For centuries, the society has set a notion wherein pink colour indicates ‘girls’ because obviously, it is presumed to have a ‘soft’, ‘delicate’ look , while blue stands for boys. If you have ever visited a baby shower, you will vehemently nod your head agreeing to the above statement. Unfortunately, many large Multi-National Companies (MNCs) have been taking advantage of this gender stereotyping tool to make large profits. Product differentiation and the following price discrimination is a well-known concept in the capitalist regime but newly recognised in this game stands the ‘pink tax’ which charges differently for the same product on the basis of gender. So now not only do women earn less compared to their male counterpart but also pay more for the same product.
Pink tax not only talks about the gender based discrimination taking place in the way Corporates market their products but also refers to the tax implied on tampons, pads etc. To simplify, pink tax is a synonym for the cost of being a girl. To view it from an economic lens, despite women having a higher or equal demand for the same products like men they are still charged a higher price, thus defying the traditional law of demand and price. This has been proven by a study undertaken by The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs in 2015 where in they finally concluded that female shoppers are charged on an average 7% more than male shoppers for the same product, simply because that product is ‘pink’ in colour, has a certain flowery, fruity smell attached to it or contains a negligible difference in packing. Even if one thinks that the difference in what they are paying might not be a significant amount, the study manifests that it could actually end up costing $1,351 extra per year compared to what men pay.
The Pink Tax, which gets its name from the colour most often marketed directly to girls can be seen causing price discrimination in terms of several products and services like dry cleaning, toys, T-shirts, personal care, baby products etc. You can look at it as another way of adding to the layer of gender discrimination.
The onus of paying the pink tax is experienced by a girl right from her childhood where ‘My Baby Excel Spiderman Homecoming 2 Wheels Scooter’ costs 1500 rupees while ‘Disney Princess Two Wheeler Scooter Disney Princess with Lighting’ on the other hand costs 2200 rupees, to her teenage years where despite of a simple haircut she has to pay 1000 rupees while the boy with hair as long as hers pay only 250 rupees. This difference of 750 rupees is a reflection of the discrimination existing in the society. A clear example of pink tax can be seen in the wide range of personal care products like soap, shampoo, razor, towel etc. A search on Amazon or any other online portal will flash ‘Laser Sport’ 3 Razor Set of 3 (15 Razor, 15 Cartridges) for 280 for Men and ‘Laser’ Petals 3 Triple Blade Disposable Razor for Women (Pack of 16 Razors) for 450, thus again strengthening the observation of the existence of Pink tax thriving in a patriarchal society across the globe. Often when you go to buy napkins and towels, a pink or purple towel will cost you a novelty amount of Rs. 20-100 more than a blue or a red towel.
Image Source: Screenshots from Flipkart
This throws light on the fact that MNCs assume women to be less price elastic which means they tend to buy the same products at any price available (most of the times higher). Through the basic concept of elasticity we can learn that the above statement means that large changes in prices of products would barely bring a small change in the overall quantity demanded by women.
We can often hear people pass stingy comments saying girls are high maintenance. What they fail to notice is the gender based taxes charged which is making their lifestyle expensive. In a lot of Western countries, heavy taxes are levied on tampons and sanitary pads under the umbrella of ‘luxury tax’. The evident paradox is that menstruation is not luxury, just like food and clothing, pads are a necessity.
Danielle Kurtzleben, a journalist put it up very well saying, “Think about it this way: you’re paying extra to play a made-up role that society pays you less for inhabiting.” It is an entire rut where women are expected to look good according to the ideal standards set by the society and then they are charged more for those products and paid less for their work.
The astonishing factor is that heterogeneous prices are being charged for homogenous products. Even if we try to look at it from worm’s view and think that products like razors are priced differently due to distinguishing hygiene requirements, it would be unfair because a man would need a razor just as much as a woman would.
Beyond all this what is disturbing is the fact that most people when asked are unaware about the ‘pink tax’ and oblivious to the fact that they are paying a higher amount unconsciously. We can derive this by looking at India where until recently, a phenomenally high tax rate of 12% was charged on sanitary napkins between 2017- 2018, not a lot of people were even aware that they were paying tax on such a necessary commodity. The market forces of demand and supply are failing in front of the socially embedded biases deeply-rooted in patriarchy, instead they are twisted to maximise profits. The first step in avoiding the pink tax is to at least be aware of the existence of the evil and to make noise. Making corporates realise that the sexism needs to end will follow.
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