Paying for pink – gendered products and the ‘pink tax’

I have to admit that I like the colour pink. In spite of my mum trying to avoid gender stereotypes when raising me – my sister and I were given matchbox cars alongside dolls and stuffed toys – I still insisted on pink whenever I could get my way.

But apparently buying pink will hurt your wallet. Or, more accurately, buying products aimed at women will often cost you more. As a woman I can expect to pay more for certain everyday products than those targeted at men, though they are essentially the same.

For example, a Bic “For Her” 2 pack of black pens has been spotted selling for $4.50 alongside a 2 pack of the Bic Atlantis Gel pens costing only $4.00. A Bonds shirt can cost $49.95 when it is for men. The same shirt, but for women, costs $59.95. The price difference is not always immediately obvious. There are some items, such as a type of Veet Hair Removal Cream, where at first glance, the women’s version may appear cheaper, but when you look at the unit price, women are still paying more.

This gender price gap, also referred to as “the pink tax” is when products targeted at women are more expensive than identical products targeted towards men.

Choice (the consumer advocacy group) warned of this gender pricing in the lead-up to Christmas-time last year after a report by The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) found that ‘…women may pay thousands of dollars more during their lifetimes for products ranging from razors, moisturisers, clothing and even toys.’ This study also found women’s products to be around 7% more expensive than men’s on average.

In Australia a Get Up! campaign was launched in early 2015 to help consumers become more aware of this gender pricing inequality. On their website they included identical items which are clear examples of the gender price gap on their website such as shirts and deodorant. They also encouraged people to send in photos of the gender price gap products they came across while shopping. This included everything from pens and calculators, to dry-cleaning services and bodyspray.

So not only is there a gender pay gap meaning that women are earning less than men in the first place, but it seems we are also paying more for everyday items.

And this price difference doesn’t only exist in products for adults, it affects children as well. This was highlighted in a recent episode of The Weekly with Charlie Pickering. It showed that toys targeted at girls often cost more than the equivalent toy for boys, even when it was the same product where the only noticeable difference was the colour. One blatant example of this which was shown was scooters sold by Target in America where the pink scooter cost $25 USD more than the red one.

But why is this the case? And how are companies able to charge different amounts for the same product? The hypothesis presented on The Weekly was that by targeting different toys at boys and girls, companies can essentially sell more versions of the same product, and therefore increase their profits. And businesses, obviously, are going to want to make more money, and what they are doing is not illegal.

This issue of the gender price gap is not restricted to Australia, as studies undertaken in the United Kingdom and the United States have shown. A study by The Times newspaper in the United Kingdom found that the same issue occurs there, with numerous items aimed at women priced higher than those aimed at men. These items ranged from toys to clothes to beauty products, with the study finding that women’s products were an average of 37% more expensive. Certain types of disposable razors, scooters and jeans showed significant price differences.

So what has been done about this price difference?

In France, feminists set up a tumblr, ‘Womantax’ to draw attention to the issue. A petition was launched which collected over 30,000 signatures prompting the French Finance Ministry to order an investigation into this gender price gap in 2014. However, the inquiry is yet to bring any change, and the gender price gap remains an issue in France.

Some examples of trying to combat this price difference through legislation are in New York, California and Florida’s Miami-Dade County where gender discrimination in the pricing of services has been banned. However, the legislation is not always followed, and the ban extends only to services, not to product pricing.

As for the best way to avoid paying the extra when shopping?  For now at least, the main suggestion seems to be avoiding those products aimed at women and opting to buy the men’s versions instead.

Image: Thomas Williams

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Jess - Bio PicJessica Sheather-Neumann is the organiser of a writers group in Canberra with over 50 members. She reads and writes young adult novels and has been published in First, the University of Canberra’s creative writing magazine. She has a Graduate Certificate in Editing and Publishing. You can find her on Twitter @ReadingJessica.

 

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