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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The Trump Presidency Is Over

Say hello to President Mike Pence.

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Remember this date: August 21, 2018.

This was the day that two of President Donald Trump's most-important associates were convicted on eight counts each, and one directly implicated the president himself.

Paul Manafort was Trump's campaign chairman for a few months in 2016, but the charges brought against him don't necessarily implicate Trump. However, they are incredibly important considering was is one of the most influential people in the Trump campaign and picked Mike Pence to be the vice presidential candidate.

Manafort was convicted on five counts of tax fraud, two counts of bank fraud, and one count of failure to file a report of a foreign bank account. And it could have been even worse. The jury was only unanimous on eight counts while 10 counts were declared a mistrial.

Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, told a judge that Trump explicitly instructed him to break campaign-finance laws by paying two women not to publicly disclose the affairs they had with Trump. Those two women are believed to be Karen McDougal, a Playboy model, and Stormy Daniels, a pornstar. Trump had an affair with both while married to his current wife, Melania.

And then to no surprise, Fox News pundits spun this in the only way they know how. Sara Carter on Hannity said that the FBI and the Department of Justice are colluding as if it's some sort of deep-state conspiracy. Does someone want to tell her that the FBI is literally a part of the DOJ?

The Republican Party has for too long let Trump get away with criminal behavior, and it's long past time to, at the very least, remove Mr. Trump from office.

And then Trump should face the consequences for the crimes he has committed. Yes, Democrats have a role, too. But Republicans have control of both chambers of Congress, so they head every committee. They have the power to subpoena Trump's tax returns, which they have not. They have the power to subpoena key witnesses in their Russia investigations, which they have not.

For the better part of a year I have been asking myself what is the breaking point with Republicans and Trump. It does not seem like there is one, so for the time being we're stuck with a president who paid off two women he had an affair with in an attempt to influence a United States election.

Imagine for a second that any past president had done even a fraction of what Trump has.

Barack Obama got eviscerated for wearing a tan suit. If he had affairs with multiple women, then Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell would be preparing to burn him at the stake. If they won't, then Trump's enthusiastic would be more than happy to do so.

For too long we've been saying that Trump is heading down a road similar to Nixon, but it's evident now that we're way past that point. Donald Trump now has incriminating evidence against him to prove he's a criminal, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller is just getting started.

Will Trump soften the blow and resign in disgrace before impeachment like Nixon did? Knowing his fragile ego, there's honestly no telling what he'll do. But it's high time Trump leaves an office he never should have entered in the first place.

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An Escape Raft From Trump

How a declaration of resistance is really a plot to escape blame

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How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? I'm not talking about how a person recovers from being a victim of a great wrong, nor am I referring to the process of judging those who perpetrated the act. No, what I want to know is how those who aide and abet such actions, those who collaborate and stand idly by, come back into the fold of civilized society without being held to account.

A few weeks ago there was an anonymous Op-Ed in the New York Times from a senior White House official. The piece caused a great stir because it alleged a great conspiracy within the president's administration by even its most senior members to thwart the worst impulses of the president and keep the nation on a relatively sane track. Much of the coverage has focused on trying to identify the author of this controversial piece or praising those brave souls in the administration who are a part of the resistance. I was among this crowd until I started reading a bit further about this article and what it represented. With that further exploration I came to realize that what I took for a reassuring statement to the American public was actually something much more sinister.

How does a person come back from being part of a great injustice? This is the question that is currently haunting the leaders of the Republican Party as they grapple with the Trump presidency and the taint it casts upon their party. As the increasingly impending likelihood that Democrats will take back Congress and ramp up investigations, not only into Trump himself, but also the upper echelons of his administration and even members of Congress, Republicans are searching for any way to avoid blame before this impending storm of controversy and negative stigma hits.

This is where the op-ed and its cynical ploy comes in to play. While I have little doubt that there is a faction in the White House that attempts to curb the president to some degree, I do not for a moment believe it could be called a resistance or the actions of so-called 'adults in the room.' The point of the Op-Ed was not to give voice to this faction, but to control the narrative of Republicans in the White House, to tell a story about otherwise good people who work for this horrible man, but do it because they are preventing someone worse from coming along and doing something really bad. It's a convincing tale all things considered and its been proven to work in the past. Clichéd as it is to bring up Nazis with the Trump administration, in this particular case it fits, many Nazis after the war told tales of honorable Germans who were only doing things out of their patriotic duty and with the belief that if they didn't carry out orders someone else much worse would. It was convincing enough that thousands of former Nazis never received any meaningful form of punishment and lived out the rest of their days never having to atone for their participation in some of the greatest crimes in human history.

The thing about the 'preventing worse things from happening' argument both then and now is that it is complete and utter B.S. Many Germans knew what the Nazis were doing was wrong the same way as many Republicans know what Trump is doing is wrong, they just don't care because it gets them what they want, which is usually power. After some initial hesitation, Republicans were all too eager to embrace Trump and what he represented like moths to a racist, sexist flame. They endorsed and stood by him on the campaign trail even as his behavior set new lows for conduct, as his supporters unlashed a new hatful undercurrent into the party, and as shocking allegations about his personal conduct came out. Even as president when his capacity to lead has been shown on numerous occasions to be insufficient for the office, and his past activities are being revealed as startlingly criminal in nature, they stand by and affirm their support until the end.

Such stubborn loyalty might be commendable if it wasn't to such a horrible man who does such horrible things, except for that fact that it is illusionary. Republicans loyalty to Trump only lasts as far as it brings them power. And now that Trump's star is starting to fall and the voters are preparing to make their displeasure clear at the ballot box, they are seeking to distance themselves from him as fast as possible. The op-ed is simply the first step, to introduce the idea that Republicans were never that invested in Trump in the first place and were always present in opposing him, just not in any open or accountable way. They hope that their efforts coupled with the public's intense dislike of Trump and his close cohorts will allow history to repeat itself and they can get away scot free without their involvement ever coming to light.

We as the American people need to stop this narrative right here at the start and recognize it for what it is, a cynical ploy by a bunch of greedy, corrupt cowards trying to save their own skin as their boss takes the fall. We cannot allow them to succeed in this; we cannot allow them to escape justice. In the name of all those that have been harmed by this administration, in honor of all that has been endangered by their lust for power, they must be held accountable.

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