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Pink Tax Got You Blue?

For Many Products, Women Pay More than Men

Credit: Courtesy: Brett Hondow

What could I do with $64, 843?

I could buy an all-wheel-drive Performance Model 3 Tesla — it’s the cheap kind, but still. I could sponsor 133 kids at the border for a year through Save the Children. I could get a massage at a fancy spa every week for nearly a decade, or have PoopSenders.com mail 1,666 gallons of steaming elephant excrement to the White House — any of which would give me nearly pornographic pleasure. 

I’m told $64,843 is about what I’ve handed over so far in my lifetime to the Pink Tax — the upcharge added onto goods and services that are marketed specifically to women. From toys to clothing to grooming products, a 2015 study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs showed that women pay 7 percent more than men do for similar items.  

For example, many hair salons charge more for “women’s haircuts” than for men’s — even when the woman’s hair is short or the man’s is long. Women’s jeans cost an average of 10 percent more than men’s, and personal-care products, from shampoo and deodorant to razors and shaving cream, cost a whopping 13 percent more! And if we weren’t already bleeding money, there’s the “tampon tax,” the (ahem) padded fee we pay in 39 states, including California, where feminine hygiene products are taxed as luxuries rather than necessities.

Critics of the Pink Tax — which include our very own State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who introduced a now-stalled bill to fight the practice — point to fairly shocking side-by-side photos of children’s bike helmets, calculators, and even walking canes where the only difference appears to be color (one is pink, the other is … not) and price (guess which one costs a pretty penny?).

Certainly women pay less for some things in life. Statistics show men pay higher auto insurance rates and … I mean … can’t get into the bar for free on Ladies Nights. But the N.Y.C. gender-pricing study found that while men’s products cost more than women’s 18 percent of the time, the reverse is true 42 percent of the time. Anomaly? I don’t pink so. And when you consider that women on average are already earning 79 cents for every dollar a man makes, that adds up to … okay, look, that’s a complicated equation, and I couldn’t afford that pink calculator, so just take my word for it: It’s every color o’ crooked.

Is this all part of a patriarchal plot to render pink-prone people penniless and powerless? Alas — there are actually some reasonable explanations for the Pink Tax.

One is misconception. For example, many women complain that dry cleaners charge more for women’s shirts than men’s. But men’s dress shirts are typically washed and auto-pressed, while women’s blouses — often ornamented and made of more delicate material — are dry-cleaned and must be hand-pressed. The process just costs more. 

Basic supply-and-demand economics are also at play: A smaller niche of any market tends to want, say, a hot-pink walking cane than a neutral-colored one; not all women want it, and virtually no men. Therefore, fewer are manufactured; that means they cost more.

Finally — and this may sting a bit, ladies, so have your pricey pink Band-Aids handy — we are to blame. They charge us more because they can. Because we up and pay it. It’s how a free market works: Companies charge what they can get away with, and consumers pay what they feel is fair. 

So if paying more for the pink product makes you see red, then just buy the men’s version. I’ve been wearing men’s deodorant for a decade because I am loath to have water-lily-scented armpits, and I promise you I have yet to sprout testes. But if paying more for the “women’s” version makes you feel feminine, fabulous, and splurge-worthy, then have at it, sister! Economists say variety in the market is a good thing. 

Heads up, though, to companies that overcharge women just because they can: Know that we’re onto you. Your racket will be photographed and called out on social media with the #axthepinktax hashtag. Oh, and you just may get a delivery from PoopSenders.com — no extra charge.

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