Have you ever wondered why products marketed towards women are pricier than similar products marketed towards men? Me neither. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that it’s true, women pay more, on average, than men do for the same products! This phenomenon is referred to as “the pink tax”. This video gives a pretty good overview of what the pink tax looks like in real life.
A 2010 article in Consumer Reports magazine entitles “Men win the battle of the sexes” reported that:
“We discovered that products directed at women—through packaging, description, or name—might cost up to 50 percent more than similar products for men….Each “express gel” of Excedrin Extra Strength and Excedrin Complete Menstrual contains 250 milligrams of aspirin, 250 mg of acetaminophen, and 65 mg of caffeine. But Excedrin Menstrual cost 50 cents more at Walgreens. Julie Masow, spokeswoman for Novartis Consumer Health, Excedrin’s parent, says it was Walgreens’ decision, noting the suggested retail price for the products was the same.”
Aspirin wasn’t the only product on their list. Shaving cream, lotion, soap, antiperspirant and razor blades geared towards women were also more expensive per ounce or per item than the men’s products.
Unfortunately, the pink tax applies to more than just personal care items. In a great article by Groundswell.com Amanda Oliver gives a few examples where women pay more than men for the same products and services. Women pay more for plus sized clothes and dry cleaning, among other things.
As I researched for this blog post I came across an enlightening Tumblr feed run by Feminist collective Georgette Sand. The Groudswell article I mentioned earlier has this to say about Georgette Sand.
We could also take a note from French women’s right group Georgette Sand, who started drawing attention to these invisible taxes by posting photographs of unequal pricing found in French stores on their Woman Tax Tumblr. More than 44,000 people have signed a petition against French retailer Monoprix and the “Pink Tax” they charge. The petition is credited with prompting The Finance Ministry to order an inquiry into possible price discrimination by French retailers in general.
The Tumblr page is so eye-opening. Here are some of my favorite pictures taken from the Tumblr feed.
$.50 price difference for the same products.
$1.00 price difference? Why?
This one might be my favorite. $2.50 price difference. The caption says “The thermometers need to be different for boys and girls. SCIENCE says so.”
As I was scrolling through these posts I can honestly say, I wasn’t even mad. I was just really, really confused. For goodness sake, why do pink products need to be more expensive than blue products? I really want someone to give me a straight answer about this, because I can’t come up with a good reason for the price difference between most of these.
So, should women just start buying products from the men’s side of the aisle? Maybe, but maybe not. Some editorials on the subject suggest that if women buy only men’s products big companies would get the message that women won’t fall for the silly marketing anymore. I don’t know if this would actually change anything. I’m not a statistician, I don’t have a degree in marketing. But if the experts say it will work, who am I to argue with them. In my opinion, making people aware of the price discrepancies and holding manufacturers and retailers more accountable for the way they price these items might be more helpful in the long run. How do we do that? Post pictures of the pricing issues on social media. Tweet and Instagram and blog and post on Facebook about it. Heck, I wasn’t even really aware of this issue until a few months ago. I, for one, will be much more careful and conscientious about what I’m buying and why. Am I buying those razor blades because they have feminine packaging or am I buying them because they actually work well. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this, let me know what you think in the comments. Until next time, fellow Feminists!
Articles I referenced in this post:
“The Pink Tax” New York Times editorial
“Men Win the Battle of the Sexes” Consumer Reports Magazine
“Ever Heard of the “Pink Tax”? 4 Items Women Pay More For” Groundswell.com
“Woman Tax” Tumblr page
For those who may be looking for a more intellectual review of the pink tax, here is a research paper put out by the University of Central Florida.