Women have gained more rights and respect in the last 50 years, but not all battles have been won. The main is the wage gap, where men are making on average more than women with the same job skills. Part of the wage gap is the pink tax. The pink tax refers to women-specific products costing more than men-specific. Most people talk about the pink tax in regards to cosmetics and personal hygiene products, but it also occurs with toys and clothes. Basically, women are being paid less than men at work, while also being charged more.
A survey conducted in late 2015 by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs showed products geared towards females cost 7% more compared to men’s. Girl’s toys and accessories cost on average 7% more and women’s personal care products cost 13% more than men’s.
Retailers questioned about the price discrepancies credit more labor required for women’s products and services then men. This does apply in some cases, but not all. It’s hard to believe a women and men’s deoderant require different amounts of work.
Another source given for the price discrepancies is advertisement. Companies make it seem like women have to purchase their product to be worthy. Your outfit isn’t good enough unless it features a Gucci bag and Louis Vuitton heels. You’re flawed if you’re not wearing expensive makeup brands from Sephora, such as MAC and Anastasia Beverly Hills. This is more reflective of the culture advertisers have created in which women think they have to have the best clothes, do their makeup every day and have clear skin. Therefore, they spend more money on products to make them fit into what society has deemed the ideal woman. Advertisers are just catering more towards this toxic culture and adding more self-doubt into women who already feel like they aren’t good enough, when women need to be empowered.
One of the pressing issues involving the pink tax is tax on feminine hygiene products for menstruation. In 37 out of 50 states, menstrual products are taxed as luxury items. A luxury item is something deemed not necessary by the state, so it’s taxed higher. In Illinois, sales tax is 6.25 on luxury items, while there’s a one percent tax on food, drugs and medicine appliances. Illinois joined 12 other states by adding menstrual products to the non-luxury item list in 2018 and the rest of the states need to follow. In states like Indiana, products deemed necessities, like food and medicine, aren’t taxed, but tampons and pads still are.
According to authors Barbara Seaman and Gary Null in book, “For Women Only!” 70% of women use tampons. Women typically menstruate from the age of 13 to 51, according to the Office of Women’s Health and with a box of 36 tampons averaging seven dollars, women would spend $1,773.33 on tampons in their lifetime, not including tax. While that may not seem like a lot, adding Illinois Will County’s sales tax of 7% that women previously had to pay adds another $121.33 to that total. If there is not full sales tax on medicine or food, then there shouldn’t be any taxes on tampons either.
Menstrual products are a necessity. There’s no argument against it. If women had the choice to opt out of having a menstrual period, most probably would. However, that’s not how the female body works. Tampons and pads aren’t luxury items and shouldn’t be taxed as such.
The current U.S. sales tax system was drafted between 1930 and 1960. The first time a woman was elected to Congress was 1929. This means most state’s laws and taxes were determined when older white men had a large majority; therefore, this mislabel of menstrual products as luxury could be due to their ignorance. Many men don’t fully understand how the menstrual cycle works, and some women too, so maybe the blame can be put onto health education. Or maybe you can blame it on an ancient stigma. Women used to be shamed for being on their period and taught to keep it to themselves. In today’s world, many women will complain about their period to anyone who will listen. It’s a part of life and there shouldn’t be this gross stigma around it as its nothing for women to be modest about. It’s the job of politicians to understand necessities for all genders and update this outdated tax system.
Whoever you want to put the blame onto doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the pink tax should disappear and women should be treated as equal in the economy.