In my previous post, we looked at physical differences and social expectations that result in men and women paying different amounts for everyday living. But in addition to expectations for women to spend more time and money on cosmetics and personal care, there may be another, more insidious reason for the difference in spending… the so-called ‘pink tax’.
Let’s take shaving as an example.
In terms of physical differences, men tend to have more body hair, in particular, facial hair. Yet, while men spend between $350 (if using a straight razor) and $7,777 (if using disposable razors) over a lifetime, according to the book Plucked, the average woman will spend over $10,000 on shaving, or $23,000 on waxing.
Clearly, physical differences are not the main reason for this disparity. If men and women were both expected to rid their bodies of hair, men would probably spend more. Generally, men have coarser, more voluminous body hair.
A large part of the spending difference is of course related to the fact that while men are often expected to shave their faces, women are frequently expected to shave or wax their legs, underarms, and other parts. While such ‘services’ are available to men also, they use them far less frequently.
Yet while some of the reason for this difference in spending is a result of the type of products and services used, part results from what has been called the ‘pink tax’.
Razors marketed to women simply cost more than those packaged in more masculine designs.
Take the example of two Schick razors with the same specifications. The same number of blades, same number of moisturising strips. The “women’s” version costs $9.97 compared to the “men’s” $8.56. As the excellent program The Checkout describes, this is an example of gendered marketing.
‘Gendered marketing’ is where manufacturers and marketing professionals segment the market in order to sell more products. This allows them to sell some (usually those targeted at females) at a higher price than would otherwise be possible.
Of course, there are times when products targeted at men cost more than those aimed at women. However, according to numerous sources including the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, the opposite is more likely.
Is the ‘pink tax’ really a tax?
According to Investopedia,
Taxes are generally an involuntary fee levied on individuals or corporations that is enforced by a government entity, whether local, regional or national in order to finance government activities.
Unlike income tax, sales tax, etc. the ‘pink tax‘ is not something we have to pay. No one – government or other entity – forces women to buy pink items and men to buy blue or black.
Furthermore, taxes collected by the government are (at least in part) used to finance social services. They go towards defense and infrastructure, for the benefit of all in society. But the ‘pink tax’ just lines the pockets of big corporations.
Making something more expensive solely because it is pink, or because it has flowers drawn on the box (which doesn’t cost any more to produce) isn’t really a tax. It doesn’t fulfill the definitions of
(1) being an involuntary fee levied by a government entity and
(2) financing government activities.
However, there are times when ‘the pink tax’ does resemble an involuntary fee:
Sex and gender differences undercover
Women’s underwear is, unsurprisingly, more expensive than men’s. Women, again unsurprisingly, spend more on undergarments than men do.
Some of the difference in price is attributable to physical differences. As the Huffington Post notes, women incur more costs in replacing stained underwear than men thanks to menstruation. Furthermore, most women will also spend around $4,000 on brassieres over their lifetime. While not strictly a necessity, and of dubious health benefits (indeed, a search for benefits reveals more results for not wearing a bra) nearly 95% of women in Western countries do wear them.
Some of the difference in price is attributable to social expectations surrounding ‘feminine’ underwear. It should be lacy. Frilly. It should be complicated to make and to wear. It should have diamantes or pearls or heart-shaped sequins. There’s a far greater array of ‘fancy’ underwear available for women than for men. There’s even a specific word for it: lingerie, meaning ‘linen underwear, especially as made for women‘. This term was introduced to replace the (at the time) ‘scandalous’ word ‘under linens’. (Gasp!) These additions make lingerie more expensive to produce than plainer underwear, and hence, it is no surprise that their price reflects this.
But some of the difference between what women and men spend on underwear goes beyond reflecting the amount purchased and differences in materials and labour:
A bulk pack of white briefs manufactured by Fruit of the Loom from Target costs $8.99 for both men and women. But the men’s pack has two extra pairs in it, meaning a per-pair cost of $1.28 versus $1.80. And this is in spite of the fact that basic women’s underpants are on average smaller, use less fabric, and less elastic, and have a simpler design (i.e. not Y-fronts). Sure, women *can* buy men’s underwear, but they’re designed for a male anatomy.
(Bafflingly, ‘boyleg’ women’s pants cost more than actual boys’ pants…)
Lesson: Make sure to check the men’s and women’s sections of any store to choose the cheapest product. In cases where there is a physical as well as a social difference, such as underwear, avoid companies that apply a ‘pink tax’.
Clothing is one of the most significant areas in which women spend more than men. The stereotype that women love clothes shopping is so common, it’s cliche.
In the next post, we’ll examine differences in clothing specifically.
Today’s featured image is of a rather lovely pink bloom in Japan… now don’t you want to pay more 15% more for this post because it has a pink flower on it?!
(Lucky for you, 15% of free is still free… but I’d really appreciate it if you’d share this post with your friends!)
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If you’re interested in traveling lighter, cheaper, and for longer, please check out my recent post on Beautiful Budget Life!