Have you ever wondered why a woman's haircut is more expensive than a man's, even if you have the same amount of hair to be cut? And have you come across products that have the same function, but are at completely different prices, just because they are branded for men and women? And yes, usually women's products are more expensive. Please, a round of applause for the so-called "pink" tax!
What is the "pink tax"?
The "pink tax" is actually the additional amount of money that women pay for specific products and/or services as an increase in price imposed by traders. Women pay more for the products they are sold (often pink in color) than men who use the same "blue" products. This includes items specific to women that would be considered necessary, such as tampons. Sometimes you will see or hear this being called price discrimination or gender pricing. In other words, it's not really a tax, it is
“income-generating scenario for private companies who found a way to make their product look either more directed to or more appropriate for the population and saw that as a moneymaker,” explains Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a lawyer, vice president for the Brennan School of Justice at NYU School of Law, and co-founder of Period Equality.
According to her, the motivation around the "pink tax" from a capitalist point of view is: "If you can make money off of it, you should."
Market research in different countries around the world shows that women have to pay more than men for the same product. Marketing experts call this phenomenon "pink tax", and it can be expressed in a difference in prices of up to 45%. A study by the New York Department of Consumer Affairs shows that products for women are on average 7% more expensive than the same products in the version for men. And just for example - experts in the fashion business did a study with a plain white T-shirt - the same size and fabric, however it was priced differently for woman and man. It turns out that in almost all major brands, the T-shirt designed for women is offered at a 45% higher price. The "pink tax" is levied not only on clothes, but also on cosmetics, shoes, services, accessories, household products, and even toys.
Where does this "pink tax" come from?
Have you ever laughed with your girl-friend about how her boyfriend manages to put all his cosmetics in one small basket, and that's enough for him? But for us, it is impossible to wash your face with the same product as your hair. What about all the night and day creams, as well as all face creams for pimples and wrinkles? Most women find themselves in the same situation in their bathrooms, full of all kinds of ointments and cosmetics. And like this, more and more women seem to be wondering if they really need all of these products, or have they been conditioned to think they need them? According to a study by Groupon in England and the United States, men spend an average of a quarter of a woman's budget on the same product category. The explanation for this phenomenon is hardly unambiguous, but if we take another English study as an example, self-esteem can be a key factor.
According to a study conducted for BBC Radio 4, 86% of men surveyed liked their appearance, compared to 79% of women. Experts believe that the difference comes from advertising: "Women are subject to fierce marketing that works great. Example is the "fast fashion" industry with their 52 seasons - new things come out every week and you always feel a little old-fashioned. "But why do we continue to succumb to these emotional marketing strategies?
According to some psychologists, such as therapist and writer Polly Young-Eisendrat, the advent of mass goods in the twentieth century has enabled women to begin to "make decisions." In times when they did not have their own income and little-to-no rights, shopping suddenly gave weight to women's opinions. There was play with purely human needs such as autonomy and respect. In her book Women and Desire: Beyond Wanting to be Wanted, Eisendrat described shopping as a promise to which women are much more vulnerable. According to Eisendrat, we are left with the feeling that we are buying free choice, but in fact, this is another mechanism that subordinates women.
Eisendrat's point of view may seem exaggerated - after all, marketing is a profit tool that every competitive business uses. But if we look at something seemingly insignificant, such as the choice of color and how certain nuances have settled comfortably into our consumer behavior, her thesis acquires more credible nuances.
And that's where the pink color comes in. Pink has not always been a girl's color. In the 1920s, pink was described as a "masculine" color, the equivalent of red, which is considered a masculine color but lighter for boys. However, businesses discovered that people were increasingly choosing to buy pink for girls and blue for boys, respectively until this became the norm in the 1940s. Even in the early 20th century in the United States, pink became a symbol of the strong, modern woman, not the meek housewife. An example of influence also comes from the car racer Donna May Mims, who not only wore a pink racing uniform but also drove a pink racing car. Formerly a symbol of independence and strength, today the color pink has faded in the form of a "pink tax", the color of products that cost more because of their color and because in that way they are intended for women, and in quality, they are the same as any other.
