The Case of the Pink Tax

Graphic by Tejal Kawachi

If you’ve ever walked into a store and picked up your usual toiletries, you’ll notice a separate product for men and women. And if you pick two similar products from both types, have you ever noticed the difference on that price tag?

If you have, then you’ve discovered the very common phenomenon called the pink tax. This refers to the increase in prices of items targeted at women compared to similar products targeted at men. Put in simpler words, this can be rephrased as “gender based pricing”. It feeds off the female market with packaging based on stereotypical ‘feminine’ colours like pink and purple, and places these female products at significantly higher prices compared to its male counterparts.

It is not an official tax applied on products used by women. Rather, it’s a tactic used by capitalist companies that forces people purchasing feminine products to pay more.

To sum up, it’s not a tax in any way – it is a profiting scheme.

Now, let’s crunch numbers.  In 2015, after having examined five industries, the New York Consumer Affairs Report cited that women on a daily average have to pay 7 percent higher prices for products than men and this included toys, accessories, personal care products as well as children’s and adult clothing. To break this down further,  we understand that women pay 13% more for personal care products, 8% more for adult clothing, 8% more for senior/home health care products, 7% more for accessories and toys and 4% more for children’s clothing.

That’s a lot of numbers. But the most atrocious upcharges were among personal care products for women. Personal products like razors, deodorants and perfumes are divided based on gender and priced differently, even though the female version of the products are hardly any different from the others. For example, a razor marketed for men would only cost a sum of 75 rupees. That same razor targeted for women, would cost up to a whopping sum of 200 rupees. 

The pink tax is a classic example of how the industrial sector continuously creates a false notion of beauty, in turn capitalising on insecurities of people. An ordinary razor that produces the desired result for men apparently cannot do the same for women, but nothing to worry because the same razor in pink and flowery packaging that costs 200 rupees works wonders for the female counterpart. 

And in some instances, the products made for women were less durable and practical compared to those for men. It’s come to a point that women who shave on a regular basis would opt for men’s razors more due to its flexibility and longer durability.

In a world that continues to strive for equality, it is surprising not many people are aware of this phenomenon, much less advocate for its abolishment. This tax not only exploits an entire section of society, but it also succeeds in feeding unrealistic beauty expectations to women. This and the gender pay gap makes it ridiculously harder for women. To increase the price on female products as they work twice as hard as men to reach their level is heavily unjust. If we truly strive to make society an accepting space for all genders, we must make sure phenomena like the pink tax should not exist.

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