Yesterday I went out to do some errands.  It wound up being more stressful than it had any right to be.

One of the errands was dropping off Jill’s shirts at the cleaners to be laundered, pressed and put on hangers.  Now, I have been doing this every week for months at this particular place.  But this time, as I was doing this simple and routine thing, the clerk said, OK so you have seven men’s shirts.  I said, without a thought, Haha, no, these are my wife’s.

Everything stopped.

The ticket being written was discarded and a new ticket came out, changing “shirts” to “blouses.”  And doubling the price.  Now the “Pink Tax” is not new news to me, nor is the quality gap between men’s and women’s clothing.  But – for laundering?  The work is the same regardless of the gender of the garment’s owner… right!?

I did not take this well.  OK, it freaked me out.  I may have given out that this establishment was not up for any more of my business.  Word of my possibly noisy exit reached the proprietor, who called me later.  She explained that their shirt laundry service provider had recently automated the process of cleaning men’s shirts: the new process requires the shirts sent through it to button left over right.  So, of course, they held the prices steady on those and doubled the price of the ones that require the old-fashioned manual work.  A process that is not directionally-challenged.  Complicating this conversation was the fact that the majority of Jill’s shirts do indeed button left over right; Jill has been buying men’s shirts to wear to work a long time ago because they are better-made and cheaper.

Unpacking this incident, I’m not a big fan of what it says about the state of gender equality in the workplace.  The fact that the laundry service found it worthwhile to automate cleaning dress shirts using a method that excludes shirts designed for women speaks to the fact that they are not getting enough business from women needing dress shirts to go to work in.