By Karly Stilling
Full disclosure: I only heard about the pink tax for the first time about a year ago. I don’t know where I’d been hiding my feminist head, but there you go.
In order to assuage my feelings of ignorance, I have set about learning as much as I can about it and now, dear reader, I am sharing my newfound knowledge with you.
What is the pink tax?
Simply put, the pink tax is the added cost women pay on average for female-oriented products compared to similar products for men. Sometimes these products are done up in pink packaging, hence the name.
The ways that the pink tax impacts women are numerous. Firstly, products for women simply cost more. There’s an example from America where a boy’s scooter was priced at $25.99, but the same scooter marketed to girls was $49.99. The only difference? The girl’s scooter was pink.
These kinds of markups occur across the board: toiletries, clothing, even car services and mortgages – all have been found to be marked up for the female consumer. Some research suggests that women pay, on average, up to 42% more for similar products than men.
Secondly, women are under social pressure to purchase a lot of products that men, historically, are not: make up, jewellery, hair colouring, even face and hair products. While women can opt out of buying these products altogether (and men can opt in if they choose), there are often social consequences for not meeting the norm.
A woman who doesn’t have her makeup on and her hair done and styled might face not only social backlash and abuse, but might also be seen as less professional, capable, educated, etc.
Thirdly, some products for women are actually taxed more. Menstrual products, for example, are necessary purchases for women, but many countries impose a sales tax on them that doesn’t apply to other basic necessities like food and medication (this is often called the tampon tax, fun!). This is true for the majority of US states, and has been true until quite recently for the UK, the EU, Australia, and Canada.
And lastly, there is the good old gender wage gap. When women are paid less, they have less expendable income – and yet, they are asked to spend more at nearly every point of purchase.
The bottom line for the pink tax: women make less and pay more.
Why do we have to deal with this bullshit?
Sometimes the added cost is (somewhat) legitimate: women’s haircuts, for example, usually take a lot longer and are far more labour-intensive than men’s. The stylist deserves to be paid for their labour. And dry-cleaners often charge more for women’s clothing because of the added labour required to deal with complex items which aren’t as easily pressed (because the machinery is, of course, designed for men’s clothing).
Women’s fashion moves at a much faster pace than men’s, with much bigger changes in both trends and across seasons. My partner wears a suit to work year-round, while I rely more on trousers and blouses in the winter and dresses in the summer, the trends for which are constantly changing. Apparently it costs retailers money to keep up with trends, as they have to dedicate funds to research, development, and advertisement.
I feel so badly for them, don’t you? It must be so expensive to drive the machine that makes me feel like an incompetent slob if my trousers aren’t this season’s ‘in’ cut. Meanwhile, my partner has been wearing the same set of bespoke suits at the office for nearly a decade and has never given them a second thought.
So what can we do it about it?
I’m sorry to say that the best advice I’ve found for how to deal with the pink tax is to not purchase these products. Instead of women’s razors, buy men’s razors, or men’s shampoo, men’s deodorant, men’s clothing, men’s… tampons? Men’s mascara?
Clearly, this isn’t much of an answer. But what is?
While there’s no easy solution that’s within our poor female power, there are a few steps we can take:
- Do your research and buy from companies that are taking a stand against the pink tax. Visit AxThePinkTax to find out which brands are joining the fight. (They also have a nifty calculator that will figure out how much the pink tax has cost you personally. It’s cost me over $48,000 – fun!)
- Find out if your area has a tampon tax and if they do, write your local representative about it.
- Petition your favourite brands. If you like their products but feel they’re charging unfairly, say something about it. It’s time we use our consumer power to try and change this machine.
- And I hate to say it, but… whenever possible, don’t purchase these products. It’s not a solution to the problem, but using your purchasing power to opt for brands that are behaving ethically is one way we can combat the issue.
And hey, if you have a better idea, I’m all ears!