The Pink Tax: What You Don't Know

What is the Pink Tax?

The Pink Tax is a reference to the fact that women are charged extra for feminine products and services. These include tampons, which are not exempted from sales tax in many states, like California and New York, along with the average cost of clothes, dry cleaning, self care products and even toys. The government has been marking up the prices on goods targeted towards females, but why? The name of the issue stemmed from France’s Secretary of State for Women’s Rights, Pascale Boistard, in 2014 when she asked on twitter “Is pink a luxury color?” After this, the debates on price discrimination took off and continues to this day.

It’s 2018, and things still haven’t changed. When I walk into target and head to the self-care products section, there is a distinct dichotomy between women’s products and men’s products. Not only in prices, but visually in color. This issue is called the Pink Tax for a reason: literally just the color of an item is enough for companies to raise the price on a product but only if that color reflects that the product is “feminine”. Why must feminine care products always be pink? Does society not know that women like other colors? Does being a woman mean that you must have some natural affinity for the color pink? It may be surprising to some, but women do actually like other colors. The underlying problem here with this pink symbolism is that companies use the color not only to signal that it's for female use but that the product is more expensive as well.

It has been estimated that women pay an extra $1351 a year due to the Pink Tax and pay more than men 42% of the time. That’s very close to 50%, and that’s way too high. Is society even trying to fool us any longer with this unequal distribution of pricing? It doesn’t appear to be, so why isn’t anything being done about it?

Getting your period is a natural biological process of the female body, and women that menstruate get their periods for about thirty years. Thirty years of needing period products times the extra $1,351 a year women pay for the Pink Tax equals $40,530. That’s a big number, especially when period products are supposedly taxed because they are a luxury item. HA! 

Some people speculate that the opposition towards taking away the tax on period products is due to how taboo society has made periods, and that’s a good point. Period shame and embarrassment should not exist, as if women who menstruate don’t already feel vulnerable and labored enough when they’re on their period.

Candice Elliot said that “paying for tampons is a first world problem. In the first world,” a statement that allows us to look at this situation from a more global perspective. Independent news came out with statistic for International Women’s Day that said that 137,700 girls in the UK missed school last year because they couldn’t afford sanitary products. It also found that 11% of girls were putting their health at risk by using sanitary products for much longer than recommended as a way to reduce spending costs.

The prices of sanitary products for women is causing girls to suffer from “period poverty,” which causes them to make sacrifices to their pride, budget and even education. Girls all over the world are having to skip class and miss out on an education due to not being able to afford period products. One in ten girls in Sub-Saharan Africa miss days of school due to their period. The same problem is seen in Bangladesh, where 41% of girls going through puberty miss out on education every month.

It goes without saying that the prices of period products are negatively affecting the futures of young women. They are receiving less education than their male counterparts for a natural process that they cannot control, putting them behind men at a very young age. Not to mention all of the other adversities they will face against the opposite sex in their futures. Why are people allowing this to happen?

Women have been verbal about demanding equal pay for equal work for a very long time now, and even though it seems like the voices have been heard, wage gaps still exist. Not only are women getting paid less than men for performing the same job, but they are also having to pay more for the products and services they purchase with that money. It’s like a never ending loop of robbing women of equality and putting them behind men.

Gloria Steinem wrote an essay in 1978 titled If Men Could Menstruate that highlights the differences of how periods would be treated if they were experienced by men. She states that periods “would become an enviable, boast-worthy, masculine event [...], congress would fund a National Institute of Dysmenorrhea to help stamp out monthly discomforts [...] and sanitary supplies would be federally funded and free.” It’s an interesting and comical role reversal, something so far out there that I can’t even imagine. 

Steinem ends her essay with a call to action, saying that men make “power justification that could probably go on forever”, but only “if we let them.” So I guess that’s the million dollar answer, we have to not let them take anything else from us. We have to keep fighting for equal pay, the right to an education, the right to be a woman. We have to fight the Pink Tax, not only for the sake of the money, but for the women and girls it’s effecting and everything it represents.