford his opinion respect. Trying to get into what amount of bodily touching it's okay to force on people is a ludicrously deep pit of problems, to no real gain.

I personally work in a service capacity of providing information to people to that need it; I provide that service regardless of my personal beliefs about the information they are requesting. If someone asks for something I cannot provide (like personal recommendations of Christian Fiction) I pass them to someone that I know can help them with minimal disruption to the customer (so I don't ask them to drive to another library branch for example).

That's fine and good; you have the resources to do that. None of his employees can help her, so they have no choice but to send her on her way.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:26 PM on November 15, 2012


Please tell me what culture does NOT view a stranger's genitals in the face as intimate or a body taboo.
posted by saucysault at 1:29 PM on November 15, 2012


I, a woman, get my hair cut at the barbers. There are plenty of barbers who don't want to touch my hair. They're nervous they'll do it wrong, that I won't like it, that it's inappropriate. They're also nervous of being unexpectedly plunged into prickly gender negotiations at their usually more casual place of work. This reaction is more likely the further away I am from the town centre. And I feel, why would I want to make these old gents uncomfortable? There are plenty of barbers. Hair-styling is such an empathetic business why have it done by someone who is uncomfortable with the procedure? There are always plenty of others.

The real reason to go to a male haircutting-person if you want a man's haircut is that straight women stylists have an unconscious psychic resistance to giving women very butch cuts, plus they have less experience.
This. Plus they are much more expensive and hardly ever get it right.

Barbershops are very male places, I think it is a discourtesy to visit them if you are not comfortable with male culture. This is even without the religious element. Why should men have to apologise to women for being male, on their own territory? They have to do it (apologise) often enough around the home, on the street, in other public spaces etc.

I've gone a little off-topic but to return to it: in many cultures touching the hair of an opposite-gender person, or even just looking at it, is a significant act of intimacy. "Let your hair down for me one last time."

The woman making the complaint is being unreasonable.
posted by glasseyes at 1:32 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Hindu Naga sadhu are fine with letting it all hang out.
posted by dazed_one at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2012


Quite a few of my more progressive friends in Ontario are currently tripping themselves up on my Facebook feed right now as they try and grapple with the "right" answer to this -- do they support the rights of the (assumed) lesbian seeking a man's haircut at a barbershop or do they support the rights of the trod upon Muslim barber? I somehow suspect if it was a devoutly christian barber denying service to the woman because she was gay or trans seeking a man's haircut they'd all be lining up on one side of this issue.

Meanwhile, my conservative Ontario friends are ALSO tripping themselves up over the fact that it's going to the Human Rights Tribunal -- on the one hand they are taking much pleasure in pointing out how backwards these Islamic religious beliefs are, yet at the same time they typically use complaints at Human Rights Tribunals as examples of "political correctness run amok!!", and so are caught in a bit of bind here.
posted by modernnomad at 1:33 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Chuckles: Sounds like she is Rules Lawyering, just for the sake of it...
This is complicated, and I am not sure what my stance is. I pity those who will have to make an official decision on this.

However, let me say that hard-fought-for social justice rules are precious, and lawyering them whenever they seem to be slipping is important.
posted by gilrain at 1:34 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


heads of hair that are socially accepted to be seen in public.

You do know there are religions where heads of hair are not socially accepted to be seen in public?
posted by glasseyes at 1:35 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Please tell me what culture does NOT view a stranger's genitals in the face as intimate or a body taboo.

That's definitely not even close to the point anyone is making. The point is that there is a point at which you find requiring cross-gender contact to be inappropriate (genital waxing). Other people (because of religion) draw that line further back, some draw it at touching a person of the opposite sex. You wouldn't force people to violate your boundaries, but you feel free to force them to violate theirs.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:36 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Saucysault, a better analogy to your situation would be an accommodation necessary for a client who could not be served with your existing staff, an interpreter for a deaf person perhaps.

Given that having such a person on staff would be required, and given that budgets are limited, that would mean firing someone, perhaps you, to hire the interpreters. It might also mean that you would get fewer shifts, perhaps be reverted to part-time, so that deaf interpreters could be on duty at all times.

Now that's reasonable if that requirement is competency-based but otherwise non-discriminatory. To meet the deaf interpreter accommodation requirement, it would be legal under the Charter to do that, to possibly fire you or offer fewer hours.

It is problematic, however, in the very least, when hiring and scheduling decisions are based not on competence, but another protected class like religion.
posted by bonehead at 1:39 PM on November 15, 2012


Well I got busy and couldn't submit the comment I wanted to. Canada does not equally approve "women's only" and "men's only" places if that's what people are thinking. The Charter, CHRA, and OHRC are all very similar in this regard.

Charter s.15(2):

Affirmative action programs
(2) Subsection (1) [the equality provision] does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability

CHRA s.16(1):

Special programs
16. (1) It is not a discriminatory practice for a person to adopt or carry out a special program, plan or arrangement designed to prevent disadvantages that are likely to be suffered by, or to eliminate or reduce disadvantages that are suffered by, any group of individuals when those disadvantages would be based on or related to the prohibited grounds of discrimination, by improving opportunities respecting goods, services, facilities, accommodation or employment in relation to that group.

OHRC s. 14(1)

Special programs
14. (1) A right under Part I is not infringed by the implementation of a special program designed to relieve hardship or economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve or attempt to achieve equal opportunity or that is likely to contribute to the elimination of the infringement of rights under Part I. R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 14 (1).

This is what provides women's-only gyms a pass. Men's-only might not (were that actually the issue in play). But as I said, I take a dim view of the way the HRT's assess the reasonableness of costs to small business, and wouldn't pin my hopes on a reasonable outcome for this shop.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I can understand her being offended that they wouldn't provide her a service based on her gender... I really can, and normally I'd by default side with that side of the arugment. But this is such a really small inconvienience for her and a fairly understandable expectation on his side that he would be able to keep to his religious requirements as a barber.

