- Alice Binnington
The “Pink Tax” or the uphill battle which is Gender Equality
A series of research articles in newspapers across the globe have recently found that women pay more for products than men do in a phenomenon dubbed the “Pink Tax”.
The frenzy kicked off in the U.S., with news outlets such as The Times, The Today Show and The Daily Show all investigating this price gap. They found that for a wide range of commodities across medication, sanitary products, clothing and toys and even pens, women were likely to pay on average 37% more than their male counterparts.
Notably the company Bic came under fire for their “For Her” pens, which are manufactured and function exactly the same way as “men’s pens”, except that they have pink packaging. Their female razors were also found to be significantly more expensive than the male ones, despite the fact that researchers found upon testing that they performed identically.
The debate, now raging on Twitter, has also reached the U.K., re-igniting the outrage about tampons legally being considered “non-essential luxury items”. Although this hasn’t been officially confirmed as a problem across the pond, women are starting to notice visible differences in the pricing of their commodities. Pain-killers with the same active ingredient as the ones branded for men, t-shirts of the same composition and quality, prams and children’s toys - all more expensive if they’re pink.
The same in France - Le Figaro reported that the collective Georgette Sand has been fighting this “pink tax” for years.
They aren’t the only ones - there are politicians like Jackie Speier in the U.S., who has been speaking out against it for 20 years and recently introduced a bill to repeal it, or Maria Miller in the U.K., chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee, who called the recent findings “unacceptable”.
Ryan McDevitt, a professor of Economics at Duke University in the States, says this is a classic marketing strategy - “shrink it and pink it”. The fundamental design of the product is marketed separately towards men and women, raising the price of the “women’s” product by claiming it’s more specific and has more outstanding qualities (bear in mind it’s still the same thing). As a result, the company in question is able to increase their profits considerably.
Combine this with the existing gender pay gap (which at the moment is 77 cents to the dollar in the U.S.) and women end up losing a lot of money and being at a strong disadvantage over the course of their lifetime, a New York study found.
So if the men’s version is cheaper, then why not just buy that instead of the women’s one?
The answer to that question is very simple - the very fact that women should have to make a change to the way they act or to the products they buy simply to fit into a “man’s world” is divisive, to say the least. Women have to jump through hoops on a daily basis - get up earlier to choose an “appropriate” outfit, avoid certain areas because there’s construction and they’re likely to be harassed, be more vigilant at night, never worry (worrying causes wrinkles and society looks down gravely on wrinkles), watch what they say and how they say it…
Equality means equal advantages, but it also means equal access to the same commodities. Any brand disrespecting this is, by definition, disrespecting human rights, nevermind undermining the struggle towards gender equality.