Periods, pay gaps and the pink tax: Why it costs more to be a woman
Written by Emily Seerup
Image by The Periodical
We’re all feminists, right? Anyone who identifies as a woman is all too aware of the gender pay gap that’s still very real, the constant objectification of our bodies, the reduction of our value as a person to girlfriend/wife/mother, and the lack of representation in positions of power. But did you know that it is literally more expensive to be a woman? And we don’t mean pads and tampons (although as much as a relief it was to have the tampon tax removed, could they not just be free?). We’re talking about the Pink Tax – sometimes referred to as the Gender Price Gap or Woman’s Tax – the phenomenon where we pay more for goods and services than men, purely because they’re marketed to women (and often pink).
This isn’t new information. In 1996, California became the first state to ban gender-based pricing, after finding that it was costing the average woman a whopping $1,351 a year. Since then, there have been many investigations on the subject, each with their own ridiculous discoveries of identical products costing women more, or laughable marketing flops that cater to old-school gender ideals. Remember Bic For Her? The pen ‘just for her’ (finally!) that cost as much as 70% more than the regular old pen you were tired of using? Because, #pink.
The usual suspects in the charge-you-more-for-your-gender game are clothes, personal care products like soap, deodorant and razors, services like haircuts and dry cleaning, and even kids’ toys. No, not even infants are exempt.
Here at EME we wanted to find our own examples in place right now in Australia and we were unpleasantly shocked by how easy it was. We found the exact same deodorant—one marketed to men, the other marketed to women—but the pink one was 50c more.
Another example were two identical kids t-shirts—one marketed to boys, the other marketed to girls—but the girls’ t-shirt again was priced 50c higher.
Fifty cents may seem like a small figure to complain about, but when it’s a systemic issue affecting a crazy amount of your purchases, it starts to add up. Get Up reported on the Gender Gap finding discrepancies of as much $10, with women paying more for an identical Bonds shirt, kids toolbox and deodorant. The proof is definitely in the pudding. In clothing especially, might we add, men are biologically built bigger and taller than women—shouldn’t they be paying more for the use of more materials?
Let’s circle back around to that time of the month. If you, along with millions of other women, experience pain on your period, chances are you’ve taken pain relief at one point or another. You’ve probably been drawn to the pretty pink packet that screams instant relief specifically for Aunt Flo, but it turns out that they’re usually exactly the same thing, whilst still costing more. Yep! In addition to the genetic gift (that you never asked for) of menstruation, the financial burden extends beyond sanitary products to the medications we turn to to get through the day. Sanitary products themselves set you back thousands of dollars in your lifetime (definitely time to order that menstrual cup). In 2016, Nurofen was fined $6million for misleading consumers with its advertising of specific pain medications, but that’s the needle in the haystack of companies being held accountable for targeted marketing.
Why do companies charge more for women’s products, and how do they get away with it?
Are women actually to blame for the Pink Tax? A reporter from HerCanberra seems to think so, making the point that whilst companies take advantage of gendered marketing and hike prices for women, we fall for it. Should we just be more diligent in our research? Enact the power of supply and demand by no longer buying the feminine version?
We don’t think so. When Lily Allen wrote the timeless banger that is Hard Out Here (for a b*tch), she wasn’t kidding. We have the Gender Pay Gap, the Gender Pain Gap, the Gender Data Gap, and the Pink Tax.
With all the systemic lumping of disadvantage hanging over our heads at all times, we don’t think it’s too much to expect the ones making the big bucks to charge the same prices for vagina owners and non-vagina owners.
So what can we do to ensure we’re getting a fair deal? Keep up with the universal fight against the Pink Tax here, and campaign against gender-based pricing when you see it in action (and we promise once you start looking for it, you will!). The good news is that through our research, we found ethical companies to be far less biased in their pricing. So if you’re shopping through EME, you’ll be sure not to find any hefty Woman’s Tax here.