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Are You Paying the “Woman Tax?”

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Have you ever wondered why a package of 3 pink disposable razors often costs a couple dollars more than a package of 3 blue disposable razors? Or why the cost to dry-clean mens’ shirts is usually much lower than dry-cleaning a ‘blouse’ or dress of similar size? If you’ve noticed these differences before and reached for the blue instead of pink to save a few pennies, you may now allow yourself a moment of smug vindication. A recent campaign by Georgette Sands, a French women’s advocacy group, found that women are often charged up to 75% more for products that are almost exactly the same as the “male” product. It’s not just limited to drugstore products or dry-cleaning, either. Studies have found major differences in what men and women pay for home mortgages, cars, car repairs, and, before the ACA, health care. Call it the “pink tax,” the “woman tax,” or whatever you like, the fact is that in most of the world, we’re paying it.

Aside from the ubiquitous unfairness in pricing, another issue with gendered products is that the women’s product can be grossly condescending. An example of both issues can be found in the BIC “Cristal For Her” pens. Released in 2012 and lambasted by Ellen DeGeneres on her show for being ridiculously retrograde, these pens come in a variety of lady-approved pretty pastel colors and feature a “thin barrel to fit a woman’s hand.” They can be found on Amazon for $10.14 for a pack of 16, or $0.63/pen. A package of 12 regular Cristal BIC pens, apparently for men’s hands, is $2.49, or $0.21/pen. The thousands of outraged (and hilarious) reviews on Amazon show exactly what many pen-holding women think about this product.

Though the issue is getting a lot of attention with the release of this campaign and the subsequent petition in France to right this disparity, this is not a new problem by any means. Marie Claire published an article in March 2012 that discussed this “gender pricing” and named various market research and studies that found similar results across the board. Awareness of the issue goes even further back, to 1996, when California became the first state of many to outlaw gender pricing. A great step, but unfortunately these are hard laws to enforce, with manufacturers claiming women’s products are more expensive to produce, and loopholes in the laws that allow businesses to charge women more based on different factors.

So what’s a girl to do in this gender-priced world? One option is, of course, refuse to be duped and buy the men’s product if it is the most fairly priced. However, this is not the ideal solution, especially if you quite enjoy your lavender scented body wash and would enjoy it even more if you weren’t being cheated out of your hard-earned dollars. Sometimes, the generic product is the same or even cheaper than the men’s product and is essentially the same as name brand, making it a good way to get your product without giving your money to the big perpetrators of this issue. Another way to speak up is writing to your local representative and demanding a federal law outlawing gender pricing. Remember, money talks, and so do votes, so use what you’ve got to end this issue!

Photo Credit: Getty Images

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