RMIT: Cutting out gender stereotypes – RMIT Pride Week pop-up barbershop


Running from Monday, 22 August to Friday, 26 August, RMIT Pride Week is an opportunity to bring together and celebrate the University’s diverse genders, sexes, and sexualities (DGSS) community.

This year, Pride Week will be delivered in a combination of face-to-face and online platforms to provide opportunities for all to take part.

Pride Week aligns with the IDAHOBIT theme, ’Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights!’ — a reminder LGBTIQA+ people continue to fight for their rights every day.

Shelley Hewson-Munro from the Gender Equity & Justice Project explained the pop ups are part of a bigger movement about to be undertaken at RMIT to create moments to talk about outdated ideas about gender, gender inequality and gender-based violence.

“A lot of barbershops are marketed as ‘men only’ and have not been, and continue to be, not safe spaces for everyone. Haircuts shouldn’t have a gender or cause discrimination and harm,” she said.

“We want to reclaim safety and celebration around hair styles and choices and promote queer-safe and supportive businesses like Little Rebel Barbershop for students to know there are people out there who are passionate about them and how they want to be.”

RMIT Pride Week banner. Shows the dates 22-26 of August 2022, the RMIT logo and the url Pride Week banner. Source: RMIT University
Joining the event at Pride week will be the barbers from Little Rebel Barbershop in Preston – a queer-owned small business that creates a safe and inclusive space for all.

Owner and director of Little Rebel Barbershop Rhia Rebel said there is a need for more barbershops like theirs in the LGBTQIA+ community.

“We are driven by our passion for hair, pushing the boundaries with traditional binary fashions, making a change in the hair and barber industry and equality for all,” she said.

“As queer people we experience discrimination regularly. The hair and beauty industry can be very binary in its approach to fashion and labels/pronouns. Not all of us fit into those binaries or boxes,” she said.

“Queer people deserve to be heard, seen and need to feel comfortable in every industry, this goes for the clientele and staff. We are excited to help inspire others in what we do and feel honoured to be working with others who also are driven to help make a change towards equality.”

Hewson-Munro acknowledges that issues relating to gender inequality and violence are complex, but that we need to face them collectively, if we are going to put an end to them.

“A key part of the (Gender, Equity & Justice) project also focuses on identifying and engaging male students and staff to be part of the solution, by working alongside of women and others to undertake small-scale project ideas,” she said.

“It also has a remit to explore and review how we can change and improve our teaching and learning content so that it works towards national goals for equality and anti-violence, as well as work, health and safety requirements”

Hewson-Munro says that ending violence will not be an easy ask and it will take vulnerability and personal work to make it a reality, but that it is possible.

The Gender, Equity & Justice Project will be holding more collaborations in coming months, including with The Streets Barber and She is Not Your Rehab barber crew from New Zealand.

Anyone can drop by the pop-up barbershop on Wednesday August 24 in Carlton, or Thursday 25 August on Bowen Street in the City Campus.

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