Even in this day and age, being a woman is often tethered to an egregious and rarely covert disadvantage. History has taught us about the trump card glued to every man’s hand, and even though conditions have improved, women are still met with discrimination, albeit more under the table.
One aspect of such prejudice is the pink tax, a long-standing bond to a past many wish to forget. So what is it? And how much is the pink tax in Canada?
Read on for all the details.
What Is the Pink Tax?
The pink tax is a gender-based price discrimination women are subjected to when purchasing common household items, personal care products, and basically anything deemed “for women.” Essentially, it’s a tax for women that forces them to pay more for the same products men get for less.
Although there is no tangible “tax” on these products, many consider the markup a form of a tax. However, this pricing practice is legal, and even though many have attempted to fight it, little has changed thus far.
The pink tax got its name because the affected items sit in packages in shades of pink or lavender and feature stereotypically “feminine” designs. Owing to gender-based colour coding, humans have ingrained a distinction between blue products for men and pink products for women.
Surprisingly, such markups have been present since the 1990s but, as a result of the Internet and feminism, we’ve been hearing about it more today.
The prevalent criticism surrounding the pink tax is the principle that it robs women of their agency of choice, implies that they are easily brainwashed by marketing, and suggests that they would pay more only to have their products be aesthetically pleasing.
Pink tax examples where we can see the largest disparity between men’s and women’s prices are:
- Clothing (for children and adults)
- Healthcare products
- Hygiene products (shaving cream, razors, body wash)
- Insurance (especially for cars)
- Health care products for seniors
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg, as price discrepancies are becoming rampant in today’s society.
Related article: How Much Does Freezing Eggs Cost in Canada?
Why Does the Pink Tax Exist?
Although the definitive cause responsible for the existence of the pink tax has yet to be discovered, researchers have pointed the finger at several culprits. Namely, import tariffs, price discrimination, product differentiation, and sexism.
Unfortunately, companies in Canada and around the world pay higher import tariffs (0.7% more) on women’s items. Consequently, companies will offset their cost by increasing the price of these items, which results in a gender-based price difference. If the company decides to price the items equally as the men’s items, it will financially hurt the producer or the retailer.
Price discriminations happen whenever companies target a particular group of consumers and offer them a higher price than others. By extension, companies are more likely to charge women higher prices for purchasing the same product. The underlying reason for this is that many businesses believe women are less price-sensitive and more willing to fork out on aesthetics.
Although this marketing technique is not inherently flawed, when it comes to women’s products, companies often add unnecessary features or change the packaging to coerce female consumers into buying. A great example of this is a women’s razor that comes with 5 blades instead of 3 or a repackaged shampoo that’s marketed as a “hair treatment”.
One of the most likely explanations for price disparities is rooted in sexism and gender stereotypes. Historically, women have been seen as the weaker sex and have therefore been assumed to be less interested in – or capable of – bargaining for lower prices. And because of this, manufacturers and retailers charge more without fear of losing customers.
How Much Is the Pink Tax in Canada?
The first study conducted on the pink tax in Canada goes back to 2016 when Parsehub discovered that women pay 43% more on hygiene products compared to men. However, after repeating the research in 2021, a new figure emerged. In fact, Canadian women now pay over 50% more for unisex products and in some categories, even 60% more per 100g of product.
Unfortunately, even the simplest items, i.e. the difference between a women’s razor vs a men’s one is a sight familiar to many, with the pink one costing on average $2.49, and the blue one costing $1.69. These disparities cost the average woman more than $1,300 yearly.
In 2005, Ontario fought against gender-based discrimination by attempting to introduce a bill aimed at prohibiting the practice and proving it works against the Human Rights Code. Sadly, the standing committee took no further action and the situation is at a standstill.
What Is the Tampon Tax?
Unlike the pink tax, the tampon tax is an actual sales tax many countries impose or have imposed on feminine hygiene products. Round the globe, governments have not deemed feminine products as basic necessities or granted them tax exemption status.
The products affected by the tampon tax are the following:
- Sanitary napkins
- Menstrual cups
- Sanitary belts
- Panty liners
Luckily, Canada nixed the GST on such products on July 1, 2015, after the thousands of signatures on petitions urging an end to the tax.
How to Avoid the Pink Tax?
Many women wish to disengage from the discrimination thrust upon them and take up the baton for equality, even in marketing and pricing. Fortunately, you’re not without options.
Support Companies That Use Gender-Neutral Pricing
One excellent way to fight the pink tax is by supporting companies that diligently price their products equally, regardless of the target audience. To do so, you’ll need to research and browse store shelves before handing over your money and putting an unnecessary burden on your finances.
Compare Product Prices
Before making a purchase, take the time to compare the prices of similar products. According to Parsehub’s research, women pay $9.75 per 100g of deodorant, while men pay $6.46 for the same. Therefore, ensure you check the price of the men’s product before committing.
Shop from the Men’s Section
Although this may seem like an odd tip, it can be effective. Essentially, don’t play by the rules. Many times, the men’s and women’s versions of a product are almost identical, except for the packaging. Just because your deodorant stick is blue and not pink doesn’t mean it won’t combat perspiration as effectively. Cheat the system, I say!
Search for Stores Offering Unisex Services
As mentioned previously, the pink tax extends to services, as well. So if you need a haircut, look for salons with unisex services that offer the same prices, regardless of gender. These places are often cheaper than traditional salons, as they don’t have the overhead costs of running separate men’s and women’s sections.
Purchase Gender-Neutral Products
Luckily, there are many products fitting for both men and women, such as deodorant, body lotion, and shampoo. When possible, opt for these gender-neutral items instead of ones marketed specifically to one gender.
Finally, the act of raising awareness about the pink tax and its detrimental implications for women might be the stepping stone toward abolition. That is, the more people become cognizant of this issue, the more pressure will mount on businesses to change their pricing practices. Remember, even the biggest societal changes stemmed from a complaint.
It seems the fight for equality is far from over. Price disparities and the pink tax in Canada and worldwide have cemented the notion that women still deserve second-class citizen status.
But, there is hope. By becoming an unwavering activist and revoking your support of discriminatory businesses, you can help women chip away at this pressing inequality. Eventually, with enough pressure, we may be able to get rid of the pink tax entirely.
A girl can dream!
Some of the culprits responsible for the pink tax are tariffs, price discrimination, and product differentiation. Moreover, we can also blame price elasticity and the faulty belief that women are more prepared to pay higher prices for necessities. Finally, dishonest marketing ploys target women and coerce them into paying more.
With the rise of digital media and the refinement of marketing campaigns, companies in the 1990s seized the opportunity to sell aesthetically pleasing pink items to persuadable women under the guise of necessary additional features. After society started to differentiate between the meaning of pink and blue, women exclusively began purchasing “women’s products”, thus raising the cost of unisex products and increasing the pink tax.
According to a study published by Parsehub, the pink tax in Canada was estimated to be above 50% in 2021, even going over 60% for some products or services.
The pink tax poses a significant problem for women of all ages because it drives them to spend more on products and services for which men pay much less, simply because such products are marketed “for women” and come in feminine packaging.
The pink tax includes products and services that are marketed specifically toward women, such as clothes, toys, personal care products, haircuts, hygiene products, and healthcare products and services.