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Did you ever realize that the same product in pink or the products labeled “for her” are being charged higher prices than the rest? Well, there is a term to explain it: It is called “Pink Tax”. World Economic Forum describes the term as the price disparity between products that are advertised and targeted to men and women. First used in 1994 when the Gender Tax Repeal Act was legislated in California, the Pink Tax became more and more significant over time. Though direct discrimination towards women sometimes leaves the indirect actions in shade, this pricing mechanism is still alive and blocking us from reaching to an equal society and a sustainable culture.
When we search for observable examples of the tax, a research made by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs shows up. As an initiative to get rid of this mechanism, the Department revealed that women in New York City face an approximate rate of 7% higher prices compared to men when it comes to similar products. Razors constitute a great example of that: When women’s razors are priced at $18.49, men are charged $14.99 for the same product. Not only the price differences but also social constructions step in at this point. The socially constructed norm for women to be hairless obliges them to continuously shop for razors, even if they are charged more for the same product. Statistics show that tampons and pads are mostly priced by being included under the sales tax – which evaluates those products as “luxury” materials, even if they are a fundamental need. In this sense, the pink tax becomes a non-avoidable burden on women.
Unfortunately, the taxation is not only for hygiene products. The research by Business of Fashion reveals that the fashion industry also adopts similar practices. The research which put the products from fashion houses like Saint Laurent, Valentino, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Alexander Wang, and Balmain revealed that women are obliged to pay up to $1,000 more than men for the same clothing pieces. Even though it is argued that some of the women’s pieces require more hand work, the general trend proved that women are under a de facto embargo of various industries.
An opposed response to the “Pink Tax” takes root from the basic mechanism of capitalism: The supply and demand curve. Especially in the fashion industry, people argue that since women shop more, then prices get higher for their pieces. They claim that it is not a conscious act, instead, it is how the so-called “invisible hand” functions. However, the razor controversy points to an important factor. Women’s demands for products are often not shaped autonomously, they come as a result of societal stereotypes – just like being obliged to be hairless. We must ask, then: If there is no free will, isn’t it problematic to present the supply-demand curves as an argument? On the other hand, the inequality between the salaries of men and women is worth noticing. A recent study by the European Commission on the gender pay gap proves that European women earn almost 13% less than men for the same working hours and the same jobs. In this sense; even a world where the pink tax is not present would be unfair due to the lack of opportunities between genders. What the pink tax does to women becomes more and more punitive considering all these burdens.
We cannot change the world in 24 hours, but we can initiate our habits to fight inequality. Conscious shopping against the pink tax can include some of these practices: Reject buying the “female version” of the same products, stop shopping from brands which produce unethically, and which implement the pink tax. Keep following the statistics on Pink Tax to strengthen your consciousness about the brands. After these personal actions, the next step would be a collective attitude: Just like the legislators of New York City and California prohibiting the “pink tax”, you can influence your regional legislators. Joining activist groups or contacting policy entrepreneurs will work. Being a voice against discrimination will work. Sooner or later, the collective action towards the pink tax would take us one step further in the journey of building a sustainable world and an egalitarian society.