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The Pink Tax- The Cost of Being a Female Consumer

Updated on January 14, 2020 Updated on January 14, 2020
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the pink tax

The pink tax is one that only about half of the population is subject to. And they probably aren’t even aware of it. Are you paying the pink tax?

The pink tax refers to the extra amount women are charged for certain products or services. Things like dry cleaning, personal care products, and vehicle maintenance. So not only do women make less but they pay more. Women also live longer so they actually need more money for retirement. It’s a load of crap. 

There has been a lot of research on the pink tax that found that overall, women were paying more than men 42% of the time. How much more?  About $1,351 more a year in extra costs. Yup – that’s $1,351 that can’t go into her retirement fund.

Stop Paying The Pink Tax

Did you know, tampons and pads are charged sales tax because they are considered “luxury” items. Periods are certainly not a luxury and I’m sure every woman on the planet would agree.

Recently, some companies have been stepping up against unfair pricing and making moves towards high-quality ultra-low cost prices. Harry’s is one of them.

Harry’s is a gender-neutral product first company that sells shaving products and other awesome skin care products that are of the cheapest you can find without compromising on quality. Yes, finally an affordable shave club that works for women.

Boxed is another company fighting the good fight. They are Rethinking Pink and standing up to the pink tax. Boxed is enforcing price equality for women, on a per ounce or per unit basis for products that typically cost more for women than men such as razors, deodorants and many products. And my favorite, no taxation for tampons.

Why are we paying more?

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs released a study comparing the prices of over 800 products. The goal of the study was to estimate the price differences male and female shoppers face when buying the same types of items.

The results: Products for women or girls cost 7% more than comparable products for men and boys.

  • 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

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Old Navy got busted for charging more for women’s plus-sized clothing but not for men’s. The plus-sized women’s jeans were $12-15 more than the standard sized ones. But there was no such difference between the prices of men’s plus and regular sized jeans.

Gap, who owns Old Navy, released a statement that the additional cost was because “they are created by a team of designers who are experts in creating the most flattering and on-trend plus styles, which includes curve-enhancing and curve-flattering elements such as four-way stretch materials and contoured waistbands, which most men’s garments do not include.”

Fancy words for the third world, sweatshop child labor. The words “flattering and on-trend” aren’t exactly the ones that spring to mind when I think of Old Navy. Crappy, cheaply made and ready for the rag bag after a couple of washes are what I think of. Old Navy is getting uppity.

Women’s clothing cost more than men’s in six of seven categories, with the exception of underwear, which cost an average of 29% more for men. The clothing product category that had the largest price difference by percent was women’s shirts, which cost 15% more on average than men’s shirts.

Dry Cleaning

Dry cleaners are another place women will pay more for the same service. Men’s shirts cost an average of $2.86 to be cleaned and women’s cost $4.95. This sucks because I am good at many domestic tasks, but ironing has never been one of them.

I could take a shirt out of the bottom of the laundry hamper, and it would look better before my half-assed attempt at ironing it than it does after. Unfortunately, I just cannot get the hang of it.

It’s not even that cotton dress shirts need special laundering that requires dry cleaners, it’s just that the cleaners will iron them for you. I avoid this by buying only Foxcroft no-iron shirts. You can throw these in the laundry, and they come out perfect. Life pro tip for you.

Self Care Products

These are the kinds of things you buy in a drug store, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, face cleanser. These kinds of products are prime offenders when it comes to charging women more for the “pink” products.

Here’s what you can do ladies, just buy the men’s stuff! Unless you buy the fancy razors with multiple blades and “moisture strips,” the only difference between generic old stick razors for men and women is that our’s are pink and their’s are blue. Surprisingly, color has little effect on the hair removal process.

the pink tax personal care

And buy a big old can of Barbasol. The stuff has been around since 1919 for a reason. In fact, I think the can that is permanently rusted to the edge of my tub is of that vintage. Lasts forever, works great and whatever you’re shaving won’t smell like the inside of a raspberry pop tart. Women’s shaving creams have the nastiest, synthetic smells.

You’re not out of the drug store yet. If you have internal rather than external plumbing, you are going spend about $3,000 over the course of your life on pads or tampons too. Jessica Valenti wrote a piece in the Guardian last year wondering why these products weren’t free or at least not taxed. The backlash was swift and vitriolic. You would have thought she had the nerve to say that Viagra shouldn’t be covered by insurance, the bitch.

the pink tax razors

Paying for tampons is a first world problem. In the first world. Not all women live in the first world, and lack of access to menstrual (sorry, that word makes me cringe too) products is a very real problem for women in less developed countries. UNICEF estimates that 10% of African girls miss school during their period.

And it’s not because they are like some of those overdramatic women we all know and maybe some of us are, that use their period as an excuse to get out of doing stuff they’d rather not do. It’s because they have nothing to stem the blood exiting their bodies. Sorry to be gruesome but having to miss out on education because of your biology is a fucking gruesome problem.


Unfortunately, the pink tax starts at birth. Across the six product categories of toys, the girls’ items were consistently more expensive than ones for boys. The largest price discrepancy was in helmets and knee/elbow pad. The girls’ were priced a whopping 13% higher. If you buy things for children, you probably already know of the price disparity.

the pink tax toys

Some of these companies are taking the “pink” in pink tax very seriously. Similarly, a pink kid’s beginner bike from was $80, while the non-pink version was $64.

Boomerang Commerce did a study of 50 popular kids products at six online retailers including Target, Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, JCPenney and Bloomingdales. They analyzed items in a variety of colors and every time, the pink-colored item was the most expensive. Pink items compared to other colors ranged from 2-15% more.

Vehicle Repair

I think this one is an old cliche, but it’s true. Northwestern did a study that had men and women call various repair shops asking about the cost of having a radiator replaced. Women who seemed clueless on the phone were quoted $406 for a job that should cost $365. Men who acted similarly uninformed were quoted $383.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs study found that when women bought used cars, they were twice as likely to have been quoted a higher price than men. It pays to do enough research before making these kinds of inquiries to have a ballpark figure of what you should be charged.

And that goes for both sexes no matter what they are paying for. People will take advantage of dummies no matter what their gender.

What Can You Do?

We are making some progress on this issue. Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer charge women more for identical services. Insurers must also cover birth control which is much more of a human right than fucking (ha!) Viagra which didn’t need a law passed to get it covered.

California passed a gender discrimination pricing law in 1996. Businesses found to be charging women more are subject to a minimum fine of $1000. It doesn’t seem like the law is enforced much though.

The best way to avoid this is to simply buy the men’s version of certain products and to do some homework and shop around for the best prices on things like dry cleaning. Or do what one women’s rights groups in France have done. They started a site and uploaded photos of products that had unequal pricing.

Getting more confident and public shaming companies sometimes have a positive impact. Putting them on blast through something like Twitter will often garner faster results that writing letters and signing petitions.

So, sorry to deliver more bad news to the ladies among us but if you are aware of stuff like these, you can avoid it. Tax day is only a few weeks away and unavoidable (unless you’re in the 1%) but you can avoid the Pink Tax if you know to look for it.

Candice Elliott - Editor-in-Chief
Candice Elliott is a substantial contributor to Listen Money Matters. She has been a personal finance writer since 2013 and has written extensively on student loan debt, investing, and credit. She has successfully navigated these areas in her own life and knows how to help others do the same. Candice has answered thousands of questions from the LMM community and spent countless hours doing research for hundreds of personal finance articles. She happily calls New Orleans, Louisiana home-the most fun city in the world.
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