More tonsorial discrimination

April 26, 2011 • 2:14 pm

I have previously complained about the differential price of haircuts in salons, so that women are invariably charged more than men, even for a similar hairstyle or for similar degrees of effort.

Now reader Matt has found another example of this discrimination: for eyebrows!

Two bucks more to wax a woman’s eyebrows? That’s insane.  And don’t they know about this?:

Waxing is waxing, for crying out loud!

58 thoughts on “More tonsorial discrimination

  1. I can only find one explanation: Women are more demanding, and it thus takes more time to “do” a womans eyebrows than a mans. No? OK – bad explanation, because that would mean that all men get cheated on quality – while we get cheated monetarily. 😉

    1. You’re half right.

      Women *are* more demanding, in that they have a more specific idea of how they want to end up looking. And they often have specific styles or looks that the cut/wax has to stay coherent with.

      For men, there’s a fair amount of leeway. A guy’s haircut has to go pretty badly off-course before it’s intolerable.

      For an eyebrow trim, as long as a guy leaves with the same number of eyebrows as he came in with, it’s good. (Unless he had a monobrow and wanted that trimmed down to two brows.)

      In engineering terms, the tolerances are tighter for women, so the work has to be more precise, there’s more risk of error, and the price of error is greater.

  2. C’mon, Jerry. There’s a simple explanation:

    Why are food and drinks more expensive at a football stadium than at the average gas station?

    Traders and merchants know that higher demand drives up the price. The key question is not : “How much is this worth but? “How much are people willing to pay for this?
    Women obviously require waxes and other beauty demands more than men in general.

    Business marketing 101 :p

      1. It’s all a matter of supply vs demand. Maybe I’m biased given my libertarianism, but waxing for women wouldn’t be more expensive than men’s if they didn’t demand it more than men do. Do you also think it’s unlawful that adults have to pay more at a buffet than children? Or that elders generally pay less to get into a theme park?

        Now, I think nightclubs charging full price cover from men while admitting ladies for free is terribly sexist! (tongue in cheek)

        1. It’s not a supply v demand thing. By that logic a MacDonald’s burger ought to cost $1000.

          In any case, whether the client is male or female, it tends to be the same beautician using the same products and implements. So it’s not like there is a greater or lesser ability to “supply” men’s waxing services in any salon.

        2. So, should Walgreens the gender of the customer into account when buying waxing products upon checkout so they can charge them 33% more than if a man were checking out? If not, why is it different when there is a service involved and not a product?

        3. “given my libertarianism”

          you might as well have said:

          “given my complete and utter ignorance of what libertarianism really means, and the actual history behind it.”

          Those who claim the mantle of libertarianism are simply ignorant. Either willfully or lazily.

        4. So you would be the guy who would defend the grocery store if they decided to charge people of color more for fried chicken and grape soda, amirite? Fried Chicken: $5 for whites, $7 for coloreds. It’s marketing, so it can’t be racist. Things can only be one thing at a time!

      2. I think it’s simpler than most of these explanations. I’m guessing it’s just one of those weird hangovers from sheer convention. “That’s how it’s always been done, and how everybody does it” It just hasn’t really been questioned. Also, back in the day no woman ever ‘just’ got a haircut. It was always a complicated procedure. There were separate establishments for men and women altogether. Once the uni-sex salon came into being, the prices were probably just imported from the beauty parlor and the barbershop. When uni-sex hair salons came into being, women still did more to their hair than they do today. I love the way women have been wearing their hair since the mid 90s or so….Much more natural. Time to bring the prices into balance.

    1. For whatever reason(s), they figure women will pay more for the same service. Is there any difference in the difficulty of waxing women’s vs men’s eyebrows? (I don’t know but can’t imagine much difference.)

      As with haircuts, obviously many women — those who just want simple styles — are getting ripped off.

      1. I suppose it could be that perhaps the women are more loyal customers in general. No idea if this is true, but it might be why people are not afraid to overcharge them.

        1. In a truly competitive market, it would seem that any shop that was willing to charge women the same as men for the same service would get most of the business.

          Are the costs (not prices) for women higher, or is it just discrimination?

          1. Not necessarily. What the eye doesn’t see, the chef gets away with. What I mean is that if the customers don’t think too hard about it, it’s not a sure thing that they’ll stop coming.

