Op-Ed: The 'Pink Tax' Has Women Anything But Tickled Pink

by Kratika Tandon

Tina Fey was right. Being a woman is the worst. From the cat-calls to the pay gap, from the mansplaining to the periods, from the oversexualization to the inherent inability to open tight jars-it just can’t get any worse than this. Right? Think again.

Introducing the pink tax: one that half of the population is subject to, yet most don’t even know of its existence. The pink tax is the practice of charging more on products marketed towards women than men. The phenomenon is attributed as a form of gender-based price discrimination, and the name comes from the observation that the products advertised for women are pink in color. Manufacturers claim that the price difference is a result of higher costs for producing women’s products/servicing for women, but there is an overwhelming amount of evidence that proves these claims are invalid since products are practically the same-just catered to different groups of people.

According to the Joint Economic Committee for US Congress, women pay roughly an extra $2,135 each year due to this price discrepancy, or 7% more for consumer goods than men. For women, it costs more in 30 out of 35 categories for products of equal value and quantity. As Sherry Baker, president of the organization that’s launched #AxThePinkTax states, “By the time a woman turns 30, she’s been robbed of $40,562 just for being a woman.

The DCA has found that products across most major categories are affected by the pink tax, from products catered to infants all the way to those for senior citizens, or as the study put it: “from cradle to cane.” On average, personal care products cost women over 13% more, with lotion and razors costing 11% more than the equivalent “for men” and shampoo costing over 48% more. Women’s shirts cost 25% than men’s shirts, sweaters 20% more, jeans 10% more, and the list goes on. As Vox notes “The problem is that, for the most part, this is completely legal. Some states ban charging women more for services (like haircuts or dry cleaning). But consumer goods are still fair game. Ultimately, society expects women to look a certain way. And that way is just more expensive.”

But what about the added cost of functions women can’t control? Monthly periods cost a whole lot more than just the pain of menstrual cramps. From sanitary products to pain relievers to birth control, the costs add up and Aunt Flo is one high-maintenance lady. According to HuffPost, the total cost of a period in a woman’s lifetime is $18,171. Paying for sanitary products is a first world problem, but not all women live in the first world. Lack of access to menstrual products is a very real problem for women in less developed countries. UNICEF estimates that 10% of African girls miss school during their periods. Period poverty negatively affects the life opportunities of women and girls everywhere. (For more information and ways how you can help, visit this website.

So what can women do to avoid this tax? The first and foremost step is to understand what products are overpriced. The difference between female- and male-targeted products often can be found in the packaging, design, or formulas used. Many times, products for both sexes are practically identical, all the way down to the ingredients with the only slight difference being scent or color. In other instances, there’s no exception other than the name on the label. Being aware of where such price discrepancies fall can help you make sure you don’t fall prey to them. To further avoid this problem, you can buy products that are targeted towards men or simply gender-neutral. For example, men’s razors work just as well or often even better than women’s razors, giving you a bigger bang for your buck than your average one-use disposable pink razor. You can also invest in bath products for men (such as body wash and sometimes even deodorant) and if you don’t want to “smell like a man,” you can always opt for the more unscented products. Being a mindful consumer and aware of purchases made can help you avoid this pesky tax.

However, these are only a few small steps we have to take on the long road to equality. By doing so, although women are dodging these extra expenses, the price discrepancy is still there. Here’s what these female trailblazers are doing to fight back. As previously mentioned, the organization European Wax Center has recently created a movement led by the tag #AxThePinkTax. (Check out their website: https://axthepinktax.com/#intro !!). The organization is leading this effort with the initiative of raising awareness of this unjust gender price discrimination. According to Forbes of March 19, 2019, more direct efforts such as those of Nitasha Mehta’s, Director of the Online Marketing Board at online retailer company Boxed, have made a big impact. After doing her own research on the pink tax in 2016, Mehta decided to take a stand and pitch her ideas to the (male) cofounders of the company which eventually led to a series of initiatives in order to tackle this inequality. After two years of launching the initiative, Boxed has saved their customers over 1 million dollars but still remain the only US retailer taking a stand on this issue. The company knows that there is still a long way to go, and Mehta has actually been on the road testifying in state assemblies and legislatures to convince states to change their laws. In other news, she’s also partnered with California State Representative Jackie Spier on her Pink Tax Repeal Act. Based on a press release from her own page, on April 3, 2019, Congresswoman Spier, who has been pushing for a bill to end such price discrepancies for over a decade now, reintroduced H.R. 2048: The Pink Tax Repeal Act. This is a bipartisan bill with 50 cosponsors and will end gender-based discrimination in the pricing of goods and services by allowing the Federal Trade Commission to enforce violations.

This price inequality is inherently unjust, but with small steps being made by individuals like us and raising awareness by spreading the word, we can make an impact and make this movement gain support from those in power. We still have a long way to go, but recent progress has been incredibly promising and holds hope for the future.