And yes, the fact is that even in 2021, women are economically disadvantaged to men. As we know, there is a gender pay gap, and the difference in Bulgaria is 13.5%, ie for every BGN 100 earned by a man, women receive BGN 86.5 for the same job. And when we consider the "pink tax" that only women pay, it turns out that it is actually much more expensive for women to have the same standard of living as men.
In addition to the "pink tax", there is a tax on the sale of women's menstrual products such as tampons, pads and menstrual cups, the so-called "tampon" tax in the West. And here you will say to yourself: well, the sale of everything is taxed, why not tax the sales of these products? But here comes the interesting point that many products and services that are classified as essentials such as medicines and food are not subject to taxes in some foreign countries. In Bulgaria, not everything is subject to a standard VAT of 20%, ie there are exceptions. Since 2011, the tourism sector has been subject to 9% VAT, including accommodation provided in hotels and similar establishments. In 2020, the reduced VAT rate of 9% will apply to books, restaurants and catering services, baby food, and diapers. Unlike tourism, here the rate is temporary and will be valid until December 31, 2021, according to the Law on Amendments to the Law on Value Added Tax.
Proponents of the idea of not having a "tampon" tax believe that since 50% of the world's population bleeds every month because of the biology of the female body, women's hygiene products should belong to the group of basic necessities, ie sales that should not be taxed. Hungary has the highest VAT on sanitary products at 27% VAT. Since about 2004, many countries have abolished or reduced taxes on sales of tampons and other feminine hygiene products, including the United Kingdom, Kenya, Canada, India, Colombia, Australia, Malta, Germany and Rwanda. The United Kingdom was added to the list on 1 January 2021 after leaving the EU, which means that there is now no VAT for women's sanitary products. Currently, the EU has a general ban on creating taxes with zero VAT, and EU countries plan to abolish the minimum tax rate of 5% VAT by 2022. In February this year, the Swiss government supported a proposal to reduce the VAT from 7.7 % to 2.5%.
What is "menstrual poverty"?
The term "period poverty" describes the socio-economic barriers that prevent menstruation from being controlled and managed safely and with dignity. "Menstrual poverty" manifests itself in a variety of ways, from the invisible (skipping meals to afford tampons or toilet paper) to severe (lack of access to a bath or shower). "Menstrual poverty" usually refers to the lack of access to menstrual products and facilities in low- and middle-income communities, in addition to inmates and the homeless. And here you may be wondering why this is of any importance and, perhaps, like most Westerners, you even associate serious cases with women from developing countries. You will be surprised that in Europe, every 1 in 4 women is a victim of "menstrual poverty". And yes, it is an interesting fact that Kenya was one of the first countries to abolish VAT on menstrual products in 2004, leading the way in the fight against menstrual inequality.
In November 2020, Scotland became the first country in the world to make the products needed for menstruation free for all. The bill was approved unanimously by members of the Scottish Parliament, and this action continues the steps already taken in the fight against "menstrual poverty". The country became the first in the world to make sanitary towels, tampons, and other products freely available in schools, colleges, and universities. The Scottish Government supports this initiative with £5.2 million a year, and an additional £500,000 are donated to charities to supply free menstruation products to low-income households. Another £4m are given to municipalities to provide sanitary towels and tampons in public places, and £50,000 are given to sports clubs for the same purpose. Many bars and restaurants in the country also provide such products freely in their toilets, reports the BBC. In addition to tackling "menstrual poverty", the bill relieves young girls of the need to explain that they are on their period, a situation many girls feel uncomfortable talking about. Researchers found that 71% of 14-21-year-olds feel uncomfortable buying products for their menstrual cycle.
Although the shame of replacing sanitary towels with old socks or newspapers leaves obvious emotional scars, the effects of menstrual inequality are not only psychological, they can also lead to chaos in the professional and educational prospects of women and girls, leaving them mentally vulnerable, and leading to reproductive health problems later down the line.
As members of society, we women are not obliged to simply accept the different prices of products that are vital to us. It is also not fair for services and products targeted at women to cost more than equivalent products for men, especially when there is a gender pay gap. It is important to talk about the topic and look for solutions. It is normal to think about tax breaks, given that we are citizens of the poorest country in the European Union.
Illustration: Kalina Kyuchukova
Capital newspaper https://www.capital.bg/light/tema/2019/03/08/3401069_dami_plashtat/
VAT: LEX.BG https://lex.bg/laws/ldoc/2135533201