Bottom line: Being a womyn costs more than being a man
Being a womyn is an expensive undertaking. We incur higher costs for similar items that men purchase and pay higher taxes or a Pink Tax for things that we specifically need (ahem, tampons). Not only that, but because of the gender pay gap, women are paid less money than men for equal work, which hurts women of color even more than our white counterparts.
From menstruation products, razors, deodorant, and health insurance, to dry cleaning, car repairs, and haircuts, womyn pay more due to gender pricing. And, across a womyn’s lifetime, we will pay more for everything – from birth to death.
A 2015 study from NYC's Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) found that on average products for womyn cost 7 percent more than comparable products for men and boys. Seven percent more for toys and accessories; 4 percent more for children's clothing; 8 percent more for adult clothing; 13 percent more for personal care products; and 8 percent more for senior/home health care products. In its study, DCA acknowledged that “over the course of a woman’s life, the financial impact of these gender-based pricing disparities is significant.”
Dry cleaning businesses often charge more to repair and clean womyn’s clothes. A 2011 study in Gender Issues found a men’s shirt costs an average of $2.06 to get dry-cleaned, whereas women’s shirts cost an average of $3.95.
Another study from The American Economic Review found that car dealers have a habit of giving white men better offers than white women or black women amounting to a difference that can be more than $200 for white women, and more than $400 for Black women. That doesn’t even include final markups, which have been found to be almost 50 percent higher for white women and 100 percent higher for Black women.
According to a 2012 article in Marie Claire, California, who in 1996 became the first state to ban gender pricing, found that women paid about $1,351 annually in extra costs and fees. That would amount to $151 billion in markups, which, by the way, is more than what the federal government spent on education in 2011.
Then there are products, such as tampons, that are a basic necessity for womyn that we are also taxed for. Tampons, and similar hygiene products, are only tax-exempt in five states—Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Jersey.
According to Splinter News, some states don't tax items such as pregnancy tests (Colorado), disposable heating pads (Vermont), or incontinence pads for bladder dysfunction (North Dakota, Connecticut)—but still tax tampons. These taxes seem particularly unfair since this tax only impacts womyn. What’s even more outrageous about this is that even during “tax-free” holidays, where items such as school supplies, uniforms, books, etc. are untaxed, feminine hygiene products are still taxed. Doesn’t make sense right? Canada became the first country to abolish a tampon tax, but that seems a long way off for women in the U.S.
Seems unfair, right? Because there’s no federal law banning discrimination on the sale of goods and services, it is legal for businesses to charge more. While some cities and states have passed their own antidiscrimination statutes, they are often vague and filled with loopholes leaving women to pay more for these goods and services.
In 2011, the European Union's top court outlawed all forms of insurance-related gender pricing. In America, we’ve seen little movement to ban this practice overall. During the Obama Administration, former President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reversed a horrible U.S. Supreme Court decision. It now allows women to have a fair hearing in courts should they challenge gender-based wage discrimination. It was a good first step but hasn’t done much to curb the problems of gender price gouging or the gender pay gap. According to the National Women’s Law Center, compared with white men, Black women earn on average $21,000 less per year. For Indigenous and Latinx women, that’s even lower, with $23,000 and $26,000 less per year respectively.
The #TimesUp movement, started by celebrity ambassadors such as Tracee Ellis Ross, Janelle Monae, and Gabrielle Union, has restarted the national conversation on equal pay for equal work and inequality in the work place, but hasn’t quite touched gender price gouging or the Pink Tax. The organizers of the movement are pushing for policy and legislation that deals with gender parity issues and with such changes, we could see legislation passed to end gender price gouging.
These are hopeful signs. The conversations have started, but not enough people are asking questions, challenging vendors, or speaking out about these issues yet. We need to share our outrage, do our research, and patron businesses that have made it a point to stop gender price gouging.