Published in Catalogue, 2016
Earlier this month, a male-exclusive barbershop tucked into the south end of Newtown’s King Street in Sydney became the subject of some extremely enthusiastic media attention – after all, it’s a story that hinges on a trifector of click bait controversy, guaranteed to rile up the masses: hipsters, grooming, and those goddam feminazis. News.com.au, Yahoo Australia, Sunrise and the Daily Mail were all up in a tizzy about the story, knowing full well that they could incite some fantastically aggressive Facebook discussions involving more than a few sexist slurs, “Just think of the cross-face emoticons! They’ll be flooding the bloody building!”
News.com.au’s Frank Chung leapt in with aplomb: “Feminists have declared war on hipsters”, suggesting that women fighting for the political, social and economic equality of the genders represents some sort of cartoonish, fanciful novelty subset, akin to people that wear tweed, twiddle their moustaches and talk seriously about bio-dynamic jams.
Kochie’s coverage of the story on Sunrise was actually congratulatory towards the manager of Hawleywood salon, Julian Wallace for his audacity to have “gone where every man fears to tread”. Which is perhaps unsurprising coming from a man who isn’t exactly renowned for his impartial, cutting-edge journalism. But I mean seriously, give me a break.
Here’s the thing, speaking absolutely theoretically, I can’t reasonably justify an opposition towards any small space or business that is either exclusively male or female, on the basis of that exclusivity alone. I can even understand the reasoning behind either business structure — as much as we may deny it in our day-to-day lives. Because there are, of course, social, societal, and sexual pressures that inherently arise from being surrounded by people of the opposite gender, regardless of sexual orientation. With that in mind. perhaps it is acceptable for places to exist where we can feel at ease, immersed in a crowd of people that understand our specific social experiences.
In much the same way that I cringe at the idea of accidentally wearing my camel-toe-prone hot shorts to my male dominated gym environment, or relish the privilege of entering my female-oriented laser clinic to singe my hair follicles out, I can absolutely understand why some men would feel the same urge to roam free of self-consciousness, even only for the sake of having conversations uninhibited by external judgement. I, for one, will admit that I sure as hell speak differently – even slightly more offensively – when surrounded by my wonderful, perfect lady friends, so I can equally see the appeal for men.