Paying More for Pink: Gendered Price Discrimination

Amelia Coleman, Staff Writer

The pink tax is a burden that women and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) face when participating in the economy. The pink tax is when goods and services cost more primarily because they are made for women or are commonly associated with femininity. This can also be when women have to buy products that men usually don’t have to buy. 

The “tax” is a system that exploits women into paying what seems like a minimal extra amount after one purchase, but over time, causes women to pay substantially more than men. The pink tax can follow a woman from the grocery store, to a dry cleaner, and even to services like a car mechanic. Action can be taken to remove the pink tax by regulating it to the point of eradication. For example, New York outlawed the pink tax by making it illegal to charge different prices for products that look the same and serve the same function. While the pink tax is almost impossible to escape from, if equitable policies are put into place, there is hope for outrunning it.

There are a variety of reasons for why things tend to cost more for women, ranging from higher production costs to retailers believing the stereotype that women are more impulsive or uninformed consumers. However, these reasons are baseless, and conscious efforts need to be made towards mitigating gendered price inequity.

This system of things costing more for women is inherently misogynistic, and the numbers show it. From birth, things marketed to women will cost more. A New York City Department of Consumer Affairs study found that toys “made for girls” cost on average 2% to 13% more than the boy equivalent of that toy that are the same other than their color. The expenses for women or AFAB people become even greater when puberty approaches, as they have to spend more on products like pads and tampons, which is heightened by the fact that many states still have a tax on tampons, and don’t see them as a necessity. Along with menstrual products, women pay around 13% more for personal care products like razors and shampoo. 

This problem is heightened by the wage gap which results in women, especially women of color, getting paid far less than their male counterparts for the same job. According to the Pew Research Center, women earned on average 84% of what men earned in 2020. The combination of a disparaging wage gap and the pink tax makes it incredibly more expensive to be a woman. There is no reason for women to pay more than men, but they do throughout the entirety of their life. The state of California found that women pay roughly $1,351 more in extra costs and fees due to the pink tax. 

The pink tax doesn’t just affect goods, but also services. A study done by the National Bureau of Economic Research had male and female participants call mechanics to get quotes for repairs for their cars. People who seemed to be well-informed about the price to fix their cars were treated the same regardless of gender. Female callers who didn’t know about the pricing were quoted almost $23 more on average than male callers with similar education on the matter. Another instance of the pink tax occurring is when launderers charge more for female clothes to be cleaned than males. This occurs because clothes marketed to women and men are often made out of different materials and require different cleaning techniques. However, this does not mean there shouldn’t be efforts made towards price equity. For instance, businesses could estimate the ratio of men’s to women’s clothing that is dry cleaned and average out the cost to make the pricing more fair. This way, businesses still get the same profit and consumers would not have to pay more for the gender of their clothes.  

The pink tax can be avoided by buying products that are non-gendered, researching brands before you buy, or simply purchasing the considerably less expensive “male” versions of the same product. However, the pink tax isn’t something that women should have to bear and it shouldn’t be their responsibility to avoid it. If not through legal regulation, then pressure could be put on individual businesses to charge equally for their goods and services regardless of the gender of the buyer. It is possible for this problem to be managed and eventually be erased entirely, to become a memory of bygone times. Ultimately, it shouldn’t be this pricey to be a woman.