The woman tax: Is pink a luxury colour?

By Efrosini Costa

The woman tax: Is pink a luxury colour?

Sure, women spend more per year on certain products than men when they have certain needs from make-up, hair products, waxing and general maintenance.

But does that mean women should be charged more per product than men?

Imagine being taxed more for products because of your gender. A couples of cents or dollars more may not seem like much, but tacked on to every errand and product the numbers add up – as anyone who has ever had to stick to a budget will attest.

According to a French women’s rights group, Georgette Sand – a play on 19th century French author George Sand, who famously used a male pen name in order to sell her novels – shampoos, razors, deodorants and other ‘feminine’ goods are being subject to an unfair ‘invisible tax’.

The news comes after the group launched a petition that attracted more than 30,000 signatures from disgruntled female  shoppers. Now a government investigation is under way, with France’s finance ministry ordering an inquiry into gender-based discrepancies in prices for apparently identical products.

Campaigners even have the photographs from local supermarket chains to prove it. One image shows a pink packet of five disposable razors priced €1.80, while a blue packet of 10 disposable razors for men costs €1.72.


At another store, campaigners found a 200ml tube of shaving gel cost €2.87 for women and €2.39 for men. (You can browse Georgette Sand’s  “Woman Tax” Tumblr, which features dozens of images of gendered pricing in French supermarkets)

“For similar products, women are paying more than men,” the campaigners wrote.

“The company takes advantage of the fact that women’s and men’s hygiene products are in different sections in order to apply different prices on products that are mostly similar, if not identical.”

The campaign has even garnered the support of Pascale Boistard, France’s secretary of state for women’s rights, who recently tweeted “Is pink a luxury colour?”

It’s not the first time the accusation of a so-called ‘woman’s tax’ has been made against big business.

A recent article by Forbes found that the average dry cleaning bill form a woman’s button down shirt costs ip to $4 more than her male counterparts would. The justification for the price difference apparently was because: ” the machine couldn’t fit shirts from a smaller person”.

A similar 2010 US consumer report found products like deodorant or shampoo cost more when marketed for women. When companies were brought in to question they said it was more expensive to manufacture products for women.

One spokesperson of two antiperspirants with the exact same percentages of the exact same ingredients was quotes saying: “They are completely different formulations,” .

Representatives of offending companies also cited differences in packaging and special ‘foaming action’, which women apparently prefer, as reasons for disparate pricing.

A study from the University of Florida drew similar conclusion about gender-based pricing. Its findings showed that, on average, women’s deodorants were priced 30 cents higher than men’s – even though “the only discernible difference was scent.”

The same was found of razors and shampoos, which, though they may smell different and look different, at the end of the day serve the same purpose as the scent-less, glitter-less versions.

But it doesn’t just start at the pricing in supermarkets. A US trade lawyer named Michael Cone, who was sifting through the list of tariffs (fees the US charges to import goods from other countries) noticed something incredible: the tariffs differed across gender lines. For example, men’s sneakers were taxed at 8.5%, while women’s were taxed at 10%.

The discrepancies in prices across gender lines even extends into healthcare in the US.  A nonsmoking woman often pays a higher premium than a smoking man, with women paying a total 1 billion dollars more on annual health care costs than men, according to the National Women’s Law Centre. The discrepancy even has a name, it’s called the ‘gender rating’.

These US insurance companies maintain that women pay more because they’re “more expensive customers who utilise more health services.”

This is true, healthy women are three times less likely to avoid going to the doctor than healthy men, but that’s hardly surprising considering there is no male equivalent to the gynaecologist, and women are the only ones seeing doctors when pregnant. Even so, most health insurance plans that discriminate don’t cover maternity services, according to research by the National Women’s Law Centre.

In a  world where women are still paid less than their male peers, the latest French gender pricing scandal begs the question, can women afford to be paying more because of their sex? The answer is a resounding no.


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