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Least Surprising Headline Ever: WOMEN TAXED FOR MENSTRUATING

Least Surprising Headline Ever: WOMEN TAXED FOR MENSTRUATING


The concept of 'pink tax' has been doing the rounds for years, though more in an am-I-imagining-that-this-costs-more-because-it's-pink mutter than the (brilliant) loud outraged social proclamations of today. It is exactly what it sounds like - selling items for a higher price if they're sold in pink, i.e. targeted at women.

[Prepare to feel pissed.]

The amount of social media posts highlighting the injustice of charging more for a product simply for creating it in pink rather than the standard black/blue/default colour is on the rise. Local NPO Use Your Voice took to a popular retailer (can you guess who?) to investigate this...

Are you really paying more, just because it's pink?

Colour and price have been at play since Henry Ford was quoted for having said, “You can have it in any colour, as long as it’s black.” The verdict’s still out on whether that meant you’d need to pay more if you opted for a different colour, but retailers in the 21st Century have taken the notion and run with it, especially if it means they can punt a product as the ‘just for women’ version, as it comes in pink.
Enter the pink tax debate…

In case you’ve missed the marvellous outrage, vlogger Dear Alyne is putting the issue into perspective for us in this explanation video. Take four minutes to catch up on the topic:

The true cost of being female

On the added price of being a female consumer, Listen Money Matters reports that pink tax also refers to:
The extra amount women are charged for certain products or services. Things like dry cleaning, personal care products, and vehicle maintenance.”
Numerous studies show that women pay more than men for the same service or product 42% of the time. This off the back of #EqualPayDay, which means that we are being paid less and charged more because we are women.

[It is a price I would pay gladly... but then pay me the same.]

Listen Money Matters also mentions that in December 2015, 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 were as follows:

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.

Pay attention to the 'personal care' products in particular, because linked to pink tax is tampon tax. Listen Money Matters sums it up as follows:
“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!”

SA can be proud of our local version of Cosmopolitan magazine in this regard:
Not only did they publish a report in the June 2018 issue of the magazine in which they argue that sanitary products should be categorised as zero-rated basic items rather than luxury non-essentials, they also launched a petition that’s being lodged with Parliament and the Department of Women.
We hope to see government seriously debate how period poverty can be ended before the close of 2018, because this unaffordability affects the poorest amongst us. If township girls cannot access affordable sanitary goods, it stops them from getting to school, and a vicious cycle of uneducated and unempowered women is perpetuated.

But wait… are we just being unnecessarily hysterical? Maybe it’s “that time of the month”.

There can be reasons to explain the differences, and everyone knows women are better at cooking and shopping than understand Big Important Business Stuff. Service providers say that women’s dry cleaning and haircuts tend to be more labour and time intensive, which is why women are willing to pay higher prices. Dry cleaners who use pressing machines, traditionally built for men’s shirts, need to hand press women's shirts, a more labour-intensive, and costly, process.
So they are saying that not only have they indoctrinated us into paying MORE for our appearance because that is how we have been valued historically, but that although we can put a man on the moon (why can’t we put some more there?) we cannot make a pressing machine to accommodate female clothes.

Ted Potrikus, CEO of the Retail Council of New York State, a statewide retail trade association, looks to different points along the supply chain that may explain price differences for seemingly identical products.
“Retailers see women as their biggest target,” said Potrikus, shortly before he was boomeranged with an expensive stiletto [not really, but we can dream].  “Research and development, following trends, meeting trends, advertising products on television and in magazines are not cheap. Companies are willing to spend more money advertising to women than they are toward men, contributing to the price discrepancies."

What can you do to stop this crap?

You can get involved by:

Personally I am looking forward to dousing myself in ARCTIC VOLCANO body lotion - maybe my boyfriends’ disgust will be a better motivation to revisit pricing.

After all, if the government can provide free condoms (when abstaining from sex is a lot easier than abstaining from menstruating), why not also free sanitary consumables – no matter the colour?

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  • Georgina Roberts
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