Nairobi female barbers have revealed that not every man who visits their barbershop goes there with the intention of cutting their hair. Instead, they say most men, particularly the rich and elderly, just want to have sex with them.
The job, that is traditionally a preserve of the men, has seen more female barbers taking up the task and attracting even more customers compared to their male counterparts.
Tender care, services
According to 24-year-old Esther Kimani, a barber in Nairobi’s CBD, most male customers prefer female barbers because of the ‘tender’ services women give.
“Most men prefer female barbers because our hands are not ‘rough’. They like it when I do the head massage for them. Our male colleagues just do the bare minimum – kuwanyoa tu. Most male clients I have encountered do not allow male barbers to wash their heads after being shaved,” said Ms Kimani.
Mary Njoroge, another female barber in the CBD, who has been in the industry for five years, agrees with Esther.
She says: “Men prefer when I shave their heads because, personally I do it wholeheartedly – many a times they tell me that their fellow men are not committed to doing a good job; they just want to cut their hair, and that’s it!”
One customer, 58-year-old David Chepkwony, confirms these claims.
“I usually feel very good when my hair is being cut by a female barber. The opposite sex factor plays a big role in creating the feeling,” he said.
However, not every man is moved by the female barber phenomenon which is quickly gaining prominence among male city residents.
Samuel Kihari, 34, says he won’t trade his loyalty of his trademark male barber for a bandwagon effect.
“My head hasn’t been shaved by a female barber. I always stick to one person who cuts my hair. But, I’d soon love to try the hands of a female barber. I hear from my friends that they are tender, caring and careful. Though, the coming of female barbers in the industry won’t change my loyalty,” he said.
Male barbers, unsurprisingly, feel threatened by the shift in the industry.
David Njuguna, 52, has been a barber for the past 26 years; and says the inception of women in the industry scares him.
“Most young men prefer female barbers; and sincerely, it’s a threat to us (male barbers). I fear for my job,” said Mr Njuguna.
Another one, John Gitau, who has been a barber for 15 years, is also worried for his source of livelihood.
“I fear for my job; mwanaume akishikwa shikwa na mwanamke si huyo customer ataenda kabisa? Sijui mikono yetu ni ngumu…,” said Mr Gitau, adding: “Some men would come and find I am not occupied, but would rather wait in the queue to be served by the female barber; it scares me.”
Men interested in sex
It seems not all men visit shops run by female barbers for haircuts alone; some expect more ‘services’.
“I have encountered customers who don’t come for hair cut services; they usually sit and just stare at me. The courageous ones make advances. When I reject them, they go and try their luck elsewhere; I cannot compromise my dignity whatsoever,” said 24-year-old Beth Muthoni – a barber in Nairobi.
Mary Njoroge says some men mistake her career for that of a commercial sex worker.
“Most men do not understand that I am at work; they just want to take advantage of me. This is an office like any other. In their minds they think I’m at a barbershop to engage in prostitution; it’s not good!” stated Mary.
“When I refuse their advances, they leave while bitter. There are good customers who come primarily for hair cut services; however, those who target us sexually never come back once we reject their advances,” added the 25-year-old.
Ms Njoroge says some men adopt rather peculiar mechanisms to revenge their rejection.
“Sometimes they even go to our bosses and complain that we did a shoddy job on them; just to see that we are laid off – simply because I refused to sleep with them,” said Mary.
Mary also shared the demographic of men who give unwarranted sexual advances: “Most men who solicit for sex from us are elderly men who could easily pass for our fathers. It saddens me because they think we are in this job for lack of better opportunities. They should know it’s this work which raises my children’s school fees, pays my rent and clothes my family. We just need to be respected; especially those men who think we are an easy target to sleep with.”
David Chepkwony, 58, however differs with Mary’s demographic of the sex pests; he says: “Elderly men just come for hair cut; I think it’s the youth who hit on these women.”
Esther Kimani, 24, has also suffered sexual harassment by male clients.
“Sometimes when you are shaving a male client, he starts hitting on you; he forgets that he is married. Though, it’s not all clients,” said Esther.
“When I reject their advances, they stop coming to the barber shop; or even if they come, they’ll refuse to let me shave or wash their heads. They always want me to automatically accept them; that is not right,” she said, adding: “…at that time my mind is not even inclined on sleeping or getting into a relationship with them.”
Esther says this seduction by male clients at work often causes a strain in her relationship; especially if her man gets to know of the incidents.
“When advances by men get out of hand and I happen to inform my boyfriend, he sometimes gets furious and refuses to allow me to come to work.”
Nonetheless, she loves her job.
“I enjoy when someone comes in looking a bit ‘bushy’; for lack of better word, and leaves the facility sparkling. It fulfills me. This job is the best!” said Esther.
Mary Macharia, 26, has been a barber for three years, and recounts the incident of a man who opted to make promises – just to sleep with her.
“There’s a man who asked me to leave my job at the barbershop, promising to put up a new stall for me. I almost fell for it, but after deep thinking, I rejected the offer. I am not in this business to make money; I am doing it so that I be able to acquire the basic necessities,” said Ms Macharia.
“I rejected him, and he’s never come back; he just wanted to win, sleep with me – he wasn’t sincere,” she added.
Ms Macharia says she’s cautious not to fall for randy men’s tricks.
“I am sure if I fall for these men’s traps; I will be on the losing end. I have passed through a lot in life, but I will never compromise the respect I have for myself. I cannot be a prostitute.”