The Gender Justice Barbershop – an invitation for conversation

The Gender Justice Barbershop – an invitation for conversation

The barbershop has long been a place where men have gathered and talked, but a new wave of barbers are transforming the way men can have conversations.

RMIT University is committed to challenging outdated ideas and behaviours that contribute to gender inequality and violence. 

The University’s Gender, Equity and Justice project has hosted a series of pop-up barbershops with well-known local, The Streets barber Nasir Sobhani and most recently it’s final pop- up events with the internationally acclaimed barber and family violence survivor Matt Brown. 

Students were not only provided with quality fades and trims by Brown, who has cut everyone’s hair from the All Blacks to the Wu Tang Clan, but they also had the chance to hear his story as a survivor of family violence and childhood sexual abuse.

13 October 2022


Matt Brown (right) poses towards the camera with a student who has just had their hair cut Matt Brown (right) poses with a student at the barbershop. Source: Matt Houston Photography

Brown and his wife Sarah began the She Is Not Your Rehab movement in 2019 in New Zealand, asking men to step forward and take responsibility for their own healing instead of expecting it from others, especially women. 

Brown said he was honoured to hear the stories of students who came to the barbershop and encouraged them to continue having the conversations about issues that are impacting them and their relationships 

“We talked to a lot of young men today and so many of them don’t know how to have these conversations with their friends unless a beer is in front of them. Brown said.

"It’s awkward having these complicated conversations but they need to be normalised."

"Courage is born out of being vulnerable – to own your own story you need to be vulnerable because it hurts, and shame, pain and trauma do no not discriminate."

"One guy that sat in my chair, before we said anything else, said “I’m the violent one and I’m violent because my dad is violent to me and I take it out on my friends, my partners." And I said ok, let’s go.”

Nasir Sobhani, a barber, cuts a students hair. Nasir Sobhani (The Streets Barber) cuts a student's hair. Source: Matt Houston Photography

Shelley Hewson-Munro who leads the Gender Equity & Justice Project said the University wanted to provide students, especially students who identity as men, the chance to connect and engage on issues that impact them such as mental health and suicide, but also around men’s use of violence.   

She acknowledged the issues relating to gender inequality and violence are complex.

“We have some really hard-to-tackle issues in our communities that are connected to men’s use of violence, in all its forms. 95% of all victim survivors of violence (regardless of their gender), experience that violence from a male perpetrator."

“The so called one punch assaults, verbal and psychological abuse as norm on the sporting field, tech-facilitated abuse and online hate groups, family violence, sexual harm , violence due to someone’s sexual identity or race."

“This is our reality and it’s harming all of us."

“Men can be part of the solution here – it’s not about woke policing or forced agenda; who doesn’t want to feel safe and supported?"

Hewson-Munro said the Gender, Equity and Justice program also has a remit to explore and review how the University can improve its teaching and learning content so that it works towards national goals for equality and anti-violence, including the work, health and safety requirements for male dominated trades.


Story: Karen Phelan 

13 October 2022


  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

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RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.