First published by The International Business Times, 20th January 2016
According to new research, women are being charged up to twice as much for nearly identical products compared to their male counterparts by leading high street brands.
Women are already getting a raw financial deal in the UK, as continued austerity disproportionately affects women, so the revelation that major retailers seem involved in a broad scam to take more money out of the pockets of the female population is incredibly disheartening.
The Times investigation found that the pricing of hundreds of products aimed at women and girls are on average 37% more expensive than the male equivalents, presumably because it costs much more to make retail items pink than it does to make them blue.
Some of the UK’s most popular brands were named in the investigation, including Tesco, Argos, Boots, Levi’s, and Amazon. A children’s scooter in Argos was found to be £5 more expensive in pink than in blue, and women’s Levi’s 501 jeans cost on average 46% more than the men’s versions, despite having the same measurements for the waist and leg.
Tesco responded to the report by saying that “a number of products for females have additional design and performance features”, but if they are referring to the pack of razors in pink that they charge double the price for, it’s unclear how this is the case. Perhaps the pink razors are coated in some kind of cushioning fairy dust that protects the delicate skin of fragile females, because men have tough, hoary hides that need no soothing or respite from the burn of razor blades.
But no, the report specifies that these are identical razors, different only from the man-product due to their colour. Tesco said “we work hard to offer clear, fair and transparent pricing”, a statement that has been proved so laughable that it’s odd that they even bothered including it.
Boots made a similar statement when approached for comment, stressing that their products are “priced individually based on factors including formulation, ingredients and market comparison”. If the formulation and ingredients in women’s products are magically more expensive than what’s being offered to men, this is weird and sexist in itself.
Men and women both have skin, both consume skincare and other cosmetic products, and both choose to remove hair from their bodies. There’s no discernible reason why identical products should be ‘differently formulated’ or differently priced for one sex.
In the case of the more expensive pink scooters from Argos, it’s worth questioning why any children’s toy should be exclusively marketed to either girls or boys. There’s only one reason why a toy should be for a particular sex, and that’s because you operate it with your genitals. If this is the case, the toy is definitely not for children. If it’s not the case, the toy is for either boys or girls.
The Let Toys Be Toys campaign has been vocal in challenging sexist marketing of playthings, from the ridiculously-gendered Lego Friends series and lack of female mini figs in action roles, to pressuring top retailers into dropping ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ signage from their aisles.
A scooter is a scooter, it’s not a male scooter or a female scooter. Instilling reductive notions of gender into children through the way their toys are marketed is regressive, strengthens unnecessary barriers between genders, and stigmatizes kids who don’t want to be confined to pink or blue boxes.
Sam Smethers from the Fawcett Society dubbed the extra cost a “sexist surcharge”, and she’s absolutely right. The only reason I can think of to explain why retailers are selling products targeted at women at significantly higher prices is because they have no respect for female consumers.
They think we’re stupid. Why else would we shell out more for the same product, just because it comes in a pastel colour? Women are being roundly ripped off in Britain.
We’re already paying tax on sanitary products, when other ‘essentials’ like crocodile meat, Jaffa Cakes, pitta bread, and bingo are VAT-free. Since tampons are such a luxury, it’s surprising that more women don’t dispense with them altogether to save money, and simply bleed freely in offices, on public transport, and when visiting friends with new white sofas.
At the 2015 spending review, George Osborne announced that the £15m raised by the tampon tax would be going to women’s services, the same women’s services that the Chancellor decided to slash in the name of austerity. It’s unclear what his long-term strategy for funding them is, as he has pledged to eventually abolish the tampon tax altogether, but for now, it seems to be acceptable for women who have been raped or the victims of domestic violence to pay for their own counselling and care because they bleed every month.
The retailers responsible for sexist cost differences could be called to Parliament to justify their pricing, but the honourable response should be for Tesco, Boots, Amazon, Argos, and Levi’s to independently alter their disparate prices. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because women are already being financially exploited in Tory Britain, without the companies we buy from making mugs out of us too.