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It is Expensive to Be a Woman

Photo: http://womantax.tumblr.com/

Not only do women get paid less, they are also charged more for basic merchandise. From pink earplugs to vehicle repair, a pink tax is levied on women.

08.06.2016 Av: Nosheen Hotaki

Studies from Glasgow and Missouri universities research 74 world regions and show that in over 70% of these regions, girls outperform boys in academia.

Yet, a 2016 trend-study by the International Labor Organization (ILO) indicates that women are 30% less likely than men to enter the workforce. In the workforce, they earn what men were earning ten years ago.

In other words, it is a low-paying job till men join in.

While some argue that the disparities are caused due to women’s choices to join low-pay sectors such as nursing or activism work with NGOs, the Nursing Times reports that “male nurses are marginally better paid and proportionally more likely to be in senior posts than their female colleagues.” In other words, it is a low-paying job till men join in. It is perhaps fair to state that women do not choose low-paying jobs per se, but that the low-paying jobs select women – though there are exceptions.

Pink Tax

The term pink tax – occasionally referred to as blue discount – was first coined in France after Georgette Sand, a French feminist, addressed pricing policies in the country and started a petition that gained over 40,000 signatures. Later on, Pasclae Boistard, French State Secretary for Women’s Rights, tweeted “Is pink a luxury color?”

Head Phones with pink tax. Photo: http://womantax.tumblr.com/ 

The debate then went beyond the borders of France and CNN published an article titled, “‘Pink Tax’ Angers Women from New York to London.” Due to lack of information and statistics, the pink tax issue may be mistaken for a Eurocentric, Western one. However, BuzzSouthAfrica, has also addressed sexist price disparities in South Africa, affirming that this is a global matter.

Gender Pricing in New York City

In 2015, the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) researched the price differentials between similar merchandises that are targeted towards different genders. What they found was that the women’s items cost, on average, 7% more than men’s in the United States.

  • 13% more on life insurance
  • 92% more on dry cleaning
  • 57% more on haircuts
  • 48% more on hair care products
  • 11% more on razors
  • 11% more on toys

A study by the State of California shows that the price disparities aggregate over time and women, on average, lose $1,351 a year due to the imposed tax.

But, pink tax is not just about palpable merchandise; it also covers discriminations within the gaming field. For instance, the male characters in Temple Run (II), a game of popular repute, are free while player have to purchase female characters.

Men are the default. Although after much criticism, a female character is now unlocked, this occurrence illustrates the magnitude of the pink tax issue.

Sexist or demand-economy?

In many instances, the dissident opinion has implied that women shop more and are more willing to pay. Hence, due to the supply-demand credo, the prices and the policies are not discriminatory. Another argument has labeled the issue as a ”first world problem,” indicating that it is not real since women have the option to buy the blue razor if they desire to pay less.

Enterprises design merchandise to attract a certain gender. Though the pink and blue razors are virtually identical, the enterprises have deluded women to think that the pink razor is somehow more fitting for their delicate, feminine skins. While it may be true that women pay more attention to whether their bodies smell like lavender or almond coconut, the prices are nevertheless bigoted.

So whose fault is it?

Is it the difference in the production? Is it the retailer? How about tariffs?

While production definitely factors in, it does not clarify why items that have identical materials are sold at different prices. Similarly, while demand pricing does play a role and women shop more than men do, it cannot justify the disparity.

Another explanation is gender-based tariffs. The New York Times calls them “the last legal form of sex discrimination in the United States.” The Times reports that while there is no clear pattern since men’s clothing are sometimes taxed more than women’s, in the end it weighs down and women are put at a disadvantage. The Times further states that brands such as Steve Madden and Columbia Sportswear are suing the federal government, challenging these tariffs. They claim that the government earned a total of $2.5 million (in 2006) from discriminatory tariff laws, which mostly penalized women.

In Women and Tariffs: Testing the Gender Gap Hypothesis in a Downs-Mayer Political-Economy Model, a paper published by H. Keith Hall, Chihwa Kao, and Douglas Nelson, the authors not only show that tariff laws are gender-discriminatory, but also present empirical evidence that this disparage in economic activity may affect women’s political enfranchisement.

What can we do?

Political change takes time and while some companies such as Steve Madden and others have taken initiatives to challenge the federal government in the United States, it will take a while till it becomes an enforceable law.

As they become aware and both sexes become involved, the issue would gain more public attention and consumers would be more likely to make meticulous decisions.  

