Filmgoers were charged more because they were white men
Laura Melczer // Contributor
A recent documentary viewing in a theatre in Victoria, BC turned controversial when white men were charged more to get in. The event, organized by the group involved with the movie and not the theatre itself, called this new pricing policy “justice pricing.”
White men were charged $15 while members of other racial and gender groups were charged $10. Differences in the ticket price were to bring focus to the higher wages white men earn compared to their counterparts. White men still earn significantly higher wages than anyone else in many workplaces and positions across the country.
The event organizers and filmmaker Shiraz Higgins felt this was an opportunity to push forward “an important piece of overall conversation that is happening in society right now.” However, while it is important to raise awareness about income disparity, the justice pricing idea raises more problems than it solves.
Now, it’s true that women and people of colour often get paid less, and there are higher costs associated with being a woman. Women often have to spend higher amounts on toiletries, haircuts and clothes than men, even when the products are virtually the same. Higher costs aren’t limited to a woman’s outward appearance either. Women have higher health care rates due to old sexist policies. Even the monthly period products most women have to purchase add up to a large cost many men don’t need to think about.
People of colour face similar problems, dealing with deep-rooted discrimination and paying more for basic products required for a good standard of living. With minorities earning a lower income and dealing with higher costs to have the same quality of life as men, there needs to be a focus on how to even out wages and economic power.
But (and this is a big but), the solution isn’t to force one group to pay more than others. The justice pricing idea doesn’t take into account that there are many more factors that go into the money in a person’s pocket.
Income inequality will not be magically resolved by charging people differently based on the colour of their skin or what gender they identify with. Also, justice pricing depends solely on those who create the price to pass snap judgments on people. This “system” creates checkboxes that people don’t necessarily t into. To have a fair or unbiased pricing system is more difficult than this model would have us believe.
While statistically speaking white men make more than all other social groups, it doesn’t mean that every white man makes more than everyone else. Just as not every black or Hispanic woman makes the lowest wage. Oprah is one of the highest paid people in the world, making many times more than the average white man. There are always going to be variations of income and demographics. Charging an entire group an increased price is – surprise – not the same as changing the economic system.
True, white men have enjoyed economic privilege all through history and up to the present. While we should be working to change the economic power and wealth distribution, it’s a more intricate problem than the creators of justice pricing suggest.
Instead of justice pricing, people should pay on a sliding scale. That way, people can pay what they are able based on their economic status instead of a well-meaning, (but ultimately harmful), pricing discrimination system. Unless the event staff of this documentary know how to change our current economic system, there can’t be true “justice” until we all can pay the price— equally.