The financial burden on women goes beyond the wage gap: women’s products tend to cost more than men’s, and are often smaller, a marketing strategy known as ‘shrink it and pink it.‘ This means that a woman pay more each year for even the most basic necessities like deodorant and razors (not to mention the fact that women pay a luxury tax on tampons).
In the mid-1990s, a study found that women spent an average of $1,351 just in extra costs tacked on to gendered products. Currently women pay more than men on 32% of comparable goods and services.
The Vice President for Income Security and Education at the National Women’s Law Center, Anna Chu says, “You’re basically squeezing women and families from both ends of the stick. You’re squeezing them at their cost of living, and you’re squeezing them at the wage end, too.”
The gap starts in infancy and continues for the rest of a woman’s life. In 2015 New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs found that on average toys marketed for girls cost 11% more than toys marketed for boys.
The pricing consultancy group Boomerang Commerce has published an analysis demonstrating that products in the color pink nearly always cost more than the exact same thing in a different color. A non-pink Fisher-Price tricycle costs $43 on Amazon, while the identical trike in pink costs $58. At Target a beginner’s bike for children costs $64 – unless it’s pink, in which case it costs $80. There are numerous more examples, ranging from electronics to clothes to school supplies.
Some companies try to claim that manufacturing women’s products is more costly. One deodorant company attempted to explain away the difference in pricing with that excuse, saying that women’s and men’s deodorants had different formulas. The University of Central Florida stepped in and called their bluff. The men’s and women’s deodorant used exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same percentages, with the only difference being the minute amount of fragrance added to each. Right now at CVS pharmacies, Degree Men Sport Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $3.79 for 2.7 ounces, while its “feminine” counterpart, Degree MotionSense Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $5.49 for 2.6 ounces.
It gets even more absurd. At the dry cleaner, men pay on average $2.86 per shirt while women pay $4.95 per shirt. Men’s formal shirts are often made out of high quality materials, require special care (hence the dry cleaning), and are made up of more fabric than women’s shirts. The issue has drawn the attention of President Obama, who said at a pay equity event, “We’ll talk about dry cleaners next, right, because I know that — I don’t know why it costs more for Michelle’s blouse than my shirt.”
Renee Posey is a plus size woman who was buying jeans at Old Navy in 2014 when she realized that while women’s plus size jeans cost $12-15 more than standard sizing, men’s plus size jeans cost exactly the same and the standard size ones. She made it her mission to spread awareness of the inequality, starting a petition on Change.org that has almost 100,000 signatures.
Posey says, “I was fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture. However, selling jeans to larger-sized men at the same cost as they sell to smaller men not only negates the cost of manufacture argument, but indicates that Old Navy is participating in both sexism and sizeism, directed only at women.”
California passed into law the Gender Tax Repeal Act in 1995. The law makes it illegal to charge women more than men for similar services and products. The good news is that change might be coming to the rest of America. In July a bill was introduced in Congress called the Pink Tax Repeal Act . Write to your senators and your representative, and let’s make change.