Shrink It And Pink It

Shrink It And Pink It

It's not just the wage gap that is hurting women's wallets.
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Even in the 21st century, gender inequality continues to persist in our society. From the pay gap to discrimination in sports, women are no strangers to being treated differently -- and not in a good way. We are all well-aware of many sexist injustices, but there is another lesser-known disparity to add to the pile: gendered pricing.

Between cosmetics and tampons (not the mention the absurd luxury tax on tampons), women already spend more than men on health and beauty products. But because of gendered pricing -- the way women's products are priced differently from men's -- women are paying even more. A study by the California Assembly’s in the mid-1990s found that women, on average, spend $1,351 per year in extra costs tacked on solely because of their gender. Upon this discovery, California became the first state to ban gendered pricing with the passage of the Gender Tax Repeal Act of 1995; however, those of us who do not live in California are still forced to deal with the issue.

The current argument is that it is simply costlier to manufacture and market women's goods: That "feminine" floral fragrances are more expensive to produce than scents for men, and the production women's clothes requires a higher degree of sewing finesse. When companies were asked why there was a difference in price, one spokesperson from a deodorant company told Consumer Reports that the products are “completely different formulations,” with differences in packaging. It didn't seem to matter to them that the brand's deodorant contained the same ingredients and percentages; further research by the University of Central Florida in 2011 found that the only difference between the deodorants was the scent. A quick scan of CVS Pharmacy found that Degree Men Sport Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $3.79 for 2.7 ounces, while its "feminine" counterpart, Degree MotionSense Antiperspirant and Deodorant costs $5.49 for 2.6 ounces. This common occurrence is a prime example of the marketing mantra "shrink it and pink it," a strategy in which everyday products are produced in various shades of pink and made smaller for women to use; however, this usually means that women end up purchasing smaller amounts of product at a higher price. This method is implemented with products such as razors, earbuds, tool boxes and even pens such as Bic's pink and purple pens "for her" (“I know you’re thinking, ‘It’s about time!’ ” Ellen DeGeneres snarked. “Can you believe this? We’ve been using man pens all these years!”)

Deodorant and pens aside, there are thousands of other items that are sold at a higher cost for women. As Consumer Reports found, manufacturers "across the board" insisted that this is just the way things are, once again claiming that it's more expensive to make products for women. It is an accepted practice at this point. Over the course of their lives, women will pay more for everyday items 42 percent of the time, despite the fact that we make less money than men.

“You’re basically squeezing women and families from both ends of the stick,” Anna Chu, Vice President for Income Security and Education at the National Women’s Law Center said. “You’re squeezing them at their cost of living, and you’re squeezing them at the wage end, too.”

One prime example is clothing. Old Navy came under fire in 2014 when a customer named Renee Posey went to its website and noticed that plus-sized women's jeans cost $12 to $15 more. When she checked the prices for plus-sized men's jeans, she found that the price was the same as with regular-sized jeans.

"I was fine paying the extra money as a plus-sized woman, because, you know, more fabric equals higher cost of manufacture," Posey wrote on a petition on Change.org, which has since drawn 95,545 signatures. "However, selling jeans to larger-sized men at the same cost as they sell to smaller men not only negates the cost of manufacture argument, but indicates that Old Navy is participating in both sexism and sizeism, directed only at women."

According to trade lawyer Michael Cone, the issue begins right when the clothing is imported into the United States. When looking through a list of tariffs, Cone found that tariffs in the United States differed across gender lines. Men's sneakers, for example, were taxed at 8.5 percent while women's sneakers were taxed at ten percent. Not every tax he found was in favor of men, he did find that women were susceptible to higher taxes on good imported into the United States at a higher volume.

Dry cleaners are another place that women routinely pay more for clothes and the same service. In 2009 New York resident Janet Floyd decided to survey dry cleaners after she and her husband brought their nearly identical shirts to be laundered in Chelsea and found that hers cost $1.75 more to be cleaned than her husband's; she found that when it came to laundering, men paid an average of $2.86 per shirt compared to the $4.95 women paid. Even President Obama weighed in on the issue. In 2014, the Washington Post reported that he told a group of women gathered at the White House for a pay equity event, "We'll talk about dry cleaners next, right, because I know that — I don't know why it costs more for Michelle's blouse than my shirt."

