Have you heard of ‘the pink tax’? It is a reference to the extra charges women are expected to pay when it comes to certain goods and services like personal hygiene products, clothes, and dry cleaning.
The idea has been floating around for some time since The New York Times wrote an op-ed in 2014, following on from a survey by French feminist group Georgette Sand that proved women products were more expensive than their male counterparts, particularly when it came to hygiene products like razors, deodorants, body wash and shaving foam. The result was an outcry from women, wondering, “Is pink a luxury colour?”
— Pascale Boistard (@Pascaleboistard) October 31, 2014
Forbes seemed to disregard the idea that the high street might be sexist, claiming that women are simply willing to pay more for branded products and perhaps razors are “optimised for leg shaving rather than face shaving”, but the breadth of products and services that women unconsciously pay more for has only continued to grow in the last two years.
Glamour has aimed to further highlight just how expensive and time-consuming it is to be a woman every day with a split-screen video that shows a man and a woman’s morning routines and the annual expense of the product they use.
Between waking up in the morning to applying hair product, prior to a woman’s make-up routine, a woman has spent $839.43 a year versus a man’s $691.52. That’s a $150 a year in the difference. It’s quite a hefty chunk when you consider that on top of this, a woman spends on average $15,000 on makeup in her lifetime.
An argument can also be made that there is a societal expectation for women to wear makeup and therefore ought to be considered a ‘necessity’. Women certainly do pay more when you factor in make-up and styling tools, but it’s the figure prior to this that is most interesting. In personal hygiene alone, products are a fifth more expensive for women than for men. And that’s before you include menstrual products like tampons and pads, which could be considered a necessity for most women every month.
And this isn’t singularly an American phenomenon. A survey last year by The Times in the UK found that high-street stores are in some cases charging double for the ‘pink’ equivalent of a universal product. We’ve all read of the ire towards pen company BIC when they released a ballpoint pen “for her”, but what did seem to go unnoticed was the price – it’s a full £1 more for the women’s version as opposed to the men’s, the only difference being the pastel colours.
We were so sure that Irish prices would reflect these numbers that we took an amble through our local shops – one large Irish supermarket chain, one international one and one popular pharmacy. Looking purely at gender-aimed hygiene products, we compared male and female versions, ensuring we compared like with like (ie sensitive products were priced with other sensitive products) and where possible comparing within the same brands. We found on average women paid:
- 10% more for deodorant
- 35% more for body wash
- 78% more for razors
- 16% more for shaving foam
- 59% more for facial moisturiser
Granted, this is only a small cross section from our Emerald Isle, but we must confess to being shocked that the price differences, and it’s likely bolstered by the fact that they are not laid out on the same shelving in any store. Mens body wash and women’s body wash stood on completely different aisles from one another, which apparently is a significant enough buffer that makes it acceptable enough to charge women more than men for the same product.
And all this is without even venturing into fashion. US clothing company Old Navy were recently caught out for charging extra for plus-size women’s clothes and not for plus-size men’s, likely because they felt that women were more committed to finding stylish clothes in their size and therefore be resigned to paying more. In explanation to the outcry that followed, Old Navy said “This higher price point reflects this selection of unique fabrics and design elements”, which to us, sounds like a bit of a cop out considering both regular and plus-size for men and women are made from the same materials and therefore pricing should reflect that. Levi too charges up to 46% more for women’s jeans than men’s, even in the same waist and leg size.
But as Glamour said, let’s not even go there. We’ll leave that for a day when our blood isn’t already boiling.