Imagine this: you run out of shampoo and go to the grocery store to pick up a new bottle. Looking through the many options, you notice that the women’s shampoo is priced at $8.39, while the men’s is $5.68. You also decide to buy some deodorant, finding that, once again, the product is $0.25 more expensive for women than for men. Surely there couldn’t be that much of a difference between the men’s and women’s versions of these drugstore products to justify the price disparities? But this phenomenon, called the pink tax, is very real. The pink tax not only perpetuates gender inequality but also puts a financial burden on women as well as reinforces harmful gender stereotypes. Most of us are at least slightly aware of this issue, so why is nothing being done about it?
The pink tax doesn’t apply to just basic hygiene products but also clothing, children’s toys and accessories, and senior care products. The price differences affect people of all ages. While some may say that the pink tax is insignificant, its impact is quite large. According to a New York pink tax study, women’s products are on average 13 percent more expensive than men’s products of a similar type. You may think, “What’s the harm in a few dollars extra?” However, this could result in some women not being able to buy necessary hygiene items, such as deodorant, body wash, shampoo, and conditioner. Additionally, according to a study by JP Morgan Chase, an investment bank, the pink tax costs an average woman around $1,300 extra per year. As of now, New York and California are two of the only states in the U.S. that have enforced a law prohibiting the pink tax. Why should women have to pay more than men for necessities, especially while also suffering the effects of the gender wage gap?
Take body wash, an essential product for everyone. The first thing you notice when searching up men’s body wash versus women’s body wash is that the packaging for women is almost always “prettier.” To take a deeper dive into one specific brand, I chose “Method,” a popular body wash brand. Comparing Method’s 18 ounce women’s body wash to the men’s version of the same product, you can easily see the price difference: $9.19 versus $7.99.
While you may think this does not affect you, even here at Andover, most boarding students do not have any choice but to buy hygiene and personal care products from the local CVS. The pink tax phenomenon therefore affects female students in the way that we have fewer options, and almost all higher-quality products cost more compared to their male counterparts.
The main reason for the pink tax is that companies believe women will pay for a product even if the price is raised, thus ultimately increasing revenue. However, as women, we shouldn’t have to walk into a grocery store and pay more for the same product as anyone else just because of our gender. Larger companies should start thinking more about basic human rights before considering profit margins and prioritizing accessibility over making money.
Some companies have adopted this mindset by making public statements to address this added cost to women’s products. For example, “Billie,” a razor company, offered a discount, along with the statement, “On behalf of the razor companies out there, we’re sorry you’ve been overpaying for pink razors. It’s time you got some money back.” Companies make these statements to promote dismantling the pink tax, but notably, the government still hasn’t addressed the issue formally enough. There are currently no federal laws today which prohibit the unequal pricing of identical products for different genders.
I don’t expect the pink tax to simply disappear in the next few years, but as a general population, we can take a stand and say no to the pink tax to save money and promote gender equality. Even though some of us at Andover might be able to afford the extra few dollars, this gap still affects the communities and people around us and will only grow from here. Companies aren’t going to see a need for change if those affected do not care enough to take the initiative. It’s completely possible to create products that are inclusive to everyone, regardless of gender. In the meantime, instead of forcing ourselves to buy products that are marketed for women, we can look for daily products that work for us, regardless of gender.