My Fight Against the Pink Tax
What is the pink tax? At some point, somebody powerful decided that I wanted pink, fancy-looking “curvy” razor instead of a normal, straight blue one. You know… it should be pink because I’m a female, and it should be curvy because curves are “sexy”. Right?
So that’s the razor they sold me – and they sold lots of them to women around the world, too.
Normally this wouldn’t be more than an annoying reminder of gender-stereotyping, but my pink curvy razor cost more than my partner’s simple blue one.
Wait – what?!
Even worse, this phenomenon has been going on for decades without much of a fuss. Women around the world have been expected to pay more than men for the exact same product or service.
Recently, this phenomenon has received enough attention that it’s been coined the term “Pink Tax” and more and more women are speaking out against it. Because frankly, it’s absolutely ludicrous and is NOT okay.
What is the Pink Tax?
So what is this Pink Tax? Basically, it’s when the cost for a product or service is higher for females than for males – for absolutely no reason. Some of the most commonly recognized Pink Tax items are health and beauty products – think shampoos, body washes, deodorants, and razors. But the Pink Tax can also apply to service providers, like hair stylists, dry cleaning and vehicle maintenance.
Like most women, I recognize that the health and beauty industry markets differently to men and women. The colour, shape and claims on each product that we’re sold will vary depending on what the industry believes we want. As a result, “women’s” products might look very different than “men’s” products on the outside, but in many cases, they’re made of the exact same materials.
I remember being a teenager shopping for deodorant, and noticing that men’s deodorant was cheaper than mine. At the time I never questioned it. My naive, young mind always thought there must be a reason for the disparity – either mine had more moisturizer, or something else special, to justify the price difference. And truthfully, I think a lot of women believe that the packaging claims justify a higher price, not realizing that it’s usually the same product.
Not until I was living with a boyfriend during my university years, did it really occur to me how unfair it was. It wasn’t just deodorant – it went beyond that. All of the products he used were cheaper than mine! His shampoos, his razors, his body wash – all of it. At the time I wasn’t buying natural or organic products – the stuff I was buying was the exact same “big-brand” stuff he was buying, except with a citrus or floral smell.
It never made any sense to me. It still doesn’t make sense to me. We’ve come to a point in society where gender equality is paramount. The gender wage gap is still a fight, but the awareness is there. So why is this Pink Tax still an issue?
Don’t think the Pink Tax affects you? Think again.
Many organizations have studied this phenomenon with regards to products and services targeted to men versus women, and the results have repeatedly suggested evidence of a Pink Tax affecting women.
In a 2015 study done by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, 35 product categories were analyzed and women’s products cost more than men’s about 42% of the time.1 Overall, women pay approximately 7% more than men for similar products. In an older study from 1994, the State of California estimated that women pay an annual “gender tax” that amounts to $1,351 for the same services as men.2 Consider, for a minute, how this adds up over a woman’s lifetime.
Editor’s note: Not to mention women traditionally earn less than men for on an hourly basis for doing the same line of work, with the same experience. Stats Canada reported that in 2015 women earned on average 85 cents for every 1 dollar earned by a man.3 This is due to women being encouraged to pursue jobs in lower-paying fields and gender prejudice in the workplace. As you can imagine, the Pink Tax is compounded when women statistically earn less than men and have to pay more for the same products.
On top of that, in many parts of the developed world, women continue to pay tax on tampons and feminine hygiene products – even though they’re considered essentials. Thankfully this is changing in some states and countries, but there is still work to be done.
Editor’s note: Scotland is leading the fight against taxing essential feminine hygiene products by offering free menstrual products in an effort to abolish Period Poverty, the finding that “almost 1 in 2 girls has resorted to using alternatives such as toilet roll, socks or newspapers” in place of safe and necessary products, as they can’t afford them.4
Still, don’t think the Pink Tax affects you?
How can you get around the Pink Tax?
There are a few things women can do the avoid the Pink Tax, or at least raise awareness about it:
- Support brands who are fighting the Pink Tax. Though there aren’t many company activists in this realm, I was able to find Billie razors who have made it their
mission to fight the Pink Tax.
- Hold companies accountable. Reaching out to brands has never been easier with the convenience of social media – especially if you want to get an answer quickly and publicly!
- Be cautious of beauty products labelled or branded ‘for Women’ – for example, razors, shampoo and deodorant. In many cases, the ingredients are the exact same except for the scent. If you are choosing a product branded ‘for women’ and the price point is higher, check to make sure that there’s a valid reason you’re paying more – because sometimes there is!
- Don’t be afraid to shop in the men’s section for clothing. You can find some surprisingly great finds on the other side of the store! Editor’s note: The world’s first gender-neutral store opened in New York, and there are gender neutral clothing lines here in Canada too.
Steps I take to avoid the Pink Tax
Since I’ve transitioned to buying mostly natural and organic health and beauty products, I have noticed that I purchase fewer products labelled ‘for women’. Many of them are generic and gender-neutral. I often choose ‘gender neutral’ body soaps, hand soaps, hair products and more. My husband and I use many of the same products interchangeably so I avoid most strong “feminine” scents.
I’ve also done some shopping in the men’s clothing section. No, the cut won’t be the same, and I can’t do this for everything in my wardrobe, but I have a handful of men’s clothing that I wear regularly. They are mostly button-down flannel shirts, sweatpants, long-sleeve tees and pyjamas. In fact, some of my favourite clothes are actually from the men’s section! Also – I find a lot of the material in the men’s section is more natural. There’s more cotton and less polyester (in general) which my skin appreciates!
The future of the Pink Tax
New generations of women are being raised from a young age to stand up for themselves. I am grateful to have a strong female role model who guided me as I navigated this world – my mom. Early on, I learned that women and men should be treated as equals and that females deserve no less than anyone else simply because of our gender.
While it’s frustrating that the Pink Tax still exists, I am confident that women around the world are getting louder and louder every day, fighting for our right for equality. Things are always changing, and I truly believe there will be an eventual end to the Pink Tax, once and for all.
KELLY MAIA AGNEW, CNP, ROHP, RNCP
is a holistic nutritionist with a passion for women’s health and wellness. Upon receiving her Honours Bachelor of Commerce, with a specialization in marketing, she began her corporate career in buying for a multi-billion dollar corporation. After neglecting her health and quickly burning out, she decided to make a career change. She graduated from the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in 2017 with first class honours – all while working as a marketing associate for a national crown corporation. Learn more about Kelly by visiting her website.