“Is Pink A Luxury Color?”

Photo by Bethany Hsiao

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Across the world and in Blacksburg, women frequently pay more for comparable goods and services than men do, a phenomenon known as the pink tax.

“That’s messed up because the products should be equal prices, and otherwise, that’s gender discrimination,” said Nicholas Naughton, sophomore.

The movement against the pink tax originated in France in 2014, when the Georgette Sand collective – a feminist organization – charged the supermarket chain Monoprix with pricing items marketed towards females higher than those marketed towards males.

As proof, the organization provided a photo comparing the prices of disposable razors. A five-pack wrapped in pink cost €1.80, while a ten-pack wrapped in blue cost €1.72. It then created a petition called “Monoprix: Stop more expensive products for women! #Womantax” that also addressed the inequality of pricing for services. Subsequently, according to the New York Times, Pascale Boistard, the French Secretary of State for Women’s Rights, tweeted, “Le rose est-il une couleur de luxe?” which translates to, “Is pink a luxury color?”

Monoprix denied this allegation by claiming that supply and demand dictated its pricing policy. A larger volume of men’s razors allowed it to charge less for them, and higher production costs of women’s razors forced it to charge more.

Georgette Sand eventually obtained more than 44,000 signatures and, as a result, an investigation of the causes of the pink tax by the French Finance Ministry. The ministry promised to take action if it found proof of sexist pricing, reports France 24, an international news network based in Paris. However, no articles indicate that the ministry ever took action, implying that it did not find proof of sexist pricing.

In America, on average, the pink tax forces women to pay $1300 more than men do each year, reports People. Also, according to U.S. News, for comparable products, women pay more than men do 42% of the time. However, women and men do pay equal amounts 40% of the time, and men pay more 18% of the time.

To specifically name products, the grooming and hygiene products that fall under luxury goods tend to cost women more than they do men, including razors, lotions, shampoo and conditioners, and deodorant. Many women also pay more for services such as dry cleaning and hair cutting. In addition, 36 states slap a sales tax on tampons and pads, a basic necessity for women, classifying them as luxury goods.

The pink tax phenomenon is also present in Blacksburg. At Kroger on University City Blvd, the three-count Kroger Women’s 5-Blade Disposable Razors cost $7.19, while the three-count Kroger Men’s 5-Blade Disposable Razors cost $3.99, 45% less than the women’s. At Target, the Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner that sports a pink flower (21.9 fluid ounces) costs $7.99, while the larger Head & Shoulders 2-in-1 Shampoo & Conditioner for men (23.7 fluid ounces) also costs $7.99. In both cases, the two products look identical except for the women’s pink packaging and the men’s black.

“I see [the pink tax] in any chain store. Shaving cream is often $10 more expensive; the little Eos ones are like $15, and the men’s are bigger and cheaper,” said Elizabeth Ferguson, Senior.

American companies list several potential reasons for the price discrepancies, including differences in supply and demand and inventory. USA Today reports that companies often invest more in advertising to females than to males, which contributes to increased prices for women.  

“I don’t think it’s girls’ fault they buy products marketed to them, and most likely, no one’s going to make a huge deal about paying extra, so it’s hard for them to get equal prices,” said Drew Babcock, Senior.

On July 26, 2018, Burger King pulled this phenomenon back into the public eye. The fast food restaurant chain released an ad called “Burger King® Chick Tax” to illustrate its disdain for the pink tax. In the ad, Burger King created a stereotypically feminine carton for fries. The employees informed female customers the fries would cost $1.40 more for the light pink and eyelash-adorned packaging.

The female customers protested and often asked to switch to the standard carton. After lengthy debates with each individual, the employees asked how they reacted to similar discrimination in drugstores. All the females answered that they ignored the price discrepancy. The ad concluded with defining the pink tax, a woman calling the phenomenon “stupid,” and a slide touting the message, “At Burger King®, we believe everything should be equal.”

“I like what Burger King did because it shows what’s happening and what the pink tax is. A lot of times, people don’t know about the pink tax or think it’s fake, and this ad shows that it’s real,” said Ferguson.

The ad received a deluge of criticism on YouTube, with 14,000 dislikes vastly outweighing the 584 likes. The comments’ tone resembled the like pattern with many claiming Burger King had overstepped its political role.

Multiple comments shared similar refrains to the one expressed by matt606, “If you don’t think it’s worth paying more for something, then don’t buy it! Companies will adjust accordingly very quickly. Are they suggesting we need legislation for this? … You don’t like something, vote with your dollars. Free market responds much quicker than a fully regulated, government-controlled market.

Blacksburg High School students generally disagreed with the comments’ criticism.

“I partly agree with that, but there are some products that women have to have specifically made for them. It’s like saying if someone’s rude then don’t talk to him/her, but it’s really hard to avoid him/her at work or school,” said Michael Chen, junior.

“Because such a gender stereotype exists, it’s not as simple as to just not buy it. Women pay for these because there aren’t any other options for the idea of feminine cleanliness and health. There’s a monopoly on women’s products, and there’s not another option if you want to smell like vanilla,” said Ferguson.

Currently, Representative Speier of California has introduced the Pink Tax Repeal Act, which would illegalize pricing similar products differently for men and women. You can support it by contacting your congressional representative through congress.gov.

 

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