  3. I can’t decide if the sign(s) above the pricing refer(s) to “new eyebrows” or to “new wax”, but either way, the pricing is discriminatory.

    As to whether or not women require waxing (@Heber #4) I will leave that to very picky (and therefor undatable) men to determine.

    1. I didn’t mean “require” as in need it more than men. Women simply demand eye-brow waxing more than men do.

      1. I suspect it isn’t the demand so much as the finer detail that many (not all) women may demand. whereas a man is probably satisfied with basic work to keep it neat, a woman may want a specific angle, with much more detailed (and thus, more lengthy) work.

        The true non-discriminatory way to do this is to charge for time and materials. This vendor is simply making an assumption of ‘XX requires on average 2 dollars more time and materials than XY”. That’s not discrimination, so much as a business shortcut. The main problem is that there are assumptions that all women want fine detailed work.

        1. Have you had your eyebrows waxed?

          Everyone’s eyebrows require fine detail work–the standards are not different, depending on gender. It’s not like wax is used for women, but for the discerning gentleman, they pop out the buzz saw.

  4. Silly – Obviously the New eyebrow wax is for the promotion of eyebrow growth. Since women typically have less, they will need to have more applied to get the same effect.

  5. If I had to bend over backwards to make an excuse, I’d say it has to do with women getting their brows shaped delicately, while doods like me just need to get a bit of skin in the middle to split the unibrow.

  6. Look at “high end” face washes. Products for women with essentially the same ingredients as those for men (scented ones have different scents) are more expensive than the ones marketed to men. If I bought these, I’d buy the guy version, but I pretty much stick to Cetaphil since my dermatologist recommends it. Gender neutral product, got to love it.

  7. The early 13th c Byzantine Emperor Alexios V Doukas was nicknamed which may mean he had bushy eyebrows! Great name!

  8. Waxing ? Over here in the UK the way to go is eyebrow threading [short video in link]

    It’s beautiful to watch & looks simple to do, but it requires skill. No pain for the pluckee.

    Originates from Persia maybe but all the women I’ve seen plucking appear to be S.E. Asian

    1. My wife went to a beauticians in Turkey while we were on vacation there at the beginning of January and had this threading done. She complained afterwards that it was incredibly painful!

      1. Right outside my favourite cafe there’s a couple of hi-tech barbers chairs set up in the middle of the mall where a couple of threaders work non-stop ~ queues of (mainly) females wait to be ‘threaded’. There’s great demand for cafe window seats to watch the free show 🙂

        I’ve observed that all the customers lie back contentedly & seem to enjoy the experience. My theory is that the brow hairs need to be short to begin with or the threads will grip the hairs too far from the root, thus causing pain. The threaders use scissors first & move onto threading to shape the brow edges [see video in link above]. They work from brow edge inwards.

        BTW The price is the same for both sexes

    2. no pain for the pluckee? wow…i had threading done to my eyebrows ONCE and it was fucking horrible. it’s basically getting the hair caught up in the twisted thread and pulled out, much slower than wax. i would rather get my bajingo waxed than get my brows threaded again.

  9. Could also be a case of loss leader; i.e., men will not pay $8 but might pay $6. The frau is always telling me that she’s sees men getting pedicures and manicures and that I should go, but I’m not going to pay someone for something for something I can do myself, nor really want.
    Mind you, I’m a guy who simply detests dressing “up.” T shirts and shorts if I can, pants if I must, and a tie? Better be worth it.

  10. Completely off topic, but bad news from the Eagle Cam site. The female adult was struck by a plane this morning and killed.

    Sorry if this isn’t the best place to put the news, but I wans’t sure where else to post.

    Total bummer.

  11. Before people start looking for a male conspiracy, remember that a large proportion of hair shops are owned and run by women. So unless they’ve joined the male conspiracy (a multilayered conspiracy theory) this leaves two viable theories, probably both true:

    Women are willing to pay more. Market economics. If the price is too high men will just say ‘screw it’. My wife has occasionally spent a good buck getting her nails done, I just go at mine with clippers (or rat tail file… whatever’s handy)

    Men are much less fussy. Do you really need a study to establish this?

    1. So unless they’ve joined the male conspiracy

      The word is “patriarchy”, and you act like it’s unheard of for women to try to advance their personal status by submission to it. But in fact it’s quite common: witness conservative women like Ann Coulter or Phyllis Schlafly, making fortunes by reaffirming traditional submissive roles for women, or the practice of FGM – mutilating the vulva for a man’s sexual pleasure; performed and enforced by women.

