The Handsome Her: Flirting with Inequality

In August 2017 a vegan cafe was opened in Melbourne, Australia by Alex O’Brien that charges men more than women.1 There is some hypocrisy in how the cafe, called the Handsome Her, is operated. The goal of the cafe’s optional 18% “man tax” was to raise awareness for the gender pay gap and provoke a conversation about the issue, most likely with the ultimate goal of leading to equality.2

handsomeherimage

The goal of equality complicates things for the Handsome Her. Alex O’Brien is concerned about gender discrimination in the workplace, yet the cafe only hires female employees.3 When dining in the cafe, women receive priority seating. These practices by the Handsome Her are more problematic than the optional price increase for men, which is only for one week every month and used to collect money for various women’s charities.

Because most of the discussion about Handsome Her revolves around the price hike, the wage gap needs to be addressed. In America, the UK, and Australia, most of the wage gap is eliminated when men and women in the same position with the same credentials are compared.4 Studies have found that there is still a small percentage of the wage gap that is unaccounted for. However, it is illegal for employers to have discriminatory wages and pay either men more than women or vice versa in these countries. Therefore, it stands to reason that in most cases the rest of the gap is not due to discrimination in the workplace, though it could be due to lingering sexism in society.5 For example, women might be encouraged from a young age to pursue a career with a lower overall pay rate. Additionally, more women work part time, choose to not work overtime if they do work full time, or generally work less to spend more time with their families.6 The wage gap is not entirely a myth, but it is misused and misconstrued when people use it as a generality.

Interestingly, if single women in their thirties are compared to single men in their thirties with the same credentials and experience the women frequently make more money.7 The same is true of blacks compared to whites.8 The racial wage gap has the same stipulations and myths as the gender wage gap.

When I first encountered this story back in August I only read the headline, something along the lines of “Cafe Charges Men More Than Women to Address Gender Pay Gap.” I thought to myself that I would never eat there, because I disagree with the political stand that Alex O’Brien is taking. Because I can choose where and with who I do business, if I disagree with someone’s politics I can take my business elsewhere. I will say that it is admirable that they’re donating the proceeds from the pay hike to women’s charities, but there is a better way they could have done this. For example, instead of targeting the gender pay gap, they could have asked people to tip and donated the tips to their chosen charity.

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  1. Sam Duncan, “Cafe charges men more than women and gives female customers priority seating ‘to address the gender pay gap’” (Dailymail, August 4, 2017); Julla Jones, “Cafe charges men 18% ‘gender tax’ to highlight pay gap” (CNN, August 8, 2017).
  2. Ibid.
  3. Tyler Durden, “Cafe Brags That It Discriminates Against Men” (Zero Hedge, August 7, 2017); Jones, “Cafe charges men 18% ‘gender tax’ to highlight pay gap.”
  4. Steven Horwitz, “Truth and Myth on the Gender Pay Gap” (Fee, March 30, 2017).
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid; Thomas Sowell, “The Pay Gap Myth and Other Lies that Won’t Die” (National Review, August 9, 2016).
  7. Sowell, “The Pay Gap Myth and Other Lies that Won’t Die.”
  8. Ibid.
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