When we go to the store with a specific product in mind that we want to buy, we tend to peruse the aisles to see which brand will get the job done well without breaking the bank. We don’t think that our gender will determine our out-of-pocket expense. However, sometimes there is simply no way to avoid spending more money than necessary, especially if you are a female. The phenomenon that I am referencing is known as the “pink tax,” which refers to the upcharge of approximately 7 percent that women are charged for particular pharmaceutical products, in addition to numerous other types of products or services.
According to a recent article in TIME Magazine, Thompson Chemists, an independent Manhattan pharmacy, advertised early last week that there would be a 7 percent “man tax” on products, while women would shop tax-free. Although the intention of the store was to “raise awareness” about how much money women are required to spend on similar products that men buy for less, they went about doing it the wrong way. Rather than imposing what appeared to be a reverse tax, the pharmacy should be doing two things: encouraging the company’s whose products they sell to equalize the cost of their products and raising awareness by educating consumers.
According to TIME, “In an interview with Gothamist, Thompson Chemists’ owner, Jolie Alony, noted that … instead of increasing certain prices, Alony was simply applying a [7 percent] discount on women’s products and making up the difference out of pocket.” Although I can see the appeal in showing men how women are forced to live on a daily basis, simply redistributing the discrimination is not the way to resolve the issue. Instead, it will only divide people further and exacerbate the issue without coming up with a long-term solution. Additionally, the short-term solution does more to harm feminist ideals than it does to aid them since they are not reaching for equality, but rather looking to redirect oppression toward men.
Therefore, stores like Thompson Chemists should encourage the companies that produce the products that they carry to address the problem of gender discrimination. According to a 2015 study entitled, “From Cradle to Cane: The Cost of Being a Female Consumer” done by New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs, it was reported, “In all but five of the 35 product categories analyzed, products for female consumers were priced higher than those for male consumers.” Additionally, an important factor in the study is that the products they compared were similar types of items in branding, appearance, ingredients and other qualities. The study showed, “In every industry, products for female consumers were more likely to cost more. Specifically: Girls’ toys cost more 55 percent of the time, while boys’ toys cost more 8 percent of the time … Women’s clothing cost more 40 percent of the time, while men’s clothing cost more 32 percent of the time … Senior home health care products cost more for women 45 percent of the time and cost more for men 13 percent of the time.”
There is an evident discrepancy between these products, a puzzling phenomenon since, according to the study, the products are similar in make and model. While there may be a perceived notion that women use certain products more than men so companies surmise that they can capitalize on that or some other reason, there is no reason for certain products generally uninfluenced by gender to be marked higher for women than men.
There certainly needs to be action taken against the pink tax, but punishing men with a 7 percent increase is not the solution. In addition to a discussion being had between the stores and the brands, there can be more education on the topic. An educated consumer can effect change in consumer spending by avoiding gender specific products when possible, instead opting for gender-neutral products. Yet it is the “middle man,” the store owners, who have an obligation to their customers to prevail upon companies to promote equality in their pricing practices and end discriminatory gender pricing.