I really feel like as long as he wasn't a huge asshole to her it would have been better for everyone if she'd just walked across the street and gotten a cut there. Can't we just get along? Sometimes the world isn't perfect but I'm not sure everything is worth a rights crusade to fix.

Part of me also wonders if this was the first time this has happened there... I mean it's a high traffic store and women with men's hairstyles are not exactly rare in Toronto... I'm not entirely sure which side of the argument that strengthens.

All that said.. a large part of me hates coming down on the side of "sometimes you should just ignore things"
posted by cirhosis at 1:40 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hunh. I thought the right to privacy was what safeguarded women-only gyms.
posted by bonehead at 1:44 PM on November 15, 2012


bonehead, the constitutional right to privacy in Canada deals only with state intrusions into private affairs... there is has historically been no common law tort protecting against invasions of privacy in Canada (unlike the US), until the recent Jones v. Tsige case which adopted a very narrow invasion of privacy tort of 'non-interference', but it would not apply to women's only gym memberships... as was noted above, what grounds that are exceptions to the provincial human rights codes' bans on discrimination when it can be shown that the discrimination being applied (ie. women only) is being done for reasonable purpose that in fact ameliorates discrimination.
posted by modernnomad at 1:49 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


On what day of the week should she come back to get the haircut?

She shouldn't, of course. She should go to a shop that provides the service she's actually looking for, in this case a professional trained in and willing to provide womens' haircuts. I have as much fury about her being unable to get a haircut from a barber who does not cut womens' hair as I would have with my plumber for refusing to fix my microwave.

I thought I was clear on that upthread. She is not seeking a necessary essential, infrastructural or medical service, it is not a health or life threatening emergency, the barber to the best of my understanding does not receive funding from tax dollars to operate, he does not by any definition of the word hold a monopoly on his particular service or assert influence over his profession that would legitimately burden her by his refusal of said service, and she was even offered an alternate option by the proprietor above and beyond his need to even do so. This woman appears to me as a character from an episode of South Park or King of the Hill as the episode's caricature of non-existent overarching PC liberalism and yet there she is, making all of us look bad and all of the actual cultural injustice in the world that much harder to raise awareness about.

The point of my more recent comment was to highlight the silliness of many of the analogies pointed out here, by noting that in the face of someone's "hypothetical" about an Orthodox Jewish barber needing a "cover" on Saturdays, I noted the real life observation of how this was handled, in that of course, duh, they simply don't have their shop open on Saturday and no one gives a shit because this is not an actual societal or unjust burden on anyone, at all, in any way.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:57 PM on November 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


So if this was a one-man operation...he'd have to tag out to another barber that he hired expressly for this purpose?

I know he's not running a one person operation, but still...it seems off.


Many regulations are dependant on size and other contextual details. In France, companies with 50+ employees have to operate by different rules than smaller companies: they have to introduce workers councils, profit sharing, and some other things. Non-publicly traded companies in the US don't need to abide by many/most of the Sarbanes-Oxley rules. Small employers in the US don't need to meet Federal ADAA requirements. And so on.

It may be that it makes sense for a small one-man barber shop to have different rules from a chain of hair cutting stores. And maybe that means that in certain situations, what happened here should not be a problem. It's a balancing act.

But in general, it's my strong belief that equal access to businesses and services trumps religious beliefs and prejudices that might otherwise compel individual employees to treat certain customers differently, or refuse to serve them. It also is vastly more important than any small-scale loss of efficiency for any particular business. The ecosystem is more important than any particular animal (not species: animal). The gains from having wheelchair accessibility for those who need them, allowing them to become fully integrated and productive members of society, far outweight the burdens placed on an a particular business that has to widen their door, or install a ramp, in order to comply with the law.

In a hair cutting context, I think it's up for debate as to whether one-man shops should be able to discriminate. But the ultimate ideal is that it should be difficult and the exception to the rule to refuse service because of your religious or philosophical beliefs.

Perhaps a small massage parlor should have the right to refuse to massage anyone for any reason. But after a certain modest size is reached, the parlor should never have the right to refuse service to someone for being in a protected class.

This sort of forced equality is good for society: it encourages mixing of different groups in the workplace and in consumer spaces. Increased exposure to other groups increases tolerance and understanding while building communities, while equal access to services and goods is a fundamental part of any consent-based, pluralistic social contract. It's also very difficult to pretend to support equality of opportunity while allowing private actors to both engage in commerce and also actively discriminate against certain members of the population.
posted by jsturgill at 2:02 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Then let the free market decide if they want to support someone who engages in such discrimination.

Except that "the free market" is marginally a synonym for "people who aren't being discriminated against."
posted by nzero at 2:10 PM on November 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I thought I was clear on that upthread. She is not seeking a necessary essential, infrastructural or medical service, it is not a health or life threatening emergency, the barber to the best of my understanding does not receive funding from tax dollars to operate, he does not by any definition of the word hold a monopoly on his particular service or assert influence over his profession that would legitimately burden her by his refusal of said service, and she was even offered an alternate option by the proprietor above and beyond his need to even do so.

That's good and all, but totally irrelevant to the law of Ontario, which states that "Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability.

Our civil rights to receive service from private businesses in Ontario are not limited to those that are essential, infrastructural, medical, provided by the govt, etc. Thus, you cannot open up a bar and say "hey, no black people allowed in this bar because there's lots of other bars you guys can go to, like my friend Jim's down the street."
posted by modernnomad at 2:15 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I find it interesting that oftentimes people face discrimination because of religious edicts on things like mandatory facial hair, daily prayers that need to be accommodated, holy days, alternative judicial process, clothing and dietary accommodations etc; when religion dictates discrimination or "othering" of women, suddenly it is important to respect that same belief system that was so inconvenient before.
posted by saucysault at 2:34 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


....so at what point is it ok for me to dose the water supply with a drug that makes all future generations fully hermaphroditic and mixed-racial so we can stop having these discussions? Because that would seem to simplify things a lot.

