By Jamie Lindsey
Don Draper, from the popular TV show Mad Men, said, “The reason you haven’t felt it is because it doesn’t exist. What you call love was invented by guys like me…to sell nylons.”
A concept socially acceptable in the 1960s has progressed to what is now systematic discrimination in women’s consumer products. There is no denying that companies use the advantages they have to push their products on women. Ever wondered why women’s pockets are so small? Could it perhaps be so stores can push women to buy a purse? Have you ever wondered why something that is the color pink costs more than the same of a different color? We need to start questioning why women are being targeted and swindled by state tax codes and retail industries.
Let’s start with the “Tampon Tax”
The “Tampon Tax” is a tax on women’s sanitary healthcare items. One thing that we need to understand about the tampon tax is that it is not an extra tax on tampons, but instead, it’s the regular sales tax that states put on any consumer product. It is called a tampon tax because unlike other healthcare products such as dandruff shampoo, chapstick, and even Viagra, women still have to pay the sales tax on products like tampons and sanitary pads. There are currently only nine states in the country that have ceased to charge sales tax on these products according to an article from NPR by Ema Sagner in March 2018.
This begs the question, why? Why are women being unfairly taxed on products that are necessary to their health? We don’t live in a society where it is socially acceptable to have our monthly flow running down our legs once a month, nor is it hygienic. In which case, it is necessary for women to have access to sanitary items.
Another piece of information that we must take into consideration when discussing this topic is the fact that some states have yet to exempt this tax because it generates revenue, and some simply cannot afford it. In the same article by Ema Sagner, she states, “In some states the bill was circulated but not passed or signed. California Gov. Jerry Brown refused to sign the measure on the grounds that the state couldn’t afford to lose revenue. In her new book about period equity, Weiss-Wolf estimates the revenue from menstrual products can range from ‘$1 million in Utah to $20 million in California.’”
This directly shows that states who have yet to pass any bills to exempt sales tax from sanitary products are using only women and their income to create this revenue.
Women will spend thousands of dollars throughout their lifetime on necessary items such as tampons and sanitary pads. The sales tax that has to be paid adds several hundreds of dollars onto that total. To exempt items such as dandruff shampoo, Rogaine and chapstick and call these items “medical necessities,” and not call women’s sanitary items medical necessities is completely discriminatory. Not to mention, depending on women and their bodily functions to generate state revenue is completely unethical and immoral.
Let’s look at the Pink Tax.
The pink tax is also not a tax, but rather a systematic marketing approach that has been made and proven to make women pay more for products of the same brand and use. From the same article, Ema Sagner states, “A 2015 study by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs compared nearly 800 retail items from over 90 brands ranging from children’s toys to deodorant, specifically in search of potential gendered pricing. For any given product, the ‘women’s’ version costs an average of 7 percent more than similar products for men, the study found. Of the 35 product categories tested, only five did not price higher for the women’s version.”
I decided to do a little experiment and just look for the difference in deodorant prices from the Dove brand at a popular retail store. You can clearly see the difference in prices in comparison between the women’s deodorant and the men’s deodorant. For a regular stick of deodorant for women, it is $4.89 for a 2.6 ounces. The men’s deodorant sells for no more than $4.39 for 2.7-3.0 ounces.
Many ascribe these prices to the different costs for developing each product. However, the study mentioned above proves the systematic pricing of “pink” items and how it is clearly an unfair strategy used to disadvantage women and girls.
Many marketing strategies like this have existed since the dawn of modern society. In the book “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedman, published in 1963, she discusses a survey taken by department stores in 1957, in which one of their responses was, “Since buying is only the climax of a complicated relationship, based to a large extent on the woman’s yearning to know how to be a more attractive women, a better housewife, a superior mother, etc., use this motivation in all your promotion and advertising. Take every opportunity to explain how your store will help her fulfill her most cherished roles in life…”
It seems as if the same marketing strategies that were applied in 1957 are still being used in advertising in 2018.
Whatever steps we take to end gender discrimination in consumerism we must continue to fight for not only equal pay, but equal consumer prices and the end to the tampon tax.