Women pay more with an invisible Pink Tax

by | Jul 1, 2016

Women are ripped off with a Pink Tax

From razors to deodorant and even health insurance, women are often targeted by the pink tax where they pay more for similar, or identical products to men.

Pink tax

Women ripped off by a pink tax

Research shows that women in the US are estimated to spend $1,351 more than men on everyday products due to the pricing differences depending on the gender they are aimed at. This doesn’t include products like tampons and cosmetics which are already an extra cost that women face. Even though we are protected from discrimination on grounds of gender when it comes to housing and employment, there is little to no legislation that prevents companies charging different prices for goods and services depending on your gender. The pink tax is another way of ripping women off. [Tweet "Gender based pricing is everywhere."]

What sort of items are affected by the pink tax, and how do companies justify this?

Razors – not such a close shave

Women’s body hair has been a widely discussed issue in recent years, with some women campaigning to reclaim our natural selves and ditch the blades. However a majority of western women will still shave regularly. Even though razors have only been marketed to women since 1915 (beards and sleeveless dresses were in fashion so as the sales to men declined, manufacturers began advertising to women how much more ‘hygienic’ and ‘attractive’ hairless underarms were) most razor companies now carry separate styles for men and women, the former advertised as 'strong and sharp' with the later being touted as 'gentle and moisturising'. Here’s an example from the brand Schick (in 2015):

pink taxHydro Silk razor for women: $9.97

Hydro 5 for men: $8.56

Price difference: $1.41

Manufacturers have justified this mark up by saying women need different handles and blades to deal with the ‘shower acrobatics’ involved in shaving legs whereas men need a closer shave on their face (even though Gillette boasted that all its razors used the same blades).

What’s been harder to explain is why women’s shaving cream costs more than men’s when the ingredient lists are identical (particularly in non-scented product’s).

Deodorant – you’ve got to sweat the small stuff

Cosmetic companies continue to perpetuate the idea that men and women have vastly different types of skin, and therefore need different products. Now everybody has different skin needs, it may be oily, dry, prone to breakouts etc., but beyond these differences there is little to no evidence that your gender affects these needs, yet these price differences extend to something as simple as deodorant – isn’t all sweat the same? Some companies have argued that women have more sensitive skin and that justifies the price difference, and yet many of the ingredient lists are identical on ‘for men’ and ‘for women’ products.

Degree Stick Deodorant for women: $6.79

Degree Stick deodorant for men: $4.39

Price difference: $2.40

(Even though the women’s deodorant stick is 4% smaller)

Above are just two in-depth examples but this price discrepancy applies to face cream, shampoo, body lotion and even bars of soap. Many companies will argue that different body and skin needs justify these differences, so how to we explain the price difference when it comes to services?

A raw deal for women?

If it wasn’t enough to pay more for basic products, women also suffer higher costs for everyday services.

[Tweet "On average there is a 60% difference between the cost of laundering a mans shirt and a woman’s,"] even though the garments are intrinsically they same. Women’s basic clothes cost more (the same white t-shirt from Hanes was $8 from the men’s section but $10 for women) even though they had identical specifications and fit. Just to purchase and have a t-shirt washed women are already around $3 out of pocket over their male counterparts.

Calculated over a year these small differences could equate to $1,300 from the figures above.

[Tweet "When it comes to health insurance women can expect to pay around 45% more"] (justified solely by the fact that we tend to live longer than men) and around $300 more than men when it comes to car repairs (often because it is assumed that women do not have an intrinsic knowledge of cars and won’t know exactly what repairs are needed). Read: Women and car repairs - avoid getting ripped off 

Not in our heads

There is a huge price difference for men’s and women’s haircut’s too: now obviously women tend to have more complicated work done and the skill of a barber and hairdresser are very different but it seems that even if you want the same haircut as a man you could well be forced to still go to an expensive salon, which was the experience of a female who claimed she has been sexually discriminated against after being refused a haircut in a Weymouth barbers.

The average white American woman earns 77 cent to ever mans 1 dollar . WomenOfColorWageGap_webfig1This drops to 63 cent and 55 cent for black and Hispanic women respectively.) Not only are we taking the brunt of the gender wage gap but we are also allowing companies and businesses to rip us off even further. Many women find they have less disposable income than men in their lives even if they have similar living costs which has a long term effect on their spending power. Read: 5 mistakes to avoid when negotiating your salary

How do we stop this?

  • Petition and write to the brands you love, encourage them to remove any biased pricing and even to release more gender neutral products. Even ask them for a break down or transparency on why there is a price difference in the first place; it might get them thinking.
  • Don’t fall for the packaging. Compare the options given to men with your usual products; do they seem similar? Is the ingredients list identical? Then give the male version a try – you’ll probably find its just as good and save yourself some money. Also support brands that already have matched pricings across gendered products (American Apparel is one example.)
  • Shop around for services and deal. Companies rely on women doing less research than men so we’re more likely to pay a higher price, so check out all the laundrettes/hairdressers in your area rather than the nearest one and try to find one with a fairer price list. Ask for a quote on care repairs and talk it over with someone with more auto-knowledge or look it up online before agreeing to the price.

If we already have to pay VAT and over the odds for sanitary products, it's about time companies stopped exploiting women’s pockets. Lets stand up to the pink tax, one purchase at a time.

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Esther Myers Contributor
Esther Myers is a Drama graduate who teaches children with disabilities and is heavily involved in women’s rights movements. She lives in London but often travels back to Yorkshire to see family and friends. She enjoys going to the theatre, being involved in feminist forums and Motown music. She works in a pub part time and wants to write about work and online issues facing modern women, as well as about intersectional issues.

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