Religion seems harder then rewriting the entire human genome, let me think on it.
posted by Canageek at 3:07 PM on November 15, 2012


I find it interesting that oftentimes people face discrimination because of religious edicts on things like mandatory facial hair, daily prayers that need to be accommodated, holy days, alternative judicial process, clothing and dietary accommodations etc; when religion dictates discrimination or "othering" of women, suddenly it is important to respect that same belief system that was so inconvenient before.

I don't think anyone in this thread is doing those things.
posted by oneirodynia at 3:32 PM on November 15, 2012


This sort of forced equality is good for society: it encourages mixing of different groups in the workplace and in consumer spaces. Increased exposure to other groups increases tolerance and understanding...

So telling the barber that he can't let his religion influence how he carries out his business, thus turning him into all the other barbers out there, somehow increases diversity and tolerance?
posted by ceiba at 3:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


saucysault : when religion dictates discrimination or "othering" of women, suddenly it is important to respect that same belief system that was so inconvenient before.

Ordinarily, I would tell the guy using a fairly tale as an excuse to STFU and do his job. In this case, though, he chose a profession specifically to accommodate his beliefs, so as to minimize the number of customers he would need to turn away. He has made at least a good faith effort not to impose his own damage on others.

More importantly, IMO, she has plenty of other options. If every barber (or a significant fraction of them) in Toronto turned her away, we'd have a legit rights issue. When one barber turns you away - Seriously, just go next door, duh.
posted by pla at 4:03 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm as liberal-minded as they come and I'm left wondering if Canada just doesn't have signs that say "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason" because that is the sign on the door of literally every private business in the United States of America.

And yet it became illegal to refuse service based on race.

I'm curious: how does that stand? Or did the laws just lay out race as the one reason you couldn't refuse service.


In the US the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 states that any public establishment can't discriminate based on race, and the Supreme Court confirmed that in the Ollie's Barbecue case (actually named Katzenbach v McClung).
posted by ndfine at 4:05 PM on November 15, 2012


XQUZYPHYR: " ...in the face of someone's "hypothetical" about an Orthodox Jewish barber needing a "cover" on Saturdays, I noted the real life observation of how this was handled, in that of course, duh, they simply don't have their shop open on Saturday

Worth noting that there are Orthodox-owned businesses that don't close on Saturdays. Orthodox (and especially Conservative) shuls that are open for services on Shabbat and holidays often employ non-Jewish staffers to help out when Jews aren't supposed to do work. There are Orthodox-owned businesses that close later on Fridays and employ people to turn off lights and shut things down for the weekend after Shabbat begins. My (Jewish, but not religiously observant) mother used to be an "unofficial"* shabbos goy for a Chassidic-owned company. She would work until 5pm on Fridays, and as the last person in the office, she'd lock up and turn out the lights.

* Jews aren't supposed to require other Jews to work on Shabbat. The company's owners turned a blind eye, because it was convenient for them to do so.

...and no one gives a shit because this is not an actual societal or unjust burden on anyone, at all, in any way."

You might be surprised at the things people believe they are entitled to complain about when they are not immersed in an insular Jewish community like Teaneck. Decades ago, an uncle of mine used to hire people to work in his pharmacy in Denver on Saturdays, because he was Conservative, and shomer shabbat. A number of customers used to complain quite vocally that he wasn't there.
posted by zarq at 4:08 PM on November 15, 2012


who must provide services in both french and english

Almost no one except for the Government, so I'm not sure what you're getting at.

That is not my experience as a man with long hair. Barbers refuse to so much as trim unless I'm asking for them to cut it all off and give me the buzz cut I used to get when I was 8.

They might not be willing or able to give you the haircut you want, but they'll still give you a haircut.

Again, I'm not trying to make a judgment call, just indicating that the expectations between different types of businesses are different so the analogy about a burger at a vegetarian restaurant wasn't apt in this situation.
posted by asnider at 4:10 PM on November 15, 2012


Well, aside from the (probably also racist, given the language) couple that have told me that "we don't serve your kind here," yes, I could have gotten a hair cut. Nonetheless, the point I was illustrating with the anecdote stands, which is that barbers often choose not to provide service to certain customers.

I'm not sure what I think about that in general, but I do think that it's unreasonable to force someone to violate a sincerely held religious conviction when the stakes are low as they are in this case. Of course, I don't face discrimination on a regular basis, so I'm not really in a great position to render judgement on whether or not this particular incident rises to the level of something the government should be involved in or not.
posted by wierdo at 5:40 PM on November 15, 2012


She got the haircut she wanted from someone else and this barber lost a customer. I'm not seeing how that's anything less than an ideal compromise. There is a very long and not at all slippery slope from here to systematic discrimination, yes, but getting civil authorities involved over a goddamn haircut that you were able to get anyway is extremely petty.
posted by eurypteris at 6:34 PM on November 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


If you have a quirk, be it religious or otherwise with something you have the right to try your hardest to avoid touching on that quirk in your daily life. You can find a job that doesn't make you touch cheese or wear socks or, yes touch women's hair.

Once you open a business you're gaining a huge set of legal, financial and social benefits that society permits because hey, we need businesses to do things. That brings with it responsibilities that IMO (and according to language upthread) include serving everyone equally. That's normally treated on a sort of a sliding scale because one-man operations don't have the resources that multinationals do.

In this case it seems (purely from reading the thread) that he owns the business and has employees. That seems like more than enough resources to simply hire a single employee willing to cut female hair. He can still refuse but I believe the business cannot (and should be held thus legally).

I think the bikini wax issue is the same. If one-person bikini waxing establishments exist they have leeway. An employee of a bikini-waxing establishment has whatever leeway he or she can arrange with the employer. The business as a whole probably should not have the right to refuse service based on gender. I don't know how curves and similar women-only gyms operate, it seems equally obvious that the business can offer women-only classes or events but can't be entirely restricted by gender. I have no idea if the law agrees with me here mind you, this just seems completely uncomplicated.
posted by Skorgu at 6:42 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is an interesting conversation to me, as I am completely irreligious, but find myself standing up for religious rights often.