But almost nothing elucidates the absurdity of gender pricing as vividly as the cost of children’s toys. An analysis by pricing consultancy Boomerang Commerce found that simply being pink is likely to add to the price of a toy sold by online retailers. The analysis, which looked at products sold by Target, Macy’s, J.C. Penney, Bloomingdales, Amazon and Walmart, found that the average differential for all pink vs. non-pink items was between two percent and 15 percent, depending on the retailer. It is important to mention that While the analysis focused on the color rather than gender-orientation of the items, the two factors are clearly related; the packaging on the majority of the pink toys analyzed show a young girl playing with the item, while the blue toys show a young boy. Even a quick search of Amazon.com can demonstrate the price disparities between toys marketed towards girls and toys marketed towards boys. As of August 28, JOON's Huge Teddy Bear-Blue costs $49.00, while its pink counterpart costs $54.95. Radio Flyer's My First Scooter, Red costs $31.96 while its My First Scooter, Pink costs $35.00. This evidence is more than anecdotal and less than unsurprising: A 2015 study conducted by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs found that girl’s toys cost more 55 percent of the time, and that girl’s clothes cost more 26 percent of the time. General toys were found to cost around eleven percent more for girls than boys.

While there still seems to be a long way to go on the path to eradicating the concept of unfair gender pricing, newfound awareness of the issue is a big step along the way. On July 8, Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the Pink Tax Repeal Act—a bill that would prohibit companies from charging different prices for similar products or services simply based on the gender of the customer. Consumers Union, the advocacy and policy arm of Consumer Reports, along with the Consumer Federation of America and other organizations supports the legislation. The bill is currently in the process of being considered by a congressional committee. In the meantime, consumers can contribute to the effort by voting with their dollars.

“Fundamentally, I don’t think retailers are going to change their behavior until we change our buying behavior,” said Jenn Steele, the director of product marketing at the consumer data firm Indix. “If the pink is more expensive, don’t buy it. Buy the green! Green is cheap. Awesome.”

Calling-out companies and spreading awareness of specific inequities in pricing (like this French Tumblr account has done) is another prime way to bring attention to inequality and expedite policies to close the pricing gap.

With public support, a future where men and women are treated equally as consumers may not be too far away.

Cover Image Credit: Money Tips

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I'm A Christian And I Have A Tattoo

Stop judging me for it.
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Like most people, I turned 18 years old during the course of my senior year of high school. I’ll never forget the months prior to my birthday, though, because I spent hours making a decision that would be with me forever, the decision of where I would go to get my first tattoo and where that tattoo would go, and of course I spent a lot of time deciding on the font, the colors, and all of the other aspects of the tattoo I wanted. Throughout this time, two things stood firm 1) the fact that I was going to get a tattoo, and 2) the six letter name that it would consist of.

Now, three years later, I’m 21 years old and I still get the occasional dirty look at church on Sunday or in line at Walmart, and more often than not this look is accompanied by the following words: “Why would you do that to your body when God says not to?” A few weeks ago at a new church, a woman came up to me and said, “How can you consider yourself a Christian when you have that blasphemous thing on your foot?”, I simply smiled at her and said: “God bless you, have a good week.” I let it roll off of my back, I’ve spent the past three years letting it “roll off of my back”… but I think it’s time that I speak up.

When I was 8 years old, I lost my sister. She passed away, after suffering from Childhood Cancer for a great deal of my childhood. Growing up, she had always been my best friend, and going through life after she passed was hard because I felt like even though I knew she was with me, I didn’t have something to visually tribute to her – a way to memorialize her. I, being a Christian and believing in Heaven, wanted to show my sister who was looking down on me that even though she was gone – she could still walk with me every day. I wanted it for me, for her. I wanted to have that connection, for her to always be a part of who I am on the outside – just as much as she is a part of who I am on the inside.

After getting my tattoo, I faced a lot of negativity. I would have Leviticus 19:28 thrown in my face more times than I cared to mention. I would be frowned on by various friends, and even some family. I was told a few times that markings on my body would send me to hell – that was my personal favorite.

You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks on you: I am the LORD.
Leviticus 19:28

The more I heard these things, the more I wanted to scream. I didn’t though. I didn’t let the harsh things said about me and my choice change the love I have for the Lord, for my sister, or for the new precious memento on my left foot. I began to study my Bible more, and when I came to the verse that had been thrown in my face many times before – I came to a realization. Reading the verses surrounding verse 28, I realized that God was speaking to the covenant people of Israel. He was warning them to stay away from the religious ways of the people surrounding them. Verse 28 wasn’t directed to what we, in today’s society, see as tattoos – it was meant in the context of the cultic practice of marking one’s self in the realm of cultic worship.

