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Law student wins right to cheap hair cut

Hairdressing salons discriminate against women by charging more for womens' hair cuts. A feisty University of Copenhagen law student filed a complaint to the Danish Board of Equal Treatment, and has won

For short-haired law student Marie Hove, the gender-based price differentiation at hair salons had been an irritation. One day last year she decided to do something about it.

After a visit to the hairdressers, she started a battle against well-established norms of ‘men’s cut’ and ‘women’s cut’.

The salon takes DKK 450 for a men’s cut and DKK 525 for a women’s cut. But according to the Law of Equal Opportunities, this is actually against the law.


Considering the case, the Board on Equal Treatment (Ligebehandlingsnævnet, ed.) decided that the salon should pay an amount of DKK 2500 to her in compensation.

Today the 25 year-old has reasons to be happy with the outcome of her struggle so far.

»I’m proud of the decision«, says Marie Hove in an interview with Danish-language university news site

Mixed reactions

Several objections have been made to Marie Hove’s fight against the deep-rooted market mechanisms of the hairdressing industry. Some have pointed out that, generally, it takes longer time for women to get their hair cut. Thus a women’s cut should naturally be more expensive.

Also, several Danish politicians and the Danish Hairdressing Federation have called the case ‘petty’, ‘a waste of resources’ and ‘ridiculous’. Ole Birk Olesen of the Liberal Alliance Party has criticised the decision for violating the right of hairdressers to price their services as they want. Equal opportunity minister Manu Sareen has not publicly supported Marie Hove’s case against the hairdressers.

But Marie Hove doesn’t buy the argument that it generally takes longer time to cut women’s hair. Nor is the case is a waste of resources.

Will not put up with it

»The critics always use the words ‘generally’, ‘typically’ and ‘often’. This is a statistical way of looking at things based on gender. I want them to move beyond these man and woman prices, and instead evaluate the price on more reasonable criteria, like the time it takes for a haircut, how difficult the haircut is, how many products are used etc. Men and women should pay the same for the same service«.

Even a minor violation is a violation that should be dealt with.«

»I’m not used to just putting up with things«., says the law student.

Challenges the norms

Currently the whole case has been taken to another level, as the hairdresser who cut Marie Hove’s hair has opted not to respond to the decision. Following the advice of the Board, Marie Hove has now let the Danish Board on Equal Treatment run the case in court.

So, although it may take some time before the case is settled, her supporters say that the sheer persistence of a student like Marie Hove might be what is needed to foster change and break the unquestioned codes that uphold society.

Kirsten Ketscher, professor at the Faculty of Law, is enthusiastic about her former student and gives little credence to the criticism directed against Marie Hove’s case from politicians so far: »It’s important for the faculty that a student uses what she has been taught in class to protect against the infringement of civil rights«.

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