I have no sympathy for the woman. His adherence to his religion determines that he, with his own body, may not touch an unrelated female. That is a physical austerity that (if any religious customs deserve protection) deserves protection.

I see a distinction between this case and one of a pharmacist declining to fill a prescription on religious grounds. In that case, their job is a physical one- to put pills into bottles. The content of those medicines does not require them to physically experience something contrary to their religious guidelines of what they can physically experience. Same with restaurants. The cooking and the serving of the food is the same physical process regardless of who the customer is. No broad discrimination is appropriate.

I feel the protection of religious rights should extend to allowing each person to decide what they will and won't do with their own bodies, and end before it comes to allowing them to make decisions for other people based on their personal faith.

Personally, I do think the no-touching-of-women is antiquated, but I disagree that it is necessarily misogynistic.
posted by droomoord at 6:54 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's like going into a Jewish butcher and demanding he sell you some bacon.

Anyhoo, my barber named his place "For Men Only". I suppose that's a lawsuit just waiting for its asshole to show up.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:07 PM on November 15, 2012


I'm a whole lot more sympathetic to the side that isn't based on a doctrine of misogyny

Hey, this comes across as kind of racist and ignorant, and I find it on the offensive side. There are mefites who are Muslims, and I feel like they cop enough shit for their religion without having to deal with throwaway guff like that there.

You can absolutely practice Islam and not be subscribing to a "doctrine of misogyny".

I feel like a lot of comments in this thread could be graded "D" for cross-cultural communication. Misogyny and chauvinism presents differently in different cultures, and a predominantly white, western conception is not the only one.
posted by smoke at 7:27 PM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I'm a bit conflicted by this case. In theory, I don't think that the law should force people to do business unwillingly. In practice, though, many people have accepted a privileged position as gatekeepers of limited public services and they can't have it both ways - their role demands that they not impose their private prejudices upon the people they are obliged to serve. Pharmacists, doctors, and taxi drivers fall into this category. Barbers don't, but there's an additional reason for imposing a general service requirement upon people: discrimination isn't about one shopkeeper refusing to serve women/blacks/Jews, but about a self-reinforcing community standard that leads to intolerable oppression which is incompatible with a free society.

A while back I did a FPP about a time when Blacks needed a special directory if they wanted to travel long distances - without a guide Blacks couldn't find gas stations and restaurants to serve them, or hotels in which they could stay. This directory ceased publication less than fifty years ago, well within adult memory. If imposing a burden of non-discriminatory service prevents this then it's well worth the very minor oppression that requires racists to serve blacks or rent houses to Jews.

On the other hand, I think it's a mistake to treat all of this on an intellectual level, especially when it comes to gender relations. We live in a gendered and sexist society and lots of people have very real issues about physical contact. I absolutely do not think that, e.g., a masseuse should be forced to serve male clients if she doesn't want to. Even if, hypothetically, no masseuses would serve male clients, the level of possible oppression caused by this is small: there are plenty of masseurs; there are little or no obstacles to meeting male customer demand. You cannot compare this to historical circumstances when there were no businesses catering to black travellers and where there were significant commercial and social obstacles to opening new ones.

In my view barbers are more like masseuses than gas stations or hotels. They provide a level of personal service and physical contact that doesn't exist in most businesses and there are few obstacles to opening competing barbershops/hairdressers. I don't see any reason to disregard this barber's discomfort just because it's part of his religion/culture rather than, e.g., a response to past trauma: investigating causes like in this way would lead to more bad laws and more trauma, especially for borderline cases.

That being said, the line has to be drawn somewhere, and I wouldn't accept an extension of this to businesses in general. I can see how that might lead to the sort of generalised oppression that the civil rights movement fought against. In this case, though, it's a very minor cost and it is justified by a coherent policy regarding personal services. The barber should be free to lose as much business as he wants to.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:16 PM on November 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


discrimination isn't about one shopkeeper refusing to serve women/blacks/Jews, but about a self-reinforcing community standard that leads to intolerable oppression which is incompatible with a free society.

Right -- there are cases where a majority can beat the hell out of a minority by refusing to deal with them. Or, in the case of medicine, where a small minority can terrorize a majority, like pharmacists refusing to dispense birth control.

But in this case, women are a majority of the population, Muslim barbers are a tiny subset of a tiny minority to begin with, and barbers have no special social power or gatekeeping function. Muslim barbers will never, ever have the political or economic power to make life difficult for Canadian women. They probably do in, say, Saudi Arabia, but in Canada? Not going to happen.

Demanding that the Muslim man violate his beliefs to make the woman happy seems to me to be the bullying and deprivation of rights here, not the other way around.
posted by Malor at 12:13 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Toronto Star columnist Rosie Di Manno chimes in with her two cents' worth here.
posted by Schadenfreudian at 6:55 AM on November 16, 2012


Schadenfreudian: "Toronto Star columnist Rosie Di Manno chimes in with her two cents' worth here."
"Not 50 metres away from the Terminal Barber Shop is a unisex salon that offers basic haircuts to both men and women for 15 bucks. Almost next door to that establishment is the Terminal Barber Shop 2, also co-owned by Mahrouk. At both Mahrouk joints when I visited yesterday — cozy, comfy places with leather retro chairs — the male scissors-wielders were friendly, if somewhat taken aback by all the fuss, as McGregor writes that she was “taken aback’’ by the refusal to cut her hair."

....

She has rejected an amply fair compromise offered by Mahrouk — a haircut at the Terminal Barber Shop 2, provided by an employee willing to do it. In response to that suggestion from Mahrouk’s lawyer, McGregor wrote: “I have reviewed your offer and I decline it. I wish for the HRTO to rule on my case as it is written in my application.’’
So there was clearly another barbershop close by that she could have gone to. She made a conscious choice not to.

