WRITTEN BY Macy Roberts
The pink tax is a less direct form of gender discrimination that refers to the up charging of products and services marketed to women.
When asked to consider how we see the pink tax in effect, it is most common for us to note how hygienic items such as shampoo and deodorant tend to cost more when they are labeled as women’s products. In reality, the impacts of the pink tax extend far beyond the bathroom.
The pink tax is seen applied to products ranging from children’s toys to clothing items to office supplies.
In a Business Insider article published in 2012, the price difference in BIC pens marketed to women and BIC pens with no gender preference was exposed.
Bic for Her is exactly what it sounds like: a line of pens created and sold specifically for a female audience. According to Insider, the Bic for Her pens “were sold in small quantities and for a higher cost than non-gendered pens with the same product specs.”
Multiple styles of BIC pens with similar features were compared to each other, and for each of these styles the Bic for Her pen was priced higher than the pen it was tested against.
The Insider article says “Bic for Her pens cost up to 70 percent more than non-gendered pens” but states the only factor distinguishing Bic for Her pens from regular Bic pens “is that they’re pink or purple, and come in a pack labeled Bic for Her.”
The Bic for Her Line has since been discontinued, but lines like it continue to be introduced to and still thrive in the current market. These examples should prompt us to consider the more overarching idea of how femininity is sold to consumers.
In 2016, the Joint Economic Committee of the United States Congress published a report on the pink tax that explains how items deemed more feminine through characteristics like color and scent “may cost more to manufacture” and be subject to higher tariffs. Additionally, marketing costs are increased because of the high price of ads that target women.
These facts provide a general framework we can use to understand the inner workings of the pink tax, but we cannot meaningfully contextualize the extent of the role it plays in our society without considering the prominence of gender roles.
While it would be easy to propose that women boycott the pink tax by opting to purchase lower-priced men’s products, thinking this way does not account for social implications. As suggested in the Joint Economic Committee report, paying more for a floral scented soap may be more appealing to women than risking judgment for smelling “masculine.”
There is hope for eliminating the pink tax once and for all, but to drive this hope we must take initiative and advocate for legislative action.
The Pink Tax Repeal Act is sponsored by Jackie Speier, a Congressmember who represents California. There, pricing consumer services by gender has been illegal since 1996.
By supporting Congresswoman Speier and advocating for similar legislation in all levels of government, we can bring more attention to the discrimination imposed by the pink tax and begin dismantling a system that has long placed a hefty price tag on conforming to a traditional idea of femininity.
“PROOF THAT PENS ARE SEXIST: Bic Charges More for Pens Targeted At Women” – Insider
“The Pink Tax” – Joint Economic Committee (United States Congress)