If you are a woman, have you ever noticed that when you need to buy a shampoo, a deodorant, a moisture crème, a razor, etc., they cost more than their equivalent “for men”?
Yes, not only on average women are paid consistently less than men for the same work, but they also have to pay more for cosmetics and other kind of everyday products. In fact, it has been calculated that women spend 13% more than men on personal care, 8% on clothing, 7% on toys and accessories, and 4% on children’s clothing. Furthermore, some items marketed to women not only cost more but also contain less quantity of the product because manufacturers make the product smaller to seem more “feminine-looking”.
The extra cost put on commodities whose target is supposed to be female is called “Pink Tax”. According to an American research, the pink tax costs women roughly $2,135 per year – which is about 1 thousand 8 hundred euro!
Obviously, the difference of price between a “for her” and a “for him” whatever product depends on the country. For instance, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, and UK are in Europe the countries where this kind of tax has been reduced to 4-6%, whereas Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Norway, and Sweden are those that impose the higher taxation on products marketed to women – over the 20%.
A special case of pink tax is the so-called “Tampon Tax”, namely, the value-added tax on products for feminine hygiene like tampons, sanitary napkins, and menstrual cups. Obviously, there is no male equivalent for this kind of commodity, so no comparison of price can be done. However, as many feminist groups have pointed out, it is unfair that sanitary products are treated like luxury goods, as we do not choose to bleed – in Italy the tax on pads is the 22%, the same as truffle, which is a luxury good.
Ireland is the only European country where the tampon tax has been abolished. On the 1st of January 2021, the UK abolished the tax on menstrual products as well. Therefore, every country can reduce the tax on its own initiative, but still there is no a common directive about this from the EU.
The European Union has tried to deal with this economic and social issue but only favouring research. Indeed, there is a European Parliament report on gender equality and taxation policies in the EU, but it is not a law, i.e. it’s only a proposal and not an obligation for its members.
Now, the question is: why women products often cost more than their male version? If you type this question on Google you can read articles that say that, for instance, it’s possible that products marketed towards women are more expensive because small changes in manufacturing, like colour, require additional materials at a higher rate. Other say that market researchers have found out that women are “less price-sensitive” than men, and therefore willing to pay more for clothing or personal care products. These reasons can both be true, but if we think deeper about this, there is something more. Marcella Corsi, a Professor of Economy at the University of Roma La Sapienza, explains how the pink tax is related to market logic imposed by our capitalist and patriarchal system.
“This gender-based discrimination” she claims “comes from a cultural stereotype about women that took place in the 1950s”, when the American way of life was spreading in all Europe. According to this stereotype, women (at that time mostly housewives) have a lot of free time and they enjoy to spend the money that their husbands make. Now of course the situation is different, and way better for women. However, according to Corsi, related to this stereotype is the tendency of the market to speculate on certain categories of consumers, in this case women.
“The problem of the Pink Tax” she points out “can be placed among the phenomena of price discrimination linked to the 'typification' of consumers. Market studies show that women are more easily targeted by these dynamics”.