And of course, the first (mocking) comment on that article:
Please Make My Jewish Barber Open His Shop On Saturdays
I am someone who works hard during the week ....I have only Saturdays to cut my hair, except my Barber is Jewish and closed on Saturdays !!! Where can I get an application to complain to the Human Rights Commission? My rights for a haircut is more important than his religion !!! Please advise !!!!!

posted by zarq at 7:05 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's like going into a Jewish butcher and demanding he sell you some bacon.

It is absolutely, mind-bogglingly nothing like that whatsoever. A jewish butcher who does not sell bacon is not discriminating in the provision of services on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Act, so long as he doesn't sell bacon to anyone. If said Jewish butcher refused to sell bacon to other Jews, but sold it to gentiles, then that would be discrimination.

If the barber in question was a barber at a mosque, where he was privately employed to cut the hair of mosque attendees, that would not be discrimination under the Ontario Human Rights Act. However, once he has made the conscious decision to offer his services to the public (which he has - anyone can walk in off the street and get a haircut), he must then abide by the law. That law, again, states that he may not discriminate in the provision of his services on the basis of gender, which is exactly what he is doing.

So, again, a Jewish butcher who does not sell bacon or a Jewish barber who does not open on Saturday is an utterly incorrect analogy to draw, because in neither case are they discriminating against whom they provide services - they don't sell ANYONE bacon, they don't open for ANYONE on a Saturday. Those are both fine under Ontario law.
posted by modernnomad at 9:45 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


The fact that there are other barbers nearby willing to cut a woman's hair is irrelevant. It is no more defence to one's obligations as a business owner under the Human Rights Act than it would be for a skinhead to declare that no blacks were allowed in his shop and his defend his policy by saying that there are other shops nearby that would willingly cater to blacks. I really am baffled that people make that as an argument - though not Di Manno, as it's precisely the kind of tripe she usually puts out.
posted by modernnomad at 9:51 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


modernnomad, I acknowledge your superior knowledge of Ontario law, and thereby allow that you are 100% correct.

But a lot of us are trying to judge this in ethical terms, and in those cases, what the law says might have some standing, but is generally irrelevant. Morals should inform the law, not vice versa. Do we want this barber to be forced out of business or to violate his deeply held religious beliefs because this lady wanted a haircut at his joint instead of 50 meters away? Fine, then the law is just. But if we don't--if we think maybe the harm from not getting one's hair cut by this particular establishment is perhaps dramatically less than the harm done by forcing a small business to close or by dictating which bodily taboos must be violated because they Do Not Count--then Ontario law is unjust.

Part of the problem of framing this as a civil rights issue, then pointing to the law to back up that point, is that a major philosophical point of civil rights struggles has been that unjust laws are in fact not laws at all, and should be ignored until they can be changed.
posted by daveliepmann at 9:52 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


modernnomad: "The fact that there are other barbers nearby willing to cut a woman's hair is irrelevant.

Not in this discussion. We've had a couple of people in this thread say that it might be difficult to find a barber nearby willing to cut her hair. That was demonstrably wrong.
posted by zarq at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2012


Zarq, is it totally irrelevant to her rights as a resident of Ontario.
posted by modernnomad at 9:59 AM on November 16, 2012


The fact that there are other barbers nearby willing to cut a woman's hair is irrelevant.

Other barbers, in this case, turns out to mean other barbers employed by the same store-owner, who happened to be 50m away. If one employee refuses service for whatever reason but you are able to accommodate with a 5 minute walk, is that good enough? Is there something necessary in the law that this accommodation must happen in the same storefront?

Governments can and do, for example, offer language accommodation this way.
posted by bonehead at 10:01 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


daveliepmann, I understand your point, but for me I'm not comfortable arguing that equal rights to receive services from private businesses are subject to matters of convenience. For me, Ontario's Human Rights Law reflects deep moral values in this society, and while the law does not always match my own ethical choices, in this case it does. We have a Human Rights Law precisely to deal with these kinds of questions; I can't simply say "oh this is a question of ethics, and so let's forget about the law." We have human rights law (and the human rights tribunal) in place in part as a way to help guide us through challenging ethical questions.

I think it's inaccurate to say that the choice here is that the three options are that 1) the business must be forced to close or 2) the business owner must be allowed to deny women service or 3) the business owner must be forced to do something contrary to his religious beliefs.

The best accommodation would seem to me to be ensuring that a barber is available in the shop who is willing to cut women's hair. If the barber already employs people who are willing to cut women's hair, it would seemingly be trivial to get one of them to work one day a week in this particular shop, or simply be "on call" to come over when necessary. I am not suggesting that this particular barber be personally forced to cut this woman's hair, but simply that the profit-making corporation he runs bears the obligation of accommodating her, not the other way around.
posted by modernnomad at 10:12 AM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


modernnomad, you're buying into the broken framing that this is about a haircut. It isn't.

This is about a woman using the law to beat up on a Muslim for having beliefs she thinks are wrong. She could walk fifty meters to an entirely unrelated establishment and get her hair cut, or she could go to the adjacent barbershop, owned by the same person, and get her hair cut there.

The only reason to keep pushing on this issue is to drive to drive the Muslim out of business, or force him to violate his own ethical code. And that is just wrong, no matter what the law happens to say.
posted by Malor at 10:13 AM on November 16, 2012 [11 favorites]


That law, again, states that he may not discriminate in the provision of his services on the basis of gender, which is exactly what he is doing.

As a matter of ethics, I think many, if not most people, regard hair-cutting as a "gendered" service and are comfortable with that. Mahrouk chose his particular profession because it is the sort of profession where he can (so he thought) offer a gender-specific service to men, which coincided with his religious beliefs.

I presume that there are plenty of hair cutteries that have always labeled themselves "men's" or "women's", formally or informally. I feel sorry for Mahrouk because I think he's being picked on because he is publicly articulating the religious reason he doesn't cut women's hair.
posted by deanc at 10:15 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've made my biases clear, but to use the previous analogy, if this were a business without a wheelchair ramp, it wouldn't matter (to the HRT) that only one disabled customer wanted access, or that they could access similar goods not far away. It wouldn't even matter (I think) that there would be a guaranteed sale. The goal is to promote full participation in society which means that home delivery or other means of achieving a given result are not good enough. And the test in that case, again, is whether it would be so financially onerous as to put the owner out of business. It's a tremendous burden. Very easy for individuals to inflict great economic harm to a business if so inclined.

