Sid Ouared
Photo: Sid Ouared
Photo: Sid Ouared

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British Airways sacking a man for having a “man bun” isn’t sexist – but it’s not fair either

If anything, the debacle shows why strict gender roles help no one

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By Yomi Adegoke on

“Man buns” are a hairstyle that have been splitting opinions for years. But no one seems to loathe them more than British Airways, who literally sacked a member of staff, Sid Ouared, for rocking one.

According to the 26-year-old, his contract was terminated after just two weeks, because his bosses decided his hair breached uniform policy. Now, an understandably irate Ouared is claiming to be a victim of reverse sexism, as his exact hairstyle is considered appropriate for women but unsuitable for men.

“I was told I can't have my hair in a bun because only women can have their hair in a bun,” he said. “So because I'm not a female, I wasn't permitted to have my hair in that style. It was absolute sexism. I was even told by a member of management at BA, 'your hair is like a girl's hair'.”

He continued: “Thousands of women who work for BA and who worked alongside me had their hair exactly like mine. Yet I'm discriminated against for it.”

Ouared has a point about British Airways rules, but the idea their policy is “sexist” isn’t one of them. Reverse sexism is as reverse racism is – meaning it simply isn’t. There is no such thing, since men are not oppressed on the basis of being men. Rather, sometimes the system in place that oppresses women goes a bit awry in places. While Ouared isn’t a victim of reverse sexism, he is a victim of something – a rigid gender binary that sometimes screws over men while screwing over women.

Ouared’s is just another example about how everyone suffers at the hands of patriarchy, albeit it to vastly varying degrees

Patriarchy does its best to keep men on top and has been doing a pretty good job of it since the dawn of time. It’s given men more money, more power, more sexual freedom and more of the other most important things in life. Every now and then, however, it misses the mark and hits men instead – hypermasculinity bludgeoning men’s ability to express emotions, the prerequisite for men to be “big and strong” meaning there is no celebrated “petite” equivalent for short men… the list goes on.

Ouared’s is just another example about how everyone suffers at the hands of patriarchy, albeit it to vastly varying degrees (I’d take a pay rise over a bun any day, to be honest). He says he even tried to compromise with British Airways by tucking his hair under his collar to make it less noticeable, but their uniform policy says ponytails for men “are only permitted to secure dreadlocks”.

“They basically said, 'cut it, put it in a turban like a Sikh, or turn it into dreadlocks like a Rastafarian’.” Ouared said. “I am not any of those things and I can't believe that they would make me wear my hair like something that I am not.”

The airline was so against the idea of a man wearing a hairstyle they attributed to women that they even asked him to feign a religious identity to legitimise longer hair. His female colleagues don’t have to jump through the same ridiculous hoops, but it certainly isn’t because of misandry. Women being permitted by British Airways to have “woman buns” (and other hairstyles such as a ponytail or single plait) is less about British Airways wanting to oppress its male staff and empower its female workers, and more about a society that bases a woman’s value entirely on their physical appearance, rendering all things hair-related “frivolous” and therefore female. Rather than proving “reverse sexism”, if anything this debacle shows why rigid gender roles help no one at all.

@yomiadegoke

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