Handsome Her. Ever heard of it? Probably not. It’s a feminist vegan restaurant in Melbourne Australia. I know, I know. I didn’t realize feminist restaurants were a thing either.
One week out of the month, the restaurant gives men the option of paying an 18% tax. You know. To demonstrate the shoddy gender wage gap myth. In other words, men are asked to pay a “man tax” for simply existing.
I guess it didn’t work out long term, because they shut their doors for good earlier this month, although there’s no indication that the restaurant’s closing had anything to do with the optional man tax itself. I don’t see how that could possibly be good for business, though.
It’s been a wild journey to say the least. When we opened Handsome Her in 2017, we expected that perhaps we might make a stir through our brazen public discussions of structural inequality and oppression. The man tax blew up the internet, an idea that we didn’t think was all too radical, yet the way the world responded showed us how fragile masculinity is and solidified the necessity for us to confront and dismantle patriarchy. We were just one little tiny shop on Sydney Rd that was trying to carve out a swathe of space to prioritise women and women’s issues, and suddenly we became the punching bag of Melbourne and the internet. Yes, we are the evil, discriminatory, man-hating dykes who charge men more when didn’t you know the wage gap doesn’t even exist!? Meanwhile gentlemen’s social clubs live on and strong around Melbourne and the world over…
We tried to demonstrate ways of doing business more ethically and responsibly by abandoning take-away cups, single use straws and napkins, by shopping locally and supporting women owned businesses. We donated to charities and encouraged community groups to use our space and our platform to elevate their voices. We have been proud to host an array of inspirational causes and events such as Reclaim the Night, One Girl, V-Day, Invasion Day, Sea Shepherd, Waste-free living workshops, discussion nights, film screenings, book launches, the list goes on.
When we learned that it wasn’t only men’s rights activists targeting us, yet people from within our own communities, we encouraged respectful and robust debate (as those of you who attend our Queer Conversations nights will know). We encouraged a range of diverse opinions from all intersections of society and insisted that people critique their inner fear of conflict with inquisitiveness and openness, rather than hostility. We do not believe in the age-old practice of silencing women as a way of stifling debate and avoiding conflict.
They added, “…While it is a shame to lose the physical space (and we understand how essential it is for women and lesbians to hold space), we leave knowing that the communities we have made transcend the trendy vegan café on Sydney Rd, Brunswick. We look forward to continuing Handsome Her in a variety of other, more creative ways and expanding our efforts to drive change with flexibility and mobility throughout Australia.”
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m not interested in getting a lecture on feminism at a restaurant. I just want good food.
I guess we’ll never know the exact reason they chose to shut the place down, but I can’t help but wonder if their entire anti-man approach had anything to do with it.