The cost of being a woman

It’s expensive to be a woman. Women face economic disadvantages that reach into nearly every aspect of life. From the pink tax to the wage gap, it seems society doesn’t equally value women’s contributions but is more than happy to take their money.

The Cost of Being a Woman

It’s expensive to be a woman. Women face economic disadvantages that reach into nearly every aspect of life. From the pink tax to the wage gap, it seems society doesn’t equally value women’s contributions but is more than happy to take their money.

The pink tax, described as "the phenomenon whereby goods and services cost more for females than males for no good reason,” has been primarily discussed in relation to personal hygiene items. Razors, body wash, shampoo, deodorant, and perfumes have been found to cost more when marketed to women versus men, despite being apparently otherwise identical. 

This tax on female-coded goods isn’t entirely due to malice on part of retailers. In 2007, Michael Cone sued the United States government after discovering biased import tax codes. Shirts with buttons on the left (women’s) were taxed at a higher rate than shirts with buttons on the right. Men’s shoes were taxed at 8.5%, where women’s were 10%. In some cases, the bias can be traced all the way back to manufacturers. 

This is hardly the only tax disproportionately affecting women. The tampon tax, which campaigners have been attempting to end for years, still classifies menstrual hygiene products as a “luxury” in the UK, taxing them at 5%. Although in Britain the proceeds from the tampon tax are donated back to services that help women and girls, the fact remains that these taxes disproportionately hurt poor women, leading to period poverty.

Women are also nearly entirely responsible for the cost of contraceptives, which can be unfairly controlled by pharmacies. In 2017, Boots came under fire for refusing to live up to its promise of providing a cheaper version of the morning after pill, important emergency contraception. Although they did eventually make a more affordable option available in their stores, the damage was already done for hundreds of women. Reputable online stores, like Click Pharmacy, have been filling the gap where brick-and-mortar shops have failed, providing a judgement-free experience. 

The extra costs of being a woman don’t end in the shopping cart, though. Women still face a pay gap in the UK of 11.9%, a number largely driven by the “mommy tax”, or the punishment women face in the workforce when they become mothers. No such economic punishment exists for men, who actually appear to benefit in their career from having children. This pay gap will have massive impacts on a woman over the course of her career.

According to the LA Times, women are more likely to be denied a small business loan, quoted a higher price when buying a car or having it fixed, and face higher mortgage rates than their male counterparts. These higher mortgage rates or loan rejections can often be linked to lower credit scores, an obvious result of the myriad of economic forces working against women.

In this way, existing as a woman in capitalism is a vicious cycle. You will be paid less, charged more, suffer economic disadvantage, and then be charged more again because you’ve done poorly economically. Although each individual tax on being female may seem small, these disadvantages add up over a lifetime (especially since women live longer than men). Since finances are a major reason women in abusive relationships remain with their partner, economic disadvantage can have deadly consequences. Any attempts to achieve women’s liberation will necessarily involve tackling these issues.

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