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Pink Tax and Tampon Tax: The Real Cost of Gender Bias

With the ongoing taboo that female consumers enjoy shopping and spending more money than men, it’s no surprise that women are targeted more in advertising. Other than the bright, colorful, fruity, floral, and glittery product designs used to attract women, the only real difference between the men’s and women’s products is the price. Women often have to pay more for the same products as men.

Gender-based pricing, also known as “Pink Tax,” is the system of discriminatory pricing on products and services based on gender. This gender-specific bias is not a new phenomenon, as 2010 Consumer Reports highlights that, at the time, women paid a total of 50% more than men did for similar products. Pink Tax affects women of all ages, such as “girl toys” costing up to 13 percent more than “boy toys,” when the only difference is their color. Another example would be how the average cost of a woman’s pair of jeans is approximately $62.75, while a men’s jeans averages at $57.09, creating a 10 percent price increase for women only.

Personal care products are also well known to contribute to this gender-based system, as these frequently purchased products result in a significant cost difference over time. With a recent report from NYC finding that women face an average price difference of 13 percent for personal care products, the 13 percent price increase hits those in lower-income communities even harder.

Not only are the price differences targeting women, but also on feminine hygiene products. “Tampon Tax,” falls under the gender-based discrimination of “pink tax” and refers to the regular sales tax applied on menstrual products as non-essential items. This sparks great controversy as the government exempts essential items such as groceries or prescriptions— even golf club memberships and erectile dysfunction pills— from sales tax yet charges menstrual products, a necessity for most women. Because menstrual products are labeled as “luxury goods,” an average menstruator has no choice but to spend roughly $1,733 on period products throughout their lifetime.

With the Tampon Tax on hand, menstrual products become even more expensive and contribute to the lack of affordability as a major cause of period poverty. Across the world, about 12.8% of women live in period poverty, meaning that they struggle to access resources to safely manage their periods— with the high price of the products not making it any better. This leads many menstruators to use only one pad or tampon for multiple days, and when suitable products are unaffordable or unavailable, they turn to socks, dishrags, and even newspapers as alternatives. The lack of proper menstrual hygiene can lead to severe and sometimes life-threatening health risks such as Toxic Shock Syndrome, cervical cancer, and other infections.

Currently, 30 out of 50 states in the US allow sales tax on menstrual products. Across the European Union, most countries don’t let a 0% tax rate and have a 5% tampon tax minimum. Tax percentages are as high as 30% in 10 member countries but plan to be removed in 2022. Meanwhile, Ireland does not charge tampon tax, Germany reclassified tampon tax as necessary (which brought down the Tax by 12% in 2019), and Scotland became the first in the world to make period products free in 2020. Although many countries worldwide have started addressing the tampon tax, there is still a long way to go before completely eradicating it.

About the Author:

Hey everyone! My name is Cynthia Liu and I am currently a junior at Irvington Highschool. As a communications officer at SAPP, I hope to create a change in my community by fighting against period poverty and educating others on the topic. I’m so excited to work alongside this incredible team this year!


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