The Old Man and the Chair

Societal outrage has finally reached the tipping point for me. 

Barber Joe Cignelli refused a woman a haircut and now she plans to file a human rights complaint. When the short-haired woman entered his shop and asked for a trim, Joe said no and apologized. He told CTV News, “I have never cut a woman’s hair. I don’t feel comfortable. I told her I’m sorry but I’ve said no to a few women over the years. I’ve been married 43 years and I’ve never given my wife a haircut because I don’t feel comfortable.”

The would-be client is also a hairstylist. This is one reason why I don’t understand her desire to take it to an authority like the Human Rights Commission. It’s true, he will not cut the hair of an entire gender. But here is my fundamental question: Why would anyone want to get their hair cut by someone who “doesn’t feel comfortable” doing it? I would run, not walk, to another shop if someone was that insecure about the haircut they’d give me.

Should he be forced to cut a woman’s hair? She says yes, because in her case, it’s essentially the same cut as he would give a man.

This isn’t the only bakery in town, refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding. It’s a barber shop, striped pole and all, with a history of a male clientele. Old men reading newspapers. Little boys crying over their first cut. All the cliches.

Am I wrong on this? I just don’t feel the outrage of discrimination in this particular case.


2 thoughts on “The Old Man and the Chair”

  1. As someone with considerable human rights experience, no she doesn’t have a case. She wasn’t denied access due to any of the protected grounds under the code, she was simply denied access due to a lack of comfort with one’s skills which was openly disclosed. He also has established a general practice over the years of not cutting women’s hair, so this wasn’t a one-off. I don’t see any grounds which would support a claim, but I’m not a lawyer, just someone who has filed his share of cases.

  2. This is just bizarre and to me smacks of bullying. How much better would her efforts be aimed at a true societal wrong – of which there are plenty – instead of picking on an independent business person who is just serving a portion of the public, as should be his right and upon which his model was built all those years ago? I’m 100% in favour of equality and examining gender bias, but this is truly ridiculous. Again: bully.

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