The "Gender Tax" aka Pink Tax
Start by watching this video by the very funny Desi Lydic of the Daily Show with Trevor Noah as she investigates the Pink Tax.
Then, watch this video, by a man who is committed to "Debunking" the statements made by Desi Lydic.
These segments make very different statements over whether or not there is such a thing as gender-based price discrimination or a "pink tax."
So, what is the PINK TAX?
In spite of the man in the second video working very hard to do "research" by comparing prices in supermarkets and showing how it's not true that women pay more for products than men, in reality, the Gender Tax or Pink Tax is not a hoax, nor is it "fake news." Desi Lydic was using humor and perhaps she was choosing to compare products which might not have cost more in all markets but there is definitely something true in what she said and that is that women pay sometimes as much as 40% more for products which are specifically marketed to them, even when those products are similar or identical to products marketed for men (Jacobsen, 2018).
Jacobsen (2018) finds that a recent study shows "women pay 40 percent more than men for a popular hair loss fighting foam even though the men's and women's versions contain the same volume, drug strength, and inactive ingredients" (p. 241-242). Starting back in the 1990s, a series of research reports and surveys came out which showed that indeed, many products which are prevailingly "pink," in that they are marketed specifically for women, cost more than those marketed specifically for men (Jacobsen, 2018).
Are there some valid explanations for why women's products cost more, especially considering the fact that women, on average, make less money than men?
Yes, in the sense that sometimes, like we saw in the second vide, the women's product has some extra, "feminine" quality such as a scent or another attractive quality which might make it more expensive. So, as Jacobson (2018) explains "some of the price disparity can be explained by gender-neutral factors such as variations in the cost of materials, ingredients, tariffs, labor, and marketing" (p. 242).
However, research also - overwhelmingly - shows that gender discrimination is one legitimate explanation for why many products, including "clothing, toys, bicycles, disposable razors, show gels, deodorants, shampoos, and services such as dry cleaning, haircuts, clothing alterations," cost a lot more for female consumers (Jacobsen, 2018, p. 242).
The PINK TAX as Double-Whammy
The paradox lies in the fact that the same people who earn less money - women - are also the ones paying more for certain commodities (Jacobsen, 2018).
How bad is it? Let's see! A study by the City of New York, which compared 794 products found the following:
- Women pay around 7% more for Toys and Accessories - these are more expensive for girls
- Women pay around 4% more for Children's Clothing
- Women pay around 8% more for Adult Clothing
- Women pay around 13% more for Personal Care Products
- Women pay around 8% more for Senior/Home Health Care Products
(Jacobsen, 2018, p. 244)
Some products have shocking differences in price, especially since it's only logical to assume that women use more of these products and therefore, according to market rules, bigger sales should mean lower prices. These products include shampoo and conditioner (can cost 48% more for women's versions), razors and cartridges (11% more), support braces and other supports for the elderly (15% more) (Jacobsen, 2018). This shows that, starting very early, with girl products priced higher than boys' products, and all the way into the senior years, women are expected to pay more for products of the same or similar quality, including products which are "virtually identical" except for the prices (Jacobsen, 2018, p. 245).
The reality is that we live in a world in which 2 variables, the "persistent wage gap" (or "gendered wage discrimination") and "discriminatory pricing" interact to form a particularly hidden and yet dangerous form of discrimination against women (Jacobsen, 2018, p. 248).
The PINK TAX & The Law
Like with many other gender-based problems, such as income inequality, sexual assault, and harassment, the law is failing women when it comes to offering protection against the gender tax. Jacobsen (2018) says that the law, which I supposed to "rein in the practice," has been proved "weak, narrowly drafted, and largely unenforced" (p. 243). While some economists claim that this is a good thing, as it "creates more variety in the market an enables the prices to be lower for some things," in reality, this results from skewed and shrewd marketing techniques which manipulate consumers (Duffin, 2018).
One particularly problematic issue is the fact that the gender tax also includes medications. For example, recent research finds that the prices of medication, especially skin-medication or anything in the dermatology department costs more for women than for men patients, even when the medication is by prescription only (Petrou, 2017). Some doctors recommend that first, doctors get to know the prices for certain medications and if there is a big difference, simply prescribe the "for men" formulas to their female patients (Petrou, 2017).
The pink tax is not a reality only in Canada, the Unites States and what we call the "western world." In fact, a research from the Indian Institute Amritsar also found that there is a "biting reality" behind the pink tax (Hindu Business Line). One of the assumptions made in this research is that women are less "rational" when they make their decisions and buy things without caring as much as men do about the cost. This seems yet another way to blame women and their emotional characteristics for something which is a product of a mercantilist and aggressive marketing and consumerist society.
How can we fight the PINK TAX
Much like with other issues which feminists have fought to address over the years, the pink tax is something that will eventually come under intense scrutiny and lead to social revolt and changes. Some researches say that we are already on the way to eliminate the gender tax, just like we are on the way towards eliminating the gender wage gap (Orlando, 2017). One of the issues which has been emerging with Gen X is the belief in more "gender neutral divisions of labor," which means that men actually are doing more of the shopping than ever and they are making household decisions which previously fell to women (Orlando, 2017).
Duffin, K. (2018). The problem with the pink tax. Washington: NPR.
Jacobsen, K. A. (2018). Rolling back the 'pink tax:" Dim prospects for eliminating gender-based price discrimination in the sale of consumer goods and services. California Western Law Review, 54(2), 241.
Orlando, D. (2017). Changing gender roles may be the 'pink tax's downfall, study finds. Supermarket News.
Petrou, I. (2017). The pink tax. Dermatology Times, 38(9).
The Hindu Business Line: Ladies, beware the hidden pink tax. (2018). Chatham: Newstex.