Christine Jardine: A tax on women just for being women is plain wrong

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine describes seeing an offer for deodorant for £1 in a pharmacy. Men could buy a full size can. Women got a travel size.

That encapsulates the problem that she is trying to sort out in a Bill aimed at tackling the so-called “Pink Tax” she is introducing today.

The women’s movement has come a long way. Parliament itself is an example. We don’t have a perfect gender balance yet, but we do have the largest number of women ever elected, and the green benches are beginning to look vaguely like the country we are there to represent. But discrimination is still there in everyday life in so many ways that often we simply don’t notice.

Next time you are shopping take a careful note of some of the prices on the shelves. You may not notice it at first but over time you may begin to see a trend.

I hadn’t really noticed that the so-called ‘Pink Tax’ was an issue until it was pointed out to me by a colleague, so I went into a high-street pharmaceutical store to see for myself.

It seems that women get hit with a double whammy: they make less for doing the same work, and then they pay more for the same product or service just because it’s ‘for’ women. Discrimination on gender grounds is illegal, and whether women are paying more for a pink razor, deodorant from the same brand, or for an identical piece of clothing, it’s time to say enough is enough. There is absolutely no reason why men and women should pay different prices for exactly the same products or services.

In an article that starts with a reference to her hero, Billie Jean King, and is crammed full of tennis metaphors, she goes on to talk about Caroline Criado Perez’s book, Invisible Women, which is being published this week. This describes the gender data gap:

Perez explains how everything from the size of phones to office temperatures is based on data gathered about men’s bodies. Yes. Only men’s bodies. And wait for this. Viagra, it turns out, could have been developed to provide relief to women who suffer every month from period cramps. But, the book claims, the all-male funding review panel opted not to invest in researching that use as it wasn’t “a public priority”. It makes you wonder how different the world would look if more women were influencing the shape of society, the products we buy and the decisions we make.

It’s an ace read.

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7 Comments

  • Ace read? It’s terrible.

    Firstly, women don’t make less for doing the same work. That’s long been illegal. Women make less because they generally work fewer hours, choose to work-part time, choose to take career breaks and choose different job types.

    Secondly, are you really proposing state control over consumer products – essentially abolishing the laws of supply and demand? Sounds rather communist. Prices are based on what’s desirable. Female clothes/fashion and personal hygiene products are more desirable to women, so are priced accordingly. Women are free to purchase male products if they wish.

  • Richard O'Neill 5th Mar '19 - 12:38pm

    Surely there is nothing to stop women buying the “male” version? Or for that matter men buying the “female” version and getting less value for money.

    As the son of an arch-feminist I have enormous sympathy with a lot of the arguments that there are so often unfair double standards in society.

    At the same time there remains a lazy assumption that people making decisions are always men. Yes back in the 1980s and 90s that was probably true. Not so much in the world I’ve experienced. Female headteachers and bosses all the way.

    Promoting an “us and them” mentality is just unhelpful. It simply entrenches a lack of understanding between genders, rather than promote tolerance and equality.

  • Christine raises some interesting points and discrimination is wrong. Googling there do seem to be some studies, although I could only see ones conducted in Canada and the US, that across hundreds of products “female” versions tend to be more expensive than “male” versions.

    But…

    There are issues with the article. And it does use emotive language of “tax” that women are “hit” with and have to pay. When I enter Tescos they don’t follow me around with a gun – forcing me to buy things. I can choose. Except for packaging and marketing, I can buy exactly the same spaghetti for 20p or £1.50. ibuprofen for 19p or £3.20 . Clearly marketing and packaging tries to get people to spend more. And sometimes I am as much a “sucker” for that as the next person. But if I was to espouse the notion that “women are clearly vulnerable consumers, and should be followed around by a man when shopping pointing out how stupid they are” I would be widely derided. As has been pointed out, “women, it is in your own hands.”

    As far as I can see the ” Viagra, it turns out, could have been developed to provide relief to women who suffer every month from period cramps,” is a broadly a myth. I was a little surprised that there is some evil male drug company boss deciding rather than make money, he will make women suffer. But this is relatively new research. Often drugs are looked at for additional effects they have. Indeed I believe this is now becoming much more common as safety data is known for them. It did find increased headaches and thought that routine use as a “first choice” drug was not therefore a good idea. But more recently vaginal application has seen reduced side effects.

    Of course on health generally, arguably healthcare, society, life in the UK discriminates against men in that they have 4 years’ shorter life expectancy.

    Christine also points out that men and women now get the same prize money at Wimbledon. Correct IMHO. But she fails to point out that men work some 40% harder for this money over 5 sets rather than 3.

    For clarity I do not disagree with the broad thrust of Christine’s article. I write this to combat some “fake news” and to point out that things are a tad more complicated.

  • There could be a whole host of reasons for price differentiation. I suspect companies have bigger marketing budgets for their “female” toiletaries than their “male” toiletaries. I suspect also that there may be greater product segmentation when it comes to “female” versions of toiletaries than “male” toiletaries. Both of these add layers of costs for different products that contain the same ingredients.

    Furthermore, don’t liberals believe in free markets? Women can buy the male versions (we’re all gender fluid now anyway), or they can apply purchaser pressure and constantly seek the lowest price product thus driving down the price. Might a diversity price elasticity mean that on a population level men’s demand for toiletaries show lower price elasticity than women doing the same thing?

    Also, calling this a “Pink Tax” is of the Daily Mail style of opinion communication

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