The Pink Tax: Why being a woman is more expensive

Featured image courtesy of Ken Teegardin

Women can only be mothers, caretakers, or homemakers. They are incapable of any type of physical labor, such as serving our country or even having a job. They are just here to have children and cook and clean for the hard-working men. Women used to be limited to these restraints.  This was a common opinion among many people in previous years of the United States in regards to how gender affects a person. It has taken the American society a long time to realize that gender does not affect a person’s adequacy.

For women, it feels like a punch in the face. We have dealt with gender discrimination for years and by the 21st century one would think it would all be over. The pink tax is an added tax onto female-marketed products. Not only are marketers charging women more for products they need, they also make women feel pressured into buying the product marketed for their gender. This is not only in the adult world, since birth, people have been assigned a color, pink for girls and blue for boys. I am personally am an avid user of the “male” version of razors, and it’s not as big of a deal as some people think. Just because something is marketed for a specific gender, should not mean only that gender can use it. The pink tax is a harsh reality that sexism still exists in the United States.

The Pink Tax

The pink tax was initially an idea raised by concerned shoppers that products marketed towards females cost more. It was recently proven to be a fact. The pink tax is the added tax to “female” marketed products. A New York study done in 1992 called, “Gypped by Gender“, concluded that women paid more than men in these circumstances: dry cleaning, laundromats, used car dealerships, and hair salons. This opened up the topic as something people should be worried about.

This initial study in New York led to another in 1994 in California. The second study calculated the average “gender tax” women pay each year is an extra $1,351 to men. Creating a domino effect, California encouraged other states to complete their own research. These states found many similarities to California’s results. In 1995, California enacted a bill that defended shoppers against gender taxes. Other states and cities were quick to follow in their footsteps.

Video courtesy of Buzzfeed

The actual cost difference

According to a 2015 gendered-pricing study done by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs, on average, women’s products were priced 7% higher than the similar male-marketed product, and “In 1994, the State of California studied the issue of gender-based pricing of services and estimated that women effectively paid an annual “gender tax” of approximately $1,351 for the same services as men.” They tested a variety of things in the study and the results are mind boggling. The following list further details the findings of the previously-linked study.

  • 7% more for toys and accessories
  • 4% more for children’s clothing
  • 8% more for adult clothing
  • 13% more for personal care products
  • 8% more for senior/home health care products

The overall findings of the study are quite shocking: men pay more for products 18% of the time, and women pay more for similar products 42% of the time. The saddest part is that women have to learn to deal with this starting from a young age. Further evidence from the gendered-pricing study states that “female” marketed toys cost more than “male” toys 55% of the time. Along with that, girls’ clothing costs more than boys’ 26% of the time.

The article also states that the “choices made by manufacturers and retailers result in a greater financial burden for female consumers than for male consumers.”

How companies are getting away with this

According to an article written by Elizabeth Plank, companies use the layout of the stores to their advantage. Aisles are usually scattered by gender, making it difficult for consumers to spot price differences.

Companies also take advantage of societal beauty standards. By marketing similar products for either men or women, companies make consumers feel like they have to buy the product marketed for their own gender. By using this strategy it allows them to price their products differently because they don’t encourage people to buy the product marketed toward the opposite gender.

Another article from New York Times describes in detail how this added tax onto “female” products is just confusing. Lawyer Michael Cone was passionate about this topic and brought this issue up in a court case. Cone also claims to have been “surprised when the courts threw it out because they concluded that different import taxes on gloves, garments and shoes that are described exactly the same way except whether they were imported for ‘men or boys’ versus for ‘women and girls’, do not ‘facially discriminate on the basis of gender’ “.

Image courtesy of my mom, who found this at a Creative Kid Stuff store. This is a great example of how companies market similar products for different genders.

How to stop “the pink tax”

Many women have just started buying the “male version” of the same “female” products they buy, but that won’t stop the pink tax. In order to change this unfair and unreasonable tax, Elizabeth Plank recommends that we should use our position as consumers to our advantage.

By boycotting products, we can bring this issue to public view. By publicizing these issues, more people will become aware of the pink tax. States like California have already passed laws against commercial gender discrimination.

Lastly, educate yourself on this topic. Realize that this shouldn’t be happening and help bring this issue to public view.

Video courtesy of Buzzfeed

Warning: This video contains language some people may find upsetting

Some people to recognize

Michael Cone is a trade lawyer in New York, and was kind enough to help me gather information and give me a new perspective on commercial gender discrimination. He explains that, “males too suffer gender discrimination under various scenarios and eliminating it on one front helps attack the entire problem and move towards a universal cure”.

He also says, “We are not born with a pink versus blue brain, it is something we are taught through marketing which in my view is designed to establish a platform to charge more for pink stuff”.  Marketing has created this fiction, that girls must have pink things and boys must have blue things. These quotes are from a few emails we exchanged between each other.

Michael helped me realize that both genders are greatly affected on this issue. If we as a society are ever going to achieve gender-equal marketing, it is something in which both men and women must be involved.

Another person I would like to recognize is Abi Bechtel, an Oklahoma mom who saw a target sign that was quite upsetting. The sign had two different labels, one with just “building sets” and the other saying “girls’ building sets”.

She posted this picture on her twitter account publically shaming target and got loads of good feedback. Many people also showed support by reposting this picture and using the #AbiBechtel.


View the tweet here.


As we continue to fight this, nothing can be changed right away. It will take time for more people to realize that this is a huge problem. One of the first things that consumers need to understand is that marketing is just a strategy.

Don’t allow marketing to get under your skin and make you uncomfortable. Don’t let the products you use define who you are as a person. So, if I “smell like a man” excuse me for being cost effective.



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4 thoughts on “The Pink Tax: Why being a woman is more expensive

  1. Overall I think this was a great post that did a fantastic job of clarifying how big of an issue this has become. There were some great points that really stood out, and created concern, however I’m not sure the BuzzFeed video was appropriate for this case. They compared prices of different brands and products that had different qualities. For example, if the male product is a well known company, that may have less bonus features, it’s not fair to compare it to a feminine version with better quality. But that isn’t exactly your fault, so great job overall.

  2. Oh no! Tes, you’re a wonderful person, but I’m gonna have to disagree.

    I’ve gone through plenty of articles on the pink tax before, but this one explains it best:

    You’re facts aren’t wrong; women do often pay more than men, but the reason isn’t just “because they’re women.” There’s a multitude of reasons (all explained in the article), but the most basic two are A) women’s products are higher quality (ingredients in perfume/deodorant, design of razors) and B) women are willing to pay more for certain products.

    I feel like I’m going to regret posting this since I’m really tired of arguing. oh well.

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