This case is a little different because there is this competing interest -- and protected right -- of the barber, and I hope that will be taken into account. This is not the case of someone not wanting to employ a member of a visible minority because it will drive away bigoted business (even if it will), nor a refusal to serve particular clientele due to demonstrable hatred. Is he not entitled to some accomodation by the customer for religious beliefs (of a vulnerable minority)? We will see.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 10:16 AM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


bonehead: "Other barbers, in this case, turns out to mean other barbers employed by the same store-owner, who happened to be 50m away."

Nope. From the article: "Not 50 metres away from the Terminal Barber Shop is a unisex salon that offers basic haircuts to both men and women for 15 bucks. Almost next door to that establishment is the Terminal Barber Shop 2, also co-owned by Mahrouk." Two shops. Only one is (co-)owned by Mahrouk.

modernnomad: "Zarq, is it totally irrelevant to her rights as a resident of Ontario."

Which is not my point. It's yours. I'm directly addressing something that was raised upthread. Several people here have said that she could and should have simply resolved this by finding another shop, and that one was very close -- within walking distance. A couple of people have replied, saying that was probably not an option for her: Toronto is a big place/too spread out. There aren't that many shops. She couldn't have known if they would also turn her away. Etc.

I'm not addressing her rights as a resident of Ontario. I'm emphasizing to those who have been discussing this point that she did indeed have another option and made a conscious choice not to take it.
posted by zarq at 10:17 AM on November 16, 2012


This is about a woman using the law to beat up on a Muslim for having beliefs she thinks are wrong.

The framing can pretty much be what you want it to be. I've seen others frame this elsewhere as a progressive equality seeking measure by a lesbian.
posted by modernnomad at 10:19 AM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


zarq:"Other barbers, in this case, turns out to mean other barbers employed by the same store-owner, who happened to be 50m away."

I took that to mean other barbers (as in hair cutting people) not Barbers Shops, which may shed some light on boneheads intent.

If the original barber did (after realising that he ought to offer a haircut as an establishment despite his objections) polled his workers to find one that would perform the cut and then made that offer to the complainant and she STILL decided to push the Human Rights argument, then she really is struggling to look like it isn't the fundamental religious decision she is trying to overturn. I don't know how true that is, but if it is at all accurate it does seem to be more about why he turned her down than actually refusing the haircut itself. Ugh.

I mean, how is the guy 'refusing her service' if she can have her hair cut just up the street in a different part of his business?
posted by Brockles at 10:49 AM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


To be fair, it does appear I got that wrong---the unisex salon is another business. I'm not sure which one is being referred to in The Star's article. Google tells me that there are about ten within a block of Dundas and Bay, the corner the Terminal Barber Shop is on. It appears that the owner was proposing to arrange for the complainant to have her hair cut there.
posted by bonehead at 11:08 AM on November 16, 2012


modernnomad, I think you're, whether consciously or not, also thinking that the Muslim's beliefs are wrong, and should not be allowed in Canada.

That's not how to build a vibrant and inclusive community. Imposing hypercontrolling rules like this are damaging to a society. You are stronger together than you are apart, and tolerance and freedom for as many people as possible, as much of the time as possible, are more likely to make Canada a place where people from all different ethnicities and creeds and walks of life want to live, work, and contribute to.

The harms are wildly overbalanced in this case. On the one hand, you have a Muslim barber, a man who's in a very tiny minority group in Canada, who will either be forced to violate one of the stronger beliefs in his religion, or else completely close his perfectly good business down. On the other hand, a woman might have to walk next door.

If you can look at that, and seriously think that the Muslim should be driven out of business, I think this is much more about trying to suppress a culture you don't like, than it is about protecting the woman.
posted by Malor at 1:33 PM on November 16, 2012


Perhaps I'll head into bra shops and demand service. Can I get a mammography? How about I visit Curves, see if I'm allowed to exercise with women?
posted by five fresh fish at 1:35 PM on November 16, 2012


If you can look at that, and seriously think that the Muslim should be driven out of business, I think this is much more about trying to suppress a culture you don't like, than it is about protecting the woman.

You're putting some rather offensive words in my mouth there, Malor. I would appreciate if you wouldn't characterize me as "anti-Muslim", which I certainly am not. If you scroll up, you'll see that I explicitly said I do not believe the barber ought to be driven out of business, nor do I believe that he personally should be forced to cut this woman's hair. Rather, I argued that an appropriate accommodation woud be for the barber to ensure his business has it least one employee that is willing to cut a woman's hair, in order that he can fulfill his obligation as a business owner to be non-discriminatory.

You are keen to characterize this woman as on some sort of particularly anti-Islam bent, but no one has pointed me to any information that says she has a history of anything like this, nor that she has gone door to door across all the Muslim barbers in the city trying to find one who would deny her service so that she could make her point. As far as I can tell, she wanted a men's style haircut, and went to the first barber she came across and was pretty shocked to be refused on the grounds she has a vagina.

Now if I'm wrong and she is on some sort of anti-Muslim crusade, well fuck her and the horse she rode in on, but I don't see that yet.
posted by modernnomad at 1:45 PM on November 16, 2012


Well nothing but pure speculation regarding anti-homosexual bias - if we catch this guy trimming un-butchy women other days of the week fair enough. So if the groups being compared here are Muslim men and Canadian women, suggesting that the latter need protection from the former in this context is a pretty major case of missing the forest for the trees. "But I have a vagina" (since we appear to want to phrase it that way) may not actually be carte blache to run roughshod over values and traditions you don't like. Again, we will see.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 2:05 PM on November 16, 2012


Rather, I argued that an appropriate accommodation woud be for the barber to ensure his business has it least one employee that is willing to cut a woman's hair, in order that he can fulfill his obligation as a business owner to be non-discriminatory.

