Have you ever wondered why a package of pink disposable razors costs more than a pack of blue disposable razors? Or why a men’s shirt costs less to dry clean than a woman’s blouse, even though the men’s shirt is larger and is made of the same material? The way retailers increase the price of products marketed for women, called ‘pink tax’, is starting to make women see red around the globe.
A study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs found that women’s razors cost around 11% more than men’s razors, jeans around 10%, and hair care products a full 48% higher than the same items for men. Women are up in arms about the issue, accusing retailers of sexist pricing and discrimination.
Unfortunately, it’s not just an American issue, but a global discrimination phenomenon. The fees to import a woman’s shirt, shoes and jeans are around 26% higher than the fees to import men’s clothes. Take a pair of sports shoes. It costs about $5 dollars to import men’s sports shoes, and a full $10 to import the women version. When it gets to the US, that pair of men’s shoes costs $149, when the women option is priced $189.
With those cold numbers right in front of us, it is impossible to ignore the facts: that women around the world are being forced to pay a tax for nothing more than their womanhood.
This sort of discrimination is not, unfortunately, the kind that takes center stage in the elections, but rather requires a global movement or country-wide revolution; and considering the losing battle for equal pay in the workplace, the pink tax seems like a difficult war to fight.
As of 2015, full-time working women made only 79 cents for every dollar earned by a full-time working man, which is about a 21% wage gap. With that gap in mind, the extra $1,300 imposed by the pink tax is nothing more but a confirmation that it is harder to be a prosperous woman than a prosperous man.
Some states are fighting to help this cause by eliminating the tax on feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons, but only five states have succeeded so far. The other 45 are still inexcusably primitive in their laws to literally charge women for having their period – especially considering that Viagra, a pharmaceutical that treats erectile dysfunction, is untaxed.
Dr. Taylor, director of Mosbacher Institute who teaches at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, thinks the answer is as simple as changing the rules of how we import goods. If Congress taxes the imports equally, then importers can choose whichever of the two import fees is lower and help eliminate some of the discrepancy. Now that people are aware of the issue, we are at the perfect point to do away with the tax entirely, most likely with grassroots campaigns that draw attention to this issue and force our contenders to take a stance against the problem.
In the meantime, what do women do about this gender-bias? One option is to just buy the men’s product and pay the fair price, but that isn’t the most ideal solution and won’t work for products like jeans, dry-cleaning, and our favorite lavender-scented shampoo. We can also shop for certified feminist brands like L’Oreal and IKEA where pricing is certifiably gender neutral, but the only way to fully avoid the tax is to help get rid of it by calling out companies when you notice these discrepancies. By making the world aware of which brands are proven sexist, we can slowly create the change needed to do away with higher prices.