An Australian Feminist Cafe Found a Brilliant Way to Subvert the Gender Pay Gap

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A café in Melbourne, Australia, has caused quite a stir for its attempts to draw attention to the gender pay gap.


Handsome Her is an unabashedly feminist café which features a “Wall of Dames,” vulva stones and period sticker packs, and an additional 18% premium for its male customers.

Why the man-tax? As Handsome Her’s billboard explains, “Men will be charged an 18% premium to reflect the gender pay gap (2016) which is donated to a woman’s service.”


The café also makes it explicit that it’s a space “by women, for women” and that women will be given priority seating.

As one might expect, the concept has drawn a number of reactions, from people crying discrimination (which is kind of the point but, ah well), to others saying they support equal pay but find the café’s rules divisive (which, again, is the point.)

But the café’s manager, Belle Ngien, says those who don’t agree with the restaurant’s rules are free to go elsewhere. In fact, she told CNN that Handsome Her’s patrons have all responded positively to the “tax,” and no one has declined to pay the extra 18%.


From CNN:

No one has declined paying the extra 18%, [Ngien] said. In fact, a few customers — men and women — have donated more. “Eighteen percent is actually not a lot. Our coffee is $4, and 18% of that is 72 cents,” Ngien said.

Indeed, men have come from across town to support the cause, owner Alex O’Brien said in a Facebook post.

“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, adding, “Guys, you’re pretty neat.”


You could start virtually the same café—with the nearly the exact same premium—in the U.S. American men earn roughly 17% more than their female counterparts. But that number varies depending on age and race. Male workers between the age of 25–35 now only make 10% more than women of the same age. But black women in the U.S. still make only 63 cents to a white man’s dollar (compared to 75 cents for white women, and 85 cents for Asian women).

Meanwhile, at Handsome Her, the donations are not only fueling conversation around the payback, they’ll be supporting the Elizabeth Morgan House Aboriginal Women’s Service, a non-profit that supports aboriginal women and their families who have been victims of domestic violence.

Staff writer, The Root.