This past weekend, a barbershop in our hood became the unlikely site of a skirmish over gender equity. In case you didn't catch several recaps on the evening news and in the O, a woman named Kaki Marshall went to Roseway Barbershop at Sandy and NE 72nd and asked for a "#4 skin fade" cut -- a short style that tapers right down to bare skin. The owner, Marty Pinz, a reserved, old-school barber who is the son of the 100-year-old shop's founder, said he didn't know how to perform that cut. She thinks he took one look at her -- a masculine-looking women -- and didn't want anything to do with her. Marshall left the shop, returned with her phone's video camera running and narrated her side of the story while Marty and his barbering partner shifted to the back of the room in discomfort -- Marty to call the police and his partner to get out of a full frontal shot: "I'm not going to let you video me," he says.
Marshall says she was mad and hurt that she didn't get her haircut. But she quickly turned the power dynamic around, coolly filming the barbers, posting the video to Facebook, garnering TV coverage, drawing a discrimination inquiry from the ACLU, and telling a reporter that:
she'd really rather offer to teach the barbers in a daylong seminar on gender binary oppression than file a labor bureau complaint.
Neighbors have generally cried out that Marshall took things too far. The ensuing whirlwind of social media shares, click-driven journalists sensing a trend story, and prodding comment trolls whipped up monstrous waves of supporters and backlashers. I agree with one of our local ministers, David Cole, that a chance for resolution was lost the moment Marshall decided to filter her experience through camera and Facebook. But perhaps she had reached wits' end -- sick and tired of people not treating her decently because they can't place or categorize her in a typical gender role.
One thing is clear for anybody that would wish gender, racial, or sexual orientation issues away: they are not going anywhere. And silence on the issues is no longer moral high ground for white males like me. Silence is deafening to minorities. As the common Black Lives Matter rally poster reads, "White Silence = White Consent." We are being rightfully pushed to speak up and root out the discrimination that festers in the unspoken shadows of society. We're being asked: where do you stand? I think Kaki Marshall was asking that important question, as uncomfortable and even pushy as the delivery was.
We live in this place in time where public officials nearby are refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses even though the law of the land demands it. A wedding cake provider is denying same-sex couples a celebratory dessert just down the road in Gresham. A little barbershop on the corner is no shelter from storm. Time to face it.