Gather round, you brilliant budgeting baby bears, while I ‘splain you one of the greatest economic injustices known to womankind. Yes, once again sexism is rearing its ugly head and unnecessarily cocking up our financial goals. Try not to act so surprised.
Did you know that women pay more for imported products than men do? How about personal hygiene and self care products? Healthcare? Dry cleaning? It’s true, and this cost discrepancy is known as the Pink Tax.
What is the Pink Tax?
The Pink Tax is the fancy nomenclature we use to refer to the phenomenon that women pay more for certain goods and services than men pay for virtually identical goods and services. In fact, Consumer Reports has found that womanly products—you know, those packaged in pink, named something flowery, and scented like cotton candy and happiness—can cost up to 50% more than the versions of those products marketed to men instead.
It’s almost as if there’s a tax on being a woman. A Pink Tax, if you will. (Because women’s products are overwhelmingly packaged in pink, not because pink is inherently feminine or anything. Boys can wear pink too. We’re not about to enforce societal gender norms here at Bitches Get Riches.)
What’s affected by the Pink Tax? Everything from personal hygiene products like shampoo and deodorant, to medicine like pain relievers, to services like dry cleaning, car maintenance, and hair cuts, according to a study by the University of Central Florida. Even more insidiously, import tariffs are higher for women’s products than for men’s. See, for example, lawyer Michael Cone’s fight to figure out why men’s imported sneakers are taxed at 8.5% while women’s are taxed at a whopping 10%. And it all starts at childhood: kids’ toys cost more when they’re pink than when they’re blue, which is quite literally a tax on the color pink.
Look! There’s even a whole Tumblr dedicated to documenting this injustice. And you know if something’s a Tumblr, it’s legit.
Sure, a dollar here and there tacked on to your weekly foraging errands doesn’t seem so bad. But it fucking adds up. According to Forbes, the unnecessary price gouging of gendered products costs women about $1,400 per year. That’s $1,400 per year womanly types could be socking away to save up for a down payment on a house, or putting toward their student loan debt, or using for Very Important Stuff, like cute holiday outfits for their dogs!
But instead it’s spent on the luxury of pink razorblades and deodorant that mercifully doesn’t smell like “Bearglove,” whatever the fuck that is, Old Spice.
Why is the Pink Tax a thing?
I mean, there are definitely some products and services women feel they need that men just don’t: gynecological appointments, cosmetics, certain hair products, waxing, etc. (Though if you’re a fabulous member of the male gender and you feel like treating yourself to some baller winged falsies, shimmery lip gloss, or peep-toe pumps, let nothing—least of all societally accepted gender norms—stand in your way!)
But that logic falls apart when you realize that there are some things that all humans need, regardless of their gender identity. Shampoo, deodorant, soap, hair cuts: these are the products that disproportionately fall victim to the horrors of the Pink Tax.
The simplest explanation would be that it just costs more to make women’s products than it does to make their masculine versions (so stop whining, you high-maintenance harpies). Which is probably why, when questioned by Consumer Reports, a bunch of manufacturers totally went with that excuse. Except not-even-very-close analysis revealed that for one manufacturer of antiperspirants who claimed, “They are completely different formulations,” the two gendered products were made with the exact same percentages of the exact same ingredients. So I’m calling bullshit.
Similarly, Consumer Reports found that Walgreens priced Excedrin Complete Menstrual (a product name that might make women think, “This must be specific to menstrual cramps, which are a horrible part of my life that I neither asked for nor want! I should buy this instead of the kind that doesn’t have the word ‘menstrual’ on the bottle”) 50 cents higher than Excedrin Extra Strength (a product men would naturally eat like candy because EXTRA and STRENGTH), even though both contained the exact same ingredients in the exact same quantities. If, blinded by the nausea and pain of menstrual cramps, you weren’t looking too closely, it would be really fucking easy to just grab the over-priced, Special Blood-in-the-Panties Edition of the drug instead of saving yourself some money by throwing gender considerations to the wind.
So if they’re basically the same products, just packaged in pink and smelling of daffodils rather than “Krakengard” (seriously, Old Spice?), then there really is no legitimate reason to price them differently, is there?
Unless you consider blatant fucking sexism to be a legitimate reason, of course.
The evidence, ladies and gentlemen of the jury
But did I just trust the studies of people smarter than me who have spent decades researching this capitalist phenomenon? Nay! I hit the pavement to see for myself what this supposed Pink Tax was all about.
How I wish I could hide you from the proof, dear reader. I wish I could shield your innocent eyes from this ugly world in which women pay top dollar to smell like Japanese cherry blossoms while men get a discount for smelling like “Wolfthorn” (OH COME ON).
Alas, I have a duty to my beloved readers. Feast your eyes upon this gross miscarriage of pricing.
I went to my local supermarket to find the glaring truth of the Pink Tax staring me in the eyes. As you can see, Degree deodorant for women is priced at $4.27 while the men’s version is priced at $2.49. That’s a difference of $1.78 for the privilege of smelling conventionally feminine.
And my local dry cleaner? They charge $9 for men’s button-up dress shirts and $10 for women’s. Which, like… why??? I asked my hairstylist friend (the one I friend-trade babysitting for hair cuts with) how much she charges for women versus men. It was a difference of about $30 in men’s favor. All of which was really demoralizing. I’ve been losing money on dumb life-maintaining errands.
Alas, is there any escape from the wicked, Beargloved hand of the patriarchy?
What can we do?
Currently, there are no federal laws banning gender discrimination in the sale of goods and services. Efforts to sue the government based on the whole import tariffs thing have been unsuccessful. The Pink Tax Repeal Act has seemingly gone nowhere so far. So as usual, we lady types are unlikely to get help in the form of government regulations.
But we’ve been working on the problem of sexism for decades, if not centuries by now, so if this isn’t my hill to die on then I DON’T KNOW WHAT IS.
Shopping in the men’s section is of course an option. One feminist did so, with hilarious results. Personally, I’d rather not smell like “Hawkridge Wild Collection,” (I can’t even, Old Spice, I CAN’T EVEN) but sacrifices must be made in the name of the matriarchy.
Or you could seek out brands that don’t have a price difference between their gendered products. That would require a little legwork, but you ain’t afraid of no research, are you? Even better, there’s this new thing called the EDGE Certification, which is basically a consumerist Seal of Feminism. Any products sporting the EDGE Certification are making a conscious effort not to discriminate in their pricing or quality between the genders.
We could also actively boycott the most egregious offenders. Show them that we will have gender equality in our morning ablutions, or nothing at all! Lead a smelly feminist revolution! I, for one, am all about encouraging companies to believe there is a power-lady cabal out there that they need to placate and target with their marketing and pricing if they hope to be profitable.
Or I could just learn to love smelling like “Bearglove” and call it a day. I think I’ll try that.