Cafe 'man tax' ignites social media fury
A sign lists the 'house rules' at Handsome Her cafe in Melbourne, Australia. (Paige Cardona / Twitter)
Published Monday, August 7, 2017 1:01PM EDT
A feminist vegan cafe in Australia has triggered a war of the sexes on social media with a so-called “man tax,” which the proprietors say is meant to highlight the gender pay gap.
The newly-opened Handsome Her cafe touts itself as a place “by women, for women,” with three simple rules meant to enforce equality. Those rules include respecting one another, granting priority seating to women and, most controversially, an 18 per cent surcharge on all transactions for male customers.
“Men will be charged an 18 per cent premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a women’s service,” says Rule #2 on a chalkboard at the cafe.
The surcharge set off a deluge of responses on social media. Women came out largely in favour of the “man tax,” while many men were vehemently against it for not being “equal” enough. However, the issue wasn't entirely split down the middle, as many women suggested the tax may have gone "too far," while some men acknowledged that it's a small price to pay to call attention to the wage gap.
Vegan Cafe in Melb. 18% man tax and priority for women. To promote gender equality by practicing inequality?? #PMLive— Brian Harris (@booshyharris) August 7, 2017
Thought that DISCRIMINATION BASED ON GENDER WAS I L L E G A L— JackRabbitt (@JackRabbittextr) August 7, 2017
I think if you want to fight for equality then surely treating everyone the same is the way to go— Leroy Brown (@LeighroyH) August 3, 2017
If it was the other way around there would be riots in the streets!!!— 7th Panzer Division (@CroPanzerKama) August 3, 2017
Highlighting wage gap in a very tangible wayand creating spaces for and by women As long as it's trans inclusive it sounds great ❤️— Margot Fink (@margot_fink) August 3, 2017
Not a fan. Whilst appreciate highlighting the issue of pay, creating an us and them is divisive. Flip this, and Twitter is in flames.— Pauloncè (@PJS_84) August 3, 2017
My thoughts are that whilst there are lots of positives around the cafe, that it does go a bridge too far, boardering on discrimination.— Paige Cardona (@paigecardona) August 3, 2017
love it! Spaces for ladies is always great and highlighting the pay gap like this is harder for people to ignore.— Fiona Cannon (@FiCan) August 3, 2017
Cafe owner Alex O’Brien said in a recent Facebook post that she’s shocked by the response the rule has generated since Handsome Her opened last week.
“Who would have thought one little chalkboard would cause such a stir?” she wrote in a Facebook post on Sunday.
She says the local response has been overwhelming, with many women and girls thanking her for offering them a welcoming place where they can enjoy a coffee and peruse the various female-friendly goods, such as the “vulva stones” and “period sticker packs” for sale at the front counter.
Many “woke” gentlemen have also turned out to pay a little more for a good cause. “We’ve had men travel across town to visit us and pay ‘the man tax’ and throw some extra in the donation jar,” O’Brien wrote. “Guys, you’re pretty neat.”
O’Brien also hailed her staff in the Facebook post. “It’s not every day that your boss pulls you into her fire-pit of feminism and you have to quickly become warriors and defend where you work and what you do on a level that others never do,” she said.
There are a lot of comments on the cafe’s Facebook page, though most of them have been hidden. O’Brien says she’s hidden a lot of the comments on her latest post because of all the “love letters” she’s been getting.
“We’re too busy actually running HH to keep an eye on social media,” she wrote.