Pink Tax: The discriminative cost of being a woman

BY Mia Williams

2nd Aug 2023 Wellbeing

Pink Tax: The discriminative cost of being a woman
Why are women paying more for the same products as men? Mia Williams explores the disturbing phenomenon of the so-called Pink Tax
Men and women buy the same day-to-day products; shampoo, razors, the list is extensive. But have you ever noticed products marketed at women are more expensive? The "pink tax" isn’t an actual government tax, but when women are paying up to 32 per cent more than men for the same things, do the fundamentals really change?  
This hidden and oppressive tax has been around for as long as manufacturing has existed, and long-term, it’s adding to the never-ending list of things making the life of a woman more expensive. Not to mention the rising costs of period products; discriminatory pricing continuously chips away at women’s purchasing power.

Pink tax and cost of living 

Women’s rights and period poverty campaigner, Molly Fenton, said: “Through the cost-of-living crisis we’ve all been looking at aspects of our lives to make things easier. I use men’s razors; they work so much better and they’re so much cheaper. It’s exploitative to get women to pay more, usually for less than the male equivalent, and to advertise the same products in a varied way.”
"The pink tax is one of the contributing factors as to why it is harder for women to accumulate savings"
The pink tax is one of the contributing factors as to why it is harder for women to accumulate savings, as well as the gender pay gap

Price disparity from an early age 

The price disparity affecting girls and women starts at an early age, with toys branded “pink” costing more than those branded “blue”, clearly targeted at boys. The cost difference on more basic products may appear relatively insignificant, but over a lifetime of forking out more, it adds up. 
Pink tax on razors
Let’s look at some examples: 
Gillette disposable razors (per razor)  
For men: £0.28 
For women: £0.55 
Haircut (on average) 
For men: £12.17 
For women: £31.99 
Levis jeans 
For men: £80 
For women: £100 
Prices based upon 2021 studies, worked out on averages.
The even more notable point to bear in mind, is that the price of these products is set by the retailers, so it’s definitely worth shopping around for the weekly essentials
Manufacturing companies attempt to justify the outrageous, secret tax by suggesting that female products have more expensive formulas, fancier packaging, and more complex fragrances. Realistically? This is total nonsense.

Changes in law in California 

Interestingly, in California, it was made illegal this year to charge more for essential products that were pink, or targeted at women. The new law prohibits “charging a different price for any two goods that are substantially similar, if those goods are priced differently based on the gender of the individuals for whom the goods are marketed and intended.”
"In California, it was made illegal this year to charge more for essential products that were pink"
Although a tough law to enforce, it’s definitely a step in the right direction, and a lot more than what has been done in the UK.

Abolishment of the "tampon tax"

In 2020, the Houses of Parliament released a statement saying, “This House highlights that it is unacceptable that in 2020, women and girls pay more than men for basic products, including toiletries, clothes and haircuts.” 
Period products - pink tax
Following on from this, the tampon tax, which classed essential period products as “luxury items”, was abolished. But research suggests that despite this, the average female will still stomach £18,450 worth of spending on their period, throughout their lifetime.  
Molly said, “Up until recently we were taxed on period products because they were a ‘luxury’ item, but male razors, condoms and even Jaffa cakes didn’t fall under the same category. I’ve seen lots of hype online at the moment about ‘feminax’ and ‘period painkillers’ which are actually just expensive ibuprofen in a pink packet. I struggle as a women’s rights campaigner to get my head around it, and to understand why it’s still allowed in 2023.”

What to do to tackle discriminative costs 

What can we do to take control of these discriminative costs? There are a few things. 
If it doesn’t make too much of a difference (maybe the packaging looks slightly less feminine, but the product is still the same) switch up to the cheaper alternative. Make the women around you aware of price differences attached to gendered essentials. You might be saving them up to £1,000 a year!
"Make the women around you aware of price differences attached to gendered essentials"
Not only are women paying more for their essentials than men, they’re also far more likely to purchase more of them, thanks to societal expectations. The media and advertising are partly responsible for the imposed physical standards that women feel the need to achieve, and as a result, encourage women to purchase more beauty products than men.
The pressure to purchase these items (which are marketed to make women believe that buying them will make them more “desirable”) come with extra expenses. 

More changes coming? 

While corporate companies promoting gender disparity is still prevalent, there has been an increase in genderless products taking to the shelves in recent months.  
The question is whether this could see companies move away from their sexist price points, and become more conscious of their social responsibilities.
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