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Pink Tax – Why being a woman can cost you more?

Pink Tax is the epithet attributed to gender-based price discrimination. Several studies have shown that no matter what age group a woman falls into, she still ends up paying more for many products.

Wait, what?

Before you dismiss pink tax as delirious balderdash cooked up by feminists who see everything through discrimination-tinted glasses, consider this:

The Razor Blade Dilemma

There is, for the most part, no difference whatsoever between men’s and women’s razors blades. Yet, women’s razors are marked at a higher price.  So far, no brand has claimed to use different designed blades for their gendered products. In fact,  a few years ago Gillette issued a press release in which they stated that the blades used in their gendered products are both using the same “blade technology”.

Here is a classic example* of Pink Tax –

Don’t even get me started on haircuts!

You can find a large skew between what men and women are charged for getting a haircut. Some argue that the variation in price is due to the time taken and the type of products used. This particular brand of reasoning falls apart when you consider you consider how elaborate and stylish some men’s cuts are!

The clutch of pink tax often extends beyond personal care products. A recent study released by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs comparing the prices of over 800 products shows that products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.

7% more for toys and accessories

4% more for children’s clothing

8% more for adult clothing

13% more for personal care products

8% more for senior/home health care products

Why look far? The students of the Indian Institute of Management, Amritsar, conducted a field study in which they compared the prices of 64 products for men and women in different categories, revealing the biting reality of the pink tax.

The study covered basic to premium products like watches, sunglasses, combs, shoes (formal, informal and casuals), perfumes, deodorants, fairness creams, razors, talcum powder, undergarments, and bags. For some products, the price difference was barely a few hundred rupees, but for others, it crossed several thousand rupees.

Why The Price Discrimination?

A common reason cited for the difference in the price is that expensive raw materials go into women’s products. A similar argument is that the company incurs higher R&D cost to create variety in options, higher manufacturing cost and additional expenses in making the packaging attractive and different for women. Hence the pink tax.

While questioned about the discrepancy between male and female shaving cream prices, the personal care brand giant Nivea had a rather amusing answer. Apparently, the price difference is because the women’s version has “skin-sensation technology”. With the ingredient’s list being the same, how exactly this “technology” is incorporated into the shaving cream is left to our imagination.

The most plausible explanation for this not-so-subtle pink tax levied on women is that –

women are under a lot more pressure to be as well-groomed as possible, so are simply willing to pay more

This sneaky tax imposed on women is especially worrisome because the wider gender wage gap that women face. Now that we have established that the problem is real, this is not something that can be easily ignored like tales of a distant flood. It affects 50% of the world’s population.

Even though women are the most common victims of gender pricing, there are several products and services where men end up paying more. Sexism in any form should not be condoned or ignored.

What Can We Do?

Awareness is the key. Little by little, we are making some progress on this issue.

The government of India levied a 12% tax on the feminine hygiene products under India’s new national goods and services tax which was introduced in July of last year. The decision sparked several protests, petitions and court cases that questioned why the government taxed pads as a luxury than item instead of an essential item. An Indian lawyer launched a petition which garnered more than 400000 signatures.

Ask any lady you know, periods is not a luxury!

A year later, the government stepped up and removed the tax on sanitary pads. With this exemplary decision, India now joins countries like Ireland, Kenya, and Canada as one of the few countries where sanitary products are tax-free.

Three Simple Steps To Avoid Being Victim Of Pink Tax
  1. Instead of simply accepting the prices for what they are, read the labels carefully. Do the ingredients warrant the price they ask? Compare it with the men’s product. If the ingredients are more or less the same, choose the cheaper one.
  2. Most often, there is no difference between male and female products other than scent and packaging. Instead of paying more for something as trivial as packaging, opt for unscented men’s deodorant and other products.
  3. Buy gender-neutral toys for your kids. Don’t pay extra for pink and purple Legos when the standard primary colors serve the same purpose

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