Gillette took on toxic masculinity in a powerful ad that has, predictably, hurt a lot of fragile male feelings. In the video, the company asks men to take on the responsibility of modeling healthy behaviors to young boys, particularly regarding the way that they treat people. Obviously, this crosses a line. How dare we ask men to be accountable for their own actions and mindful of the examples they’re setting for younger generations. What’s next? Are we going to ask them to pay more for personal care products than women? Not likely. That is honor reserved for the ladies, which is why the concept is (affectionately?) referred to as the Pink Tax.
The Pink Tax refers to the difference in price between gendered, but otherwise comparable, items. Since I opened by mentioning Gillette, let’s look at shaving products first. I was pleased to find that Gillette actually prices their top-of-the-line products identically across gender lines. That is fantastic news, however, they offer far more economy choices for men. The least expensive four-pack of razor refills for men’s razors is $10 cheaper than the least expensive four-pack for women’s razors. Women also pay $2.99 for bargain-basic shaving cream, while men pay only $.97. Of course, to be fair, Gillette is not necessarily required to produce an equal number of options for men and women. After all, women typically shave less frequently and shave less surface area than men, right? So it’s FINE.
Price discrimination is not limited to shaving products. A quick visit to Target’s website revealed that Dove Deodorants that are labeled for women not only cost more, but also come in slightly smaller sizes (in ounces). Head & Shoulders is equally sneaky. In addition to their gender-neutral baseline product, they also offer shampoos with scents that are traditionally masculine or feminine. The items with more masculine scents actually cost the same amount as the items with feminine fragrances, buuuuuuuut they contain up to 3.6 more ounces of product. Essentially, it costs less to smell like a manly tree, and more to smell like a feminine flower.
In 2015, the New York Department of Consumer Affairs performed a research study on this very topic. The results should be surprising to women nowhere. They found that the Pink Tax impacted not only the personal industry, but also toys and accessories, children’s clothing, adult clothing, and senior/home healthcare (From Cradle to Cane). The average industry price gaps ranged from 4-13%. Now, as frustrating as this is, in many cases women do have the option of buying gender neutral varieties, or even male versions of products. But, as indicated by the study, the Pink Tax reaches beyond the scope of personal care. Most women, especially in the professional world, cannot wear men’s clothing or men’s accessories to work. They are in many instances required to wear makeup, sometimes as part of an explicit dress code, and other times it is not-so-subtly “encouraged” by management. The makeup, of course, is also taxed. AND THEN THERE ARE TAMPONS, and pads, and menstrual cups, which men like to call “luxury items”. I personally can think of greater luxury items to stick up inside me than a blood catcher, but whatever. Ultimately, it all evens out, because women in this country make more money than their male counterparts for performing the same jobs…oh wait.
From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer. (n.d.). Retrieved January 23, 2019, from https://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/partners/gender-pricing-study.page