Confusing right? Talking about women’s rights and issues when it’s not even international women’s day yet. Oh well, I guess we need to take a break from talking about our patriarchal world issues, to discuss something that actually matters: the Pink Tax.

Recently something got me thinking. On the campus of my study abroad university, I encountered one of those free condom dispensaries. At first, I was happily surprised. The fact that safe sex is promoted among university students is amazing. But then I realized something odd. While free condoms seemed to be easily accessible, nowhere could I find free tampons or pads.

For those unfamiliar: menstruating is not a choice. Sex is. Yet sex is facilitated with free contraceptives, meanwhile, the commodities that people who menstruate need, come with a price tag.

Pink Tax

After doing some digging, I came across this phenomenon called the Pink Tax. Unsurprisingly, being a cisgender man, I had never heard of this. Shame on me, right? Most of you are probably hitting your face into your keyboard, because dude, how have you not heard about this before? Essentially, the Pink Tax is a term referring to gender-based price discrimination. In short, products marketed towards female audiences tend to cost more than those for male audiences.

via GIPHY

I know right? This seems rather unfair.

The Pink Tax phenomenon is based on a study of gender pricing, conducted in NYC. In this study, 800 products from 90 comparable brands were analyzed, trying to find the price differences based on what gender the product was targeted towards. And let me tell you… the results are shocking.

  • Razors: 11% more expensive for women
  • Shampoo: 48% more expensive for women
  • Shirts: 15% more expensive for women
  • Helmets (for sports): 13% more expensive for women
  • Lotions: 11% more expensive for women
  • Jeans: 10% more expensive for women

It is horrible to think that if you want to have smooth legs, wash your hair, be protected when falling from your bike, or just wear clothing, you need to pay more than men have to.

Tampon tax

Hold on, we’re not done with our taxes yet. It keeps getting worse. In many countries, including some states in the US, there is a government tax on female hygiene products such as tampons and pads.

Essentially, you are taxed for your period. Does that sound okay to you? I’m quite sure that if we were to tax men for something they have or do every month, world war 3 would break out.

Picture of tampons.
Photo by Josefin on Unsplash

Criticism

However horrible this Pink Tax may sound like, it is important to also understand its criticism. Some have pointed out how female marketed products might have higher costs of marketing, research, and packaging. Think about the cost of ink for brighter colors on packaging for example, or expensive marketing campaigns and ads.

Okay… fair point, but in the end it’s the same product?

Also not really the case according to some. As critics argue, female marketed products are not always the exact same as male marketed products. They sometimes contain more expensive perfumes, work in a different way, or are manufactured at a higher cost.

So that means the Pink Tax does not exist?

Oh no, certainly it does. Go check for yourself in the store. Whatever explanation is behind the higher prices, at the end of the day women still need to pay more for their products, and that is not okay.

Closing arguments

We first need to understand why exactly these female marketed products are more expensive than male marketed products. Because essentially, this is a very binary approach to product production and marketing. I’m certain a 12-year-old girl does not need her shampoo to smell like ‘rosegarden on a bed of clouds’ or have her toys be packaged in expensive pink carton.

If we eliminate these assumptions about gender and product preferences, then such products can potentially be produced at a cheaper price, erasing the Pink Tax.

Also read: The Future Is Female