It isn’t cheap to be female.
Our periods alone can set us back as much as $30, once tampons, Midol, and anything else we need to get us through it (see: greasy food) are taken into account. Not to mention, most of us tend to rack up higher bills than our male counterparts when it comes to waxing, manicures, and beauty products.
As it turns out, females also pay more for gender-specific packaging.
This is despite the fact that, on average, we continue to earn less than men.
A shocking piece from The Washington Post reveals something most of us may have not paid much attention to in the past. It points to a New York City Department of Consumer Affairs report that compared almost 800 products with male and female versions (the products were practically identical aside for the gender-specific packaging) that found that female versions are consistently more expensive.
One more time: same product, different price.
Controlling for quality of the products, the department found that the items marketed to both girls and women cost an average of 7 per cent more than their counterparts aimed at boys and men. We’re talking about the exact same product painted in pink costing more than its twin done up in blue.
According to The Washington Post, DCA Commissioner Julie Menin, who launched the investigation this summer, said the numbers reveal an insidious form of gender discrimination.
Adding insult to injury, she highlights the fact that women in the US earn about 79 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to federal data.
The study points to a Target-sold Radio Flyer scooter that was listed at $24.99 for the boys’ version, while the girls’ version – which is virtually identical (but pink) retailed for $49.99.
According to a Target spokesperson, the company lowered the price of the pink scooter after the report was released on Friday, blaming the discrepancy on a “system error”(at least they didn’t raise the price of the boys’ scooter).
Apparently, the same kind of “system error” was the reason the company raised more than just eyebrows when it chose to sell black Barbies at more than double the price of white Barbies.
As for the differences in other gendered toys – like the Playmobil pirate ship ($24.99) and the Playmobil fairy queen ship ($37.99), or the Raskullz shark helmet ($14.99) and the Raskullz unicorn helmet ($27.99) – the company wouldn’t elaborate.
“Our competitive shop process ensures that we are competitively priced in local markets. A difference in price can be related to production costs or other factors,” said a representative, according to The Washington Post.
You can only blame it on a glitch so many times, right?
As it turns out, however, Target isn’t the only culprit. Researchers examined the cost of toys, children’s clothing, adult apparel, personal care products, and home goods sold in New York City.
There’s a reason your drug store bill is a lot higher than your boyfriend’s: the report revealed that women, on average, paid 48 percent more for products like shampoo, conditioner, and gel. Razor cartridges came in second place, costing female shoppers 11 per cent more.
Of the 24 retailers examined in the New York City report, the worst example of gender disparity was at Canadian expat Club Monaco, where women’s clothing cost an average of 28.9 per cent more than men’s clothing, according to an independent analysis by economist Ian Ayres (as reported by The Washington Post). Next came Urban Outfitters with a 24.6 per cent gender premium, followed by Levis at 24.3 per cent.
Across the New York sample, female products came with higher price tags 42 per cent of the time, while male products cost more 18 per cent of the time. The Washington Post points to a 1994 report from the State of California found that females pay an annual “gender tax” of $1,351 for the same services rendered to men.
Since then, New York City law banned gender discrimination the pricing of services in 1998, therefore businesses cannot legally charge more based on a customer’s sex for things like dry cleaning and haircuts, and must instead offer gender-neutral rates by labour intensity.
Sadly, despite the fact that more than 20 years have passed since the State of California report surfaced, many local companies continue to break the rules both south of the border and here in Canada (I have definitely noticed this in more than one mom and pop dry-cleaning spot in Toronto).
Not to mention, no such law exists when it comes to gender-specific products.
Hopefully, the paper – which will surely shame the exposed companies as it continues to circulate around the Internet – will shed some light on this glaringly obvious trend so that real changes can start to take place.
In the meantime, start paying closer attention to what you’re paying. I know I will.