Handsome Her, a new vegan café in Australia “by women for women,” has introduced a unique pricing scheme to tackle the issue of wage inequality. Male diners are charged “an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap,” a chalkboard by the door informs guests. Eighteen percent is how much lower the average Australian woman’s salary was in 2016, so owner Alex O’Brien decided that’d be an appropriate amount for her tax. “We’ve had this [pay discrepancy] for decades and decades, and we’re bringing it to the forefront of people’s minds,” she told Broadsheet. “I like that it is making men stop and question their privilege a little bit.”
The tax is actually one of three “House Rules” at Handsome Her; the other two are “women have priority seating” and “respect goes both ways.” It’s of course against Australian law to discriminate on the basis of sex or gender identity, so the tax is really just a suggestion anyway — “Men are asked if they want to pay the charge before being charged,” O’Brien explains.
She says the rules are largely tongue in cheek, and will only be in effect for one week per month anyway. This number doesn’t appear to carry any gender-disparity symbolism; it seems more just to help them avoid being actually accused of discrimination. Plenty of people online have jumped on the restaurant’s case regardless, but O’Brien says that in their first few days of business, there’s been “nothing but positivity from everyone, males and females,” and some men have even voluntarily taxed themselves at a higher rate.