The Pink Tax: What it is and How it Affects Us

Almost anywhere you go shopping, you have probably noticed how some brands advertise their products as traditionally “male” or “female.” Not only does this confine products to be directed to only two genders, but it also gives the notion that some products are masculine and some are feminine. Brands will advertise based on these two genders by packaging “male” products with dark colors, many times blue, and giving their products names such as Rugged or Axe. It is also noticeable that “female” products are advertised with pink or purple colors, and if there is a fragrance it is always something fruity or floral. Companies do this for products that are not directed towards a specific gender either; universal products like body wash, razors, and even toothbrushes are gender directed. 

 

However, advertising isn’t the only gender-based difference in retail. The “pink tax” is a form of gender-based pricing that charges more for traditional “feminine” products. Therefore, the “pink tax” isn’t actually a tax, but rather an upcharge. The pink tax is normally associated with feminine hygiene products such as tampons, pads, and liners, but the pink tax is applied to many other “female” directed products as well; It adds an extra fee to everyday products such as shampoo, bodywash, razors, clothes, and even children’s toys. The pink tax will also span across a consumer’s lifetime, because it also affects products like clothing, braces, canes, and more. The only difference between these products and products exempt from the pink tax is the gender they are directed towards. In fact, items directed towards female identifying consumers cost 7% more than the same item advertised for male identifying consumers. 

Is it important to note that the pink tax does not affect those who identify as female, but any consumer that purchases these products. This “tax” also puts these consumers at an economic disadvantage, many who are female identifying and are already at an economic disadvantage with a pay wage gap of about 20% recocrded in 2020, according to Pay Scale

For example, the brand Schick Hydro makes razors designed for men and women, but the prices differ based on which gender the razors are designed for. The razors advertised for women are $10.99, while the same Schick razor for men is $10.49. 

While the actual pink tax on these products is barely noticeable, sometimes only a difference of 50 cents, the cumulative cost over time is significant. The pink tax will add up to about $2,135 per year, according to Good Housekeeping

One of the more controversial products that the pink tax effects are feminine hygiene products, also called the “tampon tax.” Despite the fact that products like tampons, pads, and liners are necessary health items for any person who experiences menstruation, they are still charged more under the pink tax, with an additional sales tax as a “luxury item.” (I think we can all agree that there is nothing luxurious about menstruation.) 

A few ways to avoid the pink tax include doing your homework on certain products and brands that the tax falls under or buying “men’s” versions of the same product. For example, Billie is a clean body brand that specializes in razors made for women’s skin, and the best part is, no pink tax My Billie

While the pink tax is still in effect in this country, there have been movements to appeal it. In 1995, the Gender Tax Repeal Act was passed in California, saying that businesses of any kind could not charge differently on the basis of gender. Later in 2016, Congresswoman Jackie Spier introduced a similar nation-wide bill to Congress, but no official action was taken. In 2019, Spier again introduced a bill that would ban the pink tax, but again no official action followed Good Housekeeping

While no official nation-wide appeals have yet to be successful, the Affordable Care Act does state that insurance companies must charge the same for services, no matter the customer’s identifying gender. However, there is still a long way to go, and we have to keep fighting for change to be made.