I had a haircut yesterday. The hairdresser kept saying how much she loves my curls. She treated me with kindness and care, and I felt valued. My hair feels and looks good. I have found two regular salons to go to – such a relief after years of discrimination by hairdressers.
One way I measure ableism is by how I’m treated in customer services settings – I’m often treated differently to customers next to/before/after me. With hairdressers there’s an assumption I don’t need to feel and look good, because of my face. So they don’t show care.
There is also a fear of contagion – where they barely touch me. Pincer fingers.
This lack of care can happen in stores too – where I’m ignored, or not given the same type of assistance and attention as other customers. It’s like they think I am too ugly to want to dress well. (Fortunately that doesn’t happen as much now.)
Yes. That’s a thing. It’s low expectations of disabled people.
It implies we shouldn’t take up space or be seen. Or that we shouldn’t feel good about ourselves.
And so it’s a huge relief to be treated equitably – with respect and no discrimination when I’m at the hairdressers or in stores.
It’s hard to be believed when I write about this discrimination. Devils advocates often excuse it like “they were having a bad day”. Others say “well of course they were scared of your skin, they haven’t met/seen anyone like you before”. Or they say I’m overthinking it. Or they just assume I’ve been difficult.
Ableism is often only noticeable to other disabled people who experience it daily. So I ask allies to recognise it too. Ableism is in the way customer service providers treat disabled customers. It has an enormous cumulative impact.
Ableism is the avoidance of engaging with disabled people – not looking at us, not speaking to us, not touching us.
This matters in customer service.
Anyway, my curls feels SO soft and defined, and they feel just as good today.
And I feel happy, relieved & respected.
Oh the hairdressers I go to and whole heartedly recommend:
Neel Loves Curls & Earth to Betty – both specialising in curly hair. Yesterday I went to Earth to Betty .
Image description: A selfie of a woman with a red face, short dark curly hair, wearing a Care Bears tea party print dress and a Care Bears cloud necklace. She’s smiling.