Being Male in a Female Industry

Despite the recent economic downturn, and the assumption that people have less money to spend on ‘luxury’ activities, there is no doubt that the beauty industry is still booming and highly in demand. In Cardiff, there are plenty of beauty salons scattered around the city, new and old, suggesting that this industry isn’t going anywhere fast.

Everything about this industry is stereotypically female. It’s aimed at females, with the service provided by females, and mostly females aspiring to become part of the industry, and studying the subject in college etc. Because of this, when you find a male that works in the industry, you can’t help but think that it’s a little odd and unusual.

David Vu, 21, Cardiff, works at American Best Nails in Canton, Cardiff. Here he is a fully trained nail technician where he works alongside his mother, Sally, and a family friend.

In Vietnam, where the family are originally from, there is a lot less stigma around men being part of the beauty industry, meaning that David’s parents see no issues with working in this industry. As a first generation immigrant, who was brought up in Britain, David sees a lot more of the assumptions that comes with being male in this industry.

When asked if he had ever faced any prejudices, he said, “People often would rather my mum do their nails than me, ’cause they think that I’ll be heavy-handed and messy. It doesn’t help that I’m young, people don’t trust me to do a good job and think I’m unexperienced when I’ve been fully trained for over a year.” This, to me, is an interesting aspect of gender discrimination – you rarely hear of men being discriminated against, but it seems this female dominated industry has little room for men.

He also stated that “it’s embarrassing to tell people that I work in a nail salon, especially to people who already know me, but don’t know that I work there. They’re always like ‘you do nails?!’. Strangers often judge me and assume that I’m either gay because it’s such a feminine thing to do, or that I actually really want to be there – when the truth is I don’t. It’s just something I fell into.” Men who are feminine, or who work in feminine industries are often considered to be homosexual – why is this? Women who work in male dominated industries, such as mechanical engineering, don’t tend to get tarred with this brush. It seems that the discrimination is worse in this industry for straight men.

When I asked if he thinks this stigma will ever change, he said “I don’t think it will. You’ll never see a little boy growing up to say I want to do nails – it just doesn’t go. With my stepdad, as he’s an immigrant, there’s nothing else that he can really do which seems to get rid of the stigma. Because English isn’t their first language, it makes any other job impossible. But it’s different for me, I’m very aware of the stigmas that come with working in this industry.”

Overall, this interview has given a somewhat bleak look at this industry from a males point of view. Why, in 2014, are people still stigmatised based purely on their occupation? It’s interesting to hear about discrimination towards a male rather than a female – it’s often unspoken of and rarely heard about. It definitely opens your eyes to industries that often go unthought of and raises the question of equality – while their tends to be a focus on women, there is still a little way to go for men as well. 

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