By Sherise Tan
Women across the world are clamouring for change with regards to gender-based price discrimination. The ‘Pink Tax’ is a hidden upcharge that women end up paying for products and services, like razors, dry cleaning, insurance, and other common items.
While on many women’s radar for decades, the concept gained wide attention in 2014, particularly in the United States and France where a national movements called-to-light gender-based pricing. According to Forbes, research done in California found that women spend around $1,351 USD more per year on extra costs and fees.
The Invisible Costs
In a study done by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015, it found that products for women and girls cost 7% more than for men and boys. The study compared prices for over 800 products, and discovered that women paid 8% more for adult clothing; 13% more for personal care products; and 8% more for senior and home health products.
In Singapore, a survey by the Sunday Times found that products sold in 5 out of 10 companies were more expensive for women than for men. For example, a woman’s razor cost $2 SGD compared to a men’s one at $1 SGD.
This discrepancy was also perpetuated when it came to higher premiums for insurance, where CareShield Life Scheme’s annual premium came out to $206 for men versus $253 for women. This discovery caused uproar in Singapore and prompted an online petition for equal premiums for both sexes, which was signed by 10,000 individuals.
In other countries, women are also protesting. In the state of California in the U.S., a bill against gender-based price discrimination, which was passed back in 1996, slapped a minimum fine of $1,000 USD on businesses that unfairly charged women more.
Meanwhile, the ‘tampon tax’ is the new issue that is being hotly debated. In the U.S., tampons and women’s sanitary napkins are subject to a value-added tax, unlike other basic necessities that are tax-exempt. Proponents of the cause are arguing that a woman’s monthly menstruation cycle is not a choice, and thus feminine hygiene products are a necessity along with other groceries and personal medical items, and should not be taxed.
In Ohio, a $11 million USD class action suit has even been filed to demand a refund against this tampon tax, and pending bills in Ohio and Nevada to remove the tampon tax have been filed.
Some businesses have taken it upon themselves to correct this price discrepancy. In the U.K., for example, Tesco–one of the major supermarket chains–has slashed the price of women’s razors to make up for price differences. A leading pharmacy brand, Boots, has done the same. In the U.S., brands like Boxed have absorbed the tax on tampons, and ensures that women do not pay more for razors, body wash, and deodorants. American startup Billie also formulates products just for women and adjusts prices to account for the pink tax.
Navigating the Pink Tax
Now that you know what the Pink Tax is, how you can take steps to avoid these extra costs?
We encourage women to vote with their dollars, by buying men’s versions of certain products, shopping around and using price comparison sites to find the best prices. As a consumer, you can also call out companies who are promoting gender-based price discrepancies through social media and sign petitions to enact change.
Proponents of the Pink Tax argue that it is purely based on economics, with many justifying that the pricing is based on supply and demand. For instance, women buy fewer razors than men; less volume means higher prices as manufacturing and shipping costs increase. Others explain that products for women cost more because they are more complex like clothing, for example, or haircuts, thus leading to price differentials. Even health insurance can cost more because women require more services like gynecologist visits, hence the ‘justified’ higher prices.
Indeed, corporations may toss us “justifications”, hoping to appease us. But they are also sitting quietly waiting for women to turn a blind eye, so that they can continue to rake in the extra dollars – dollars which women have worked so hard to earn. This is the hidden cost that women are bearing, when our dollars should go towards feeding our children, bettering our education, buying what we want to buy at a reasonable and fair market value.
This, however, is the era of the #metoo movement. Women have learned the strength we hold in our numbers, as well as where we spend our hard-earned cash. This is exactly the kind of thinking we need behind the Pink Tax. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge and shout it from the rooftops, from the offices where we are working, from the households we are managing.
Tell your sisters, and your mothers, your friends, and your coworkers. Better yet, tell your friend that works at the paper and the girl with a million followers. Let’s stand together and fight, because this, simply put, is not ok. We need discussion, we need action and we need not accept this. We should not allow for this to continue, because what was once okay, in 2019 is no longer. #STOPPINKTAX. Share it, pin it, post it. Let’s stop it.