Meanwhile, studies show that most women are not aware of the fact that they are paying more. As they become aware and both sexes become involved, the issue would gain more public attention and consumers would be more likely to make meticulous decisions.

Social media is another tool worth utilizing. Calling companies and asking about the issue as well as engaging on social media have proved to be rewarding. For instance, a French site on Tumblr called Woman Tax, founded by Georgette Sand, serves as an activism platform to fight sexist pricing policies. The site publishes pictures of similar items, in different colors and/or meant for different genders, proving that pink tax is not a myth.

Furthermore, companies such as IKEA and L’Oreal are now feminist certified and though it does not solve everything, it is a first step towards the right direction.


"The Pink Tax." The New York Times. November 12, 2014. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/13/opinion/the-pink-tax.html

Barbaro, Michael. "In Apparel, All Tariffs Aren’t Created Equal." The New York Times. April 28, 2007. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/28/business/28gender.html

Brown, Elizabeth Nolan. "The 'Pink Tax' Is a Myth." Reason, January 5, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://reason.com/blog/2016/01/05/the-pink-tax-is-a-myth

Dotson, Carter "'Temple Run 2' Makes Scarlett Fox Free in Response to Criticism." TouchArcade. April 20, 2015. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://toucharcade.com/2015/04/20/temple-run-2-scarlett-fox-free/

Dotson, John. "Why Women Pay Higher Prices for the "Same" Products." Mises Institute. February 19, 2016. Accessed June 08, 2016: https://mises.org/library/why-women-pay-higher-prices-same-products

Elliott, Candace. "The Pink Tax." Listen Money Matters RSS. 2015. Accessed June 08, 2016: https://www.listenmoneymatters.com/the-pink-tax/

Georgeson, Hunter. "The Pink Tax Is a Myth." Adam Smith Institute, February 3, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/economics/the-pink-tax-is-a-myth

Hall, H.Keith, Chihwa Kao, and Douglas Nelson: "Women and Tariffs: Testing the Gender Gap Hypothesis in a Downs-Mayer Political-Economy Model." Western Economic Association International, 1998. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://www.tulane.edu/~dnelson/NelsonArticles/HallKaoNelsonEI.pdf

Heath, Hadley. “Ladies, Don’t Fall for ‘Pink Tax’ Myth.” Independent Women’s Forum (IWF). February 9, 2016: http://iwf.org/blog/2799310/Ladies,-Don't-Fall-for-%22Pink-Tax%22-Myth

"Women at Work: Trends 2016." International Labor Office (ILO). 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---dgreports/---dcomm/---publ/documents/publication/wcms_457317.pdf

Kottasova, Ivana. "'Pink Tax' Angers Women from New York to London." CNNMoney. February 3, 2016. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://money.cnn.com/2016/02/03/news/female-male-products-pricing-boots/

"From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer: A Study of Gender Pricing in New York City." New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, December 2015. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/dca/downloads/pdf/partners/Study-of-Gender-Pricing-in-NYC.pdf

"Why Are There So Few Men in Nursing?" Nursing Times. March 3, 2008. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://www.nursingtimes.net/why-are-there-so-few-men-in-nursing/849269.fullarticle

Nwadigwe, Linda. "Its More Expensive To Be A Woman Than It Is To Be A Man." Buzz South Africa. May 07, 2015. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://buzzsouthafrica.com/amazing-pink-tax-explains-how-its-more-expensive-to-be-a-woman-than-a-man/

Richardson, Hannah. "'Girls Outperform Boys at School' Despite Inequality." BBC News. January 22, 2015. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://www.bbc.com/news/education-30933493

Romero, Daniela. "The Mythical Pink Tax." The Rampage, March 29, 2016. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://cprampage.com/1081/features/the-mythical-pink-tax/

Ryan, Kelsey. "Finally, Products Can Be Certified as Feminist." Groundswell, November 24, 2014. Accessed June 8, 2016: http://groundswell.org/finally-products-can-be-certified-as-feminist/

Sand, Georgette. "Woman Tax." Accessed June 08, 2016: http://womantax.tumblr.com/

Swanson, Ana. "The Real Reason That So Many Women Have to Spend So Much Time Getting Ready." Washington Post. Accessed June 08, 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/05/19/the-real-reason-that-so-many-women-have-to-spend-so-much-time-getting-ready/

"Facts and Figures: Economic Empowerment." UN Women. Accessed June 08, 2016: http://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/economic-empowerment/facts-and-figures#sthash.Rn4V8OtB.dpuf

The website Woman tax: http://womantax.tumblr.com/