In other words, his beliefs are not tolerable to you. This woman is not particularly harmed by his refusal to serve her, but he is very measurably harmed by being forced to hire an extra employee to handle the, what, one woman per year that might enter his barber shop?

That's ludicrous. He's a tiny subset of a small minority. Let him run his business in peace.

Now if I'm wrong and she is on some sort of anti-Muslim crusade, well fuck her and the horse she rode in on, but I don't see that yet.

How could you NOT see it? He offered a haircut, either in his other business or in the unrelated one, at his own expense, but that wasn't good enough. He MUST serve her in his ORIGINAL store, and that's the only solution she will accept. That's profoundly disrespectful; she's using her majority status to trample on the beliefs of someone with no power over her at all.

Remember, this is a haircut, not brain surgery. How could you construe this as anything but simple bullying of a minority?
posted by Malor at 2:11 PM on November 16, 2012


In other words, his beliefs are not tolerable to you.

That is in no way a good faith reading of what I wrote. I think I'm done with you Malor, which is a shame, because this is otherwise an interesting discussion on a complicated issue.
posted by modernnomad at 2:15 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


This woman is not particularly harmed by his refusal to serve her, but he is very measurably harmed by being forced to hire an extra employee to handle the, what, one woman per year that might enter his barber shop?

And other businesses are harmed because they are forced to have ramps or elevators to accomodate people in wheelchairs. People in wheelchairs! What good have they ever done?

And that small-town general store in Virginia that had to start serving black customers milkshakes too. Ridiculous! Why, it'll scare off all the proper customers and then before you know it bankruptcy armaggeddon. Think of the businesses and how they'll suffer! Just let the poor business man alone.

Oh, and that requirement for publicly traded companies to disclose their assets and liabilities according to generally accepted accounting rules! How can anyone be expected to run a business when they have to give out all their inside information to investors and the competition!

Just imagine how scary the world is when businesses have responsibilities they must meet in order to receive tax incentives and liability protection for their owners! If there's one thing we know today it's that privileges should exist without corresponding responsibilities, as that's the only way to build a sound and robust society.

...

I guess what I'm saying through hyperbole here is that your outrage is neither obvious nor shared by me, Malor. And I disagree strongly with the implication in your line of reasoning that there is some sort of right that businesses have to operate without interference or regulation. Nor is lack of regulation automatically better or inherently good.
posted by jsturgill at 2:20 PM on November 16, 2012 [4 favorites]


I find myself offended by how readily people are comparing this to stores "refusing to serve Black customers". It's not like he was threatning her or trying to run her out od his store or saying that women are not permitted his shop or that his shop has a (explicit or implicit) policy of not serving women. The isdue was that, due to his religious convictions, he was incapable of providing the service requested. The same was true of the other employees of the store. However, other employees of the business owner were able to provide said service and he attempted to arrange accomodation. It's a completely different situation.


About the RMT thing: 1) in Ontario, massage is a regulated health profession. We are not allowed to refuse service to anyone we want; in fact there are only specific circumstances under which we can refuse service. We are also beholden to the HRC, and we are not permitted to run establishments that cater exclusively to a single gender, though we may specialize.

There was a very Orthodox Jewish girl in my class who was not permitted to touch or be touched by any of the males in the class. Her intention is to provide prenatal massage to accommodate this. Would you argue that a man should be able to call her for massage and that she should be forced to comply?
posted by windykites at 2:48 PM on November 16, 2012 [2 favorites]


I find myself offended by how readily people are comparing this to stores "refusing to serve Black customers".

In case your response was due to my comment, I just wanted to point out the other examples in the post, all of which are relevant. This is not the story of a deeply religious shop proprietor being singled out and attacked by the larger society simply for following his faith. Or at least, it's not just that. It's also the ongoing story of how you can have a pluralistic society filled with diverse actors with different value systems and concepts of the good life that actually functions instead of tearing itself apart.

And I'm pretty convinced the answer to that last question is to enforce the public's access to goods and services by limiting the ability of businesses (not employees) to refuse to service protected classes. Because that also protects the rights of deeply religious members of the public who just want to follow their faith, and that's the right thing to do.
posted by jsturgill at 2:57 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I'm pretty convinced the answer to that last question is to enforce the public's access to goods and services by limiting the ability of businesses (not employees) to refuse to service protected classes

I think that Malor, windkites, and I, among others, fundamentally disagree with you regarding the gendered nature of hair grooming. It makes logical sense to a lot of people (including our barber), that one can open a shop specifically for cutting men's hair.

I would actually be somewhat offended if the guy won his case on the basis of his religious beliefs. His religious beliefs do not allow him to open a men-only barbershop. Rather, the fact that men-only barbershops are a "thing" makes that career choice a good one for him, because it doesn't interfere with his religious beliefs.
posted by deanc at 3:58 PM on November 16, 2012


Deanc, I don't think I commented on the gendered nature of hair grooming. My whole perspective is regarding the ability of a business to discriminate, and isn't informed at all by the specific nature of the transaction in this instance (cutting hair).

The size of the shop is much more relevant from my perspective than whatever the shop happens to exist to sell.
posted by jsturgill at 4:25 PM on November 16, 2012


Malor : modernnomad, I think you're, whether consciously or not, also thinking that the Muslim's beliefs are wrong, and should not be allowed in Canada.

I happen to feel that way myself (though not necessarily "wrong", just... archaic and pointless). But that belief has nothing to do with the practical situation at hand - He went out of his way to avoid imposing his beliefs on others; she went out of her way to impose hers on him.

Frame this as a legal issue, frame this as a gender issue, frame it as a religion issue, frame it as a commerce issue - None of that matters. It boils down to the the simple fact that we have one person trying to impose their will over another. Translate that to a few other contexts and see if it makes the situation ethically more transparent - Slavery? Rape? Do those clear things up?