      It’s hardly a “conspiracy” when it’s right in front of your face.

  12. Ummm, on the off chance that there’s a good reason (?) maybe someone should ask them why they charge more?

  13. Most people doing the waxing are women. Being able to inflict severe pain on men I’m surprised they don’t do it for nothing.

  14. I never heard of men getting their eyebrows waxed, but my £10 hair cutter trims mine for free. And they charge the same for women’s hair (and I suppose eyebrows, if a woman ever wanted a plain trim)

  15. So somebody up there said “maybe its my libertarianism” and then made an argument based on supply and demand, and it has gotten a bit out of control, and frankly some of the rebuttals don’t make any sense (why would a McDonald’s hamburger cost $1000? I’m frankly stumped at what that comment is even supposed to mean…)

    Now I want to talk about this without the “libertarianism” aspect clouding it, and to do so I want to say up front that this is unfair and I do not think it is okay.

    That said, this phenomenon does make sound sense — in terms of explaining it, not in justifying it — from even a simplistic Econ 101 perspective (and there is nothing that I am aware of in more advanced economics that undermines this). The supply curve is identical for men and for women, but the demand curve is stronger and less elastic for women than it is for men. Assuming that merchants are then allowed to charge a different price for men than for women, this would be the natural free market result.

    To reiterate, that does not make it okay. Let’s fall for neither the moralistic nor the naturalistic fallacy here, folks. There are too major “not-okay”s here in my book:

    The first is that the inelasticity of the women’s demand curve is very much an artifact of unfortunate cultural biases. I would be willing to entertain the possibility that, all things being equal, women might be more interested in beauty treatments than men (I am not asserting this as true, I am saying I would entertain the possibility if someone wanted to make that argument) but the fact that women feel like they have to get expensive beauty treatments is clearly an almost purely cultural phenomenon.

    The second is the ethical dubiousness of exploiting the differential in demand curves. If a man walked into a sporting goods store to buy a team jersey, and the clerk said, “Sorry, you have to pay an extra 20% because you are a man,” I don’t think we would find that okay — even though it is probably true that, in our culture, the demand curve for team paraphernalia tends to be stronger and less elastic for men than for women. (Important side note: Just as there are men who absolutely must have that eyebrow waxing, so there are women who absolutely must have that team jersey. We are talking social trends, not absolutes here.) One could possibly make an argument that this sort of shennanigans should be legally prohibited.

    But please, let’s not let the moralistic fallacy blind us to the cause here. Clearly it is driven by supply and demand. We can shake our heads in disdain at both the cultural factors which drive the gender differential in demand, as well as the ethical problems of exploiting that differential; and we can talk about whether that exploitation ought to be explicitly prohibited in a progressive society that values equality. And probably we ought to have those reactions. But we shouldn’t react to the “supply-and-demand” observation itself with vitriol — that’s just cold hard reality.

  16. I guess the challenge is to think of a service that men value more than women in which men pay more than women to procure…

    1. It’s not quite the same, but ladies’ nights at bars. It’s a little different, because the reasoning is not so much that men are willing to pay more to drink in a bar with a good gender mix, but instead that the bar simply wants to change the gender mix.

      1. And a bar full of pre-pickled merchandise plays into the men’s favor anyway…A “head start” as it were….

  17. While it does seem discriminatory I suspect the price differential is simply a custom that would look ‘odd’ if it were removed. In other words if someone saw a hairdressers that had women and mens haircuts for the same price as a standard male haircut then they would think something is up. It would seem a risk.
    I don’t know about you but I prefer to know what I’m getting from a haircut (particularly after one disastrous experience when I emerged from a visit to a very cheap barber shop looking like a character from one of the early series of ‘Blackadder’).

    1. This is actually one of the better points I’ve read in this thread. Whether or not it’s true, perhaps there is more perceived “service” in the women’s pricing. Not in quality of the actual service, but in extras, maybe a special post-wax balm or other cosmetic application that men would not normally care about.

  18. The price disparity in haircuts is at least defensible. I’m not aware of any evidence to suggest that a woman’s haircut takes longer than man’s, but it’s at least reasonable.

    But c’mon, eyebrows are eyebrows!

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