26 "You shall not eat anything with the blood, nor practice divination or soothsaying. 27 You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard. 28 ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD. 29 ‘Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, so that the land will not fall to harlotry and the land become full of lewdness. 30 ‘You shall keep My sabbaths and revere My sanctuary; I am the LORD. 31 ‘Do not turn to mediums or spiritists; do not seek them out to be defiled by them. I am the LORD your God."
Leviticus 19:26–31

The more I have studied my Bible over the past few years, the more I pity those who rely on one verse in the Old Testament to judge and degrade those, like myself, who made the decision to get a tattoo for whatever reason they may have for doing so. This is because, you see, in the New Testament it is said that believers are not bound by the laws of the Old Testament – if we were, there would be no shellfish or pork on the menus of various Christian homes. While some see tattoos as a modification of God’s creation, it could also be argued that pierced ears, haircuts, braces, or even fixing a cleft lip are no different.

24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor."
Galatians 3:24-25

In Galatians, we read that the Old Testament law was created to lead people to Jesus. However, we know that Jesus has come and died on the cross for our sins. He has saved us, therefore we are no longer held to this law in order to have a relationship with the Lord. Our relationship with Him comes from believing that Jesus came to Earth to die on a cross for our sins, and repenting of our sins – accepting Jesus as our Savior.

I am a Christian, I have a relationship with the Lord that is stronger than it has ever been, and - I HAVE A TATTOO.

I have a beautiful memento on my left foot that reminds me that my sister walks with me through every day of my life. She walked with me down the red carpet at my senior prom, she walked with me across the stage the day I graduated from high school, and she continues to be with me throughout every important moment of my life.

My tattoo is beautiful. My tattoo reminds me that I am never alone. My tattoo is perfect.

Stop judging me for it.

Cover Image Credit: Courtney Johnson

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Yes, Asexual People Like Me Are In The LGBTQ+ Community And DO Belong At Pride

The "A" in LGBTQIA stands for asexual, not ally. So why do some not include asexuals in Pride celebrations?

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The Asexual Visibility and Education Network defines asexuality as follows: "someone who does not experience sexual attraction. Unlike celibacy, which people choose, asexuality is an intrinsic part of who [a person is]." Asexual people, the organization states, are as capable as anyone else of forming close bonds with others; they just do not feel any need to introduce a a sexual element to that bond.

And, before you dismiss asexuality, numerous academic studies and articles, some from top-level universities, have already legitimized asexuality's existence.

So, enough with the plant jokes already. Asexuality is a real thing.

The fact that I even need to explain and validate this sexuality should give those underneath the "ace" (asexual) umbrella a place at Pride festivals and parades. But there are those within the LGBTQ community that say that asexual people do not belong there--Megan Hoins goes into the ugly side of that exclusionist attitude in an article from last year. Usually, this "ace discourse" manifests online, but, as we all know, the Internet does not exist in some sort of vacuum, and what we say has very real consequences, no matter where our voices are heard.

I'm a lesbian but not ace. Maybe that's a little TMI, but I wanted to let you know where my perspective comes from before I launched into my argument: yes, asexual people are part of the LGBTQ community, and they do belong at Pride festivals, parades and anywhere else considered a safe space for members of the LGBTQ community. I want and value their presence there, so long as they want and value mine.

Why do I feel this way? I could write a whole essay on all of the reasons; unfortunately, an online article is a bit too short to cover them all. I'll stick with something that research cannot discuss: my own coming-out experience. I have a lot more in common with an asexual person in this respect than I do a heterosexual person.

As a lesbian, I dealt with compulsory heterosexuality--in fact, I wrote a whole article on it. Basically, it is the societal assumption that, as a woman, I am obligated to like men. It took me years to convince both myself and others that my identity and feelings were real.

Asexual people deal with a similar hurdle: compulsory sexuality. They deal with this weird, Westernized hypersexualization: of boobs being shoved in their faces in every single magazine ad, of men with sexy six-pack abs in commercials. Viewing sexualized images when there are no sexual feelings present feels to the asexual very similar to how I felt with everyone telling me that I was supposed to like men: everyone saying, "He's so cute and so into you, go talk to him!" and one of my parents not accepting the fact that I don't like men for months after I came out, stuff like that.

By no means am I trying to lump the asexual and lesbian experience together; they are two unique things, but they bear remarkable similarities. The fact of the matter is, though, that heterosexual people never have to go through anything like this. They never have to defend their right to love who they love, to feel about who they feel about. Society just rolls with it, because it's the norm.

If I, a lesbian, belong to the LGBTQ community because I do not fit societal norms of what is expected of my attractions, then why don't asexual people?

Cover Image Credit:

Flickr

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