This reduces to power. Domination. Subjugation. She has the legal right to send him to Hell. He doesn't have the legal right to... to refuse to cut someone's hair?

She can go to another barber. He can't randomly pick another god, nor can he in-doctrinally excuse his sin because some stuffed suits in Ottowa told him to do it "or else".
posted by pla at 5:39 PM on November 16, 2012 [3 favorites]


Jsturgill, I definitley wasn't responding to you specifically; it was the trend (confirmation bias?) That I was getting bothered about. I still appreciate your clarification, though.

I also definitely should have previewed instead of rushing back to work. Arg! Sorry for all the typos!
posted by windykites at 6:05 PM on November 16, 2012 [1 favorite]


My whole perspective is regarding the ability of a business to discriminate, and isn't informed at all by the specific nature of the transaction in this instance (cutting hair).

Cutting men's hair. It's a barbershop. They don't cut all hair. They don't offer all services.

But even then, she was offered service next door, by the same business owner. A service they don't offer, so they are clearly making an exceptional effort to accomodate her.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:36 PM on November 16, 2012


I guess what I'm saying through hyperbole here

This situation seems like one of those edge cases where reasonable people can disagree, switch positions entirely overnight, and then disagree from opposite sides the next day. Added to which, there are any number of potentially charged angles that are hot-button and can hit close to home for some people.

I'm not sure it's a great instance for hyperbole. Especially one of those three.
posted by cribcage at 11:51 PM on November 16, 2012


It turns out that Omar Mahrouk's barbershop has a website with addresses of both places. I plugged them into Google Maps and it provided walking directions between them. To get from one to the other you literally walk down the street half a block, take the first right, and walk a block and a half. They are that close. If the owner offered her a free haircut at his other shop 180 metres (600 feet) away then I think we have moved well beyond any genuine grievance and we're into "because I can" persecution territory.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:34 AM on November 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


Getting lost in the specifics of this case is losing the point of setting a precedent and the larger argument the the Tribunal will be considering "can one protected class be denied service by a business because they are part of a protected class; justified by the business that the discrimination is allowable because the business owners are part of a different protected class." We can slot whatever protected classes we want in there. Whether it is a homosexual business owner denying service to a specific ethnicity, or an elderly business owner refusing service to a pregnant person is irrelevant to the core question of competing rights. What they decide on this specific case is going to have huge implications for all other competing rights cases - and I think a lot of them are going to start appearing as Canada changes in the upcoming decades. The decison will also let businesses know whether discrimination is legally allowed; if so, what would stop an entire community of businesses to decide not to serve "those people", taking away the option of just going down the street.

In this specific case, Terminal Barbershop offered a service in a unique location with unqiue tools; suggesting that one of the other business (that may or may not have also decided they won't serve women) nearby could offer a similar service in a different setting is not quite equivalent. Note too, his offer of another barber was THREE months after she came in his shop - that is hardly a good faith offering.

It seems that several Americans in this thread embrace the founding doctrine of the US "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" which is quite different from the values enshrined in the Canadian Constitution of "Peace, Order and Good Government". One set of values isn't necessarily better that the other but they are quite different, and explain somewhat where the two groups are coming from.
posted by saucysault at 5:19 AM on November 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


... the larger argument the the Tribunal will be considering "can one protected class be denied service by a business because they are part of a protected class; justified by the business that the discrimination is allowable because the business owners are part of a different protected class."

I'm taking the barber's side in this, but I don't it makes a lick of sense to argue that it's OK to discriminate if you're a member of a protected class. We're all members of protected classes. (We all have a gender, an ethnicity, etc.) The question here is whether discrimination occurred or not.

It's common for hairstylists to specialize in doing men's or women's hair. Hairstylists that do both usually advertise as such. This kind of specialization occurs in a lot of industries. (Framing vs. trim companies in carpentry, auto-mechanics specializing in domestics versus imports or different kinds of auto work.) If you ask them to do something outside of their specialty their response is likely to be something like "Sorry, we're not really set up for that'.

The only reason this case has any traction or support at all is because the business was owned by an immigrant and the reason given for not taking a job outside of their usual (and otherwise completely normal) specialization involved their culture. I think it's laughable to think that this case would exist or that anyone would be concerned about it if she'd just been refused service by a white barber who said 'sorry, we don't cut women's hair'.
posted by nangar at 8:39 AM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It seems that several Americans in this thread embrace the founding doctrine of the US "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" which is quite different from the values enshrined in the Canadian Constitution of "Peace, Order and Good Government". One set of values isn't necessarily better that the other but they are quite different, and explain somewhat where the two groups are coming from.

I'm far too lazy to go through the comments and match sentiments to nationalities, but I would be surprised if values and opinions displayed here can be quite so neatly matched up.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:27 PM on November 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's common for hairstylists to specialize in doing men's or women's hair. Hairstylists that do both usually advertise as such.

Since she wanted a traditionally male style hair cut that's not really a good defense here. I've checked with my wife (a licensed hair stylist,) and there is no real difference between cutting men's hair and women's hair (besides the styles.)

It's a bit off topic, but many stylists do turn away clients of different races because they don't have experience with their hair types. Usually those types of conversations aren't that exciting. It usually goes like this: "I'm not very experienced with your hair type, but so-and-so is, I can call ahead for you if you like." If the person really insists I've never heard of them being turned away.
posted by papercrane at 4:44 PM on November 17, 2012


When running a business (as opposed to being an employee), you should have a basic knowledge of equality regulations in your country which may affect you.

He offered the haircut by another employee, in another salon, three months after the initial complaint, by which time she'd decided that it was a point of principle. If he'd considered equality legislation and its potential effect on his business (not an huge leap, as he is already running one male and one unisex place) he could have had a response all ready to go. Barbering's a very portable skill, and he could have the numbers of several potential barbers willing to cut a woman's hair, who could be employed on a freelance basis, thus ensuring compliance with the law for his business. With a ready solution at hand, things would probably have never got to this point.
posted by tardigrade at 4:34 AM on November 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


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