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What Is the Pink Tax?

The Savvy Woman's Guide to Fighting the Pink Tax

Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

On April 10, Representative Jackie Speier, a California democrat, introduced legislation to hold companies that charge women more than men for similar products and services accountable. This disgrace of our capitalistic economy is better known as the "pink tax," and affects how much women pay for personal items such as shampoo, shirts, and socks; as well as services such as dry cleaning and home repair. Between shelling out more money on razors, having to buy highly-taxed period essentials, and earning an average of 20 percent less than men, women most definitely get screwed — and you should start a fight with anyone who claims otherwise, including that economist who tried to call this practice the "blue discount" (well hello there, male privilege!)

Rep. Speier's Pink Tax Repeal Act would allow the Federal Trade Commission to enforce laws that prevent companies from marketing and price-gouging based on gender, and give state attorneys the ability to take civil actions on behalf of consumers if businesses don't comply. Nearly 30 other representatives so far have expressed support of the bill.

"Women get hit with a double whammy," Rep. Speier said in a statement. "Whether it's a pink teddy bear, deodorant from the same manufacturer, or a white laundered shirt, it's time to say enough! Discrimination is illegal."

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It really isn't all that surprising that something like this occurs, of course. The pink tax is opportunistic in the sense that women tend to buy more stuff than men, which in return drives companies to tempt the most prolific shoppers. By some estimates, women control roughly 85 percent of consumer economy purchases. That means women are being tricked into hemorrhaging the contents of their bank accounts, often spending an upwards of 13 percent more on the same quantity of personal care items, and 7 percent higher on clothing than your average Joe Schmo, according to a report published in 2015 by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

That same report points out that the pink tax doesn't just target adults but also children, as toys marketed to girls are priced 11 percent higher than those marketed to boys. "It starts right when we're born," said Roni Deutch, aka The Tax Lady, and a former tax attorney. "Add up the number of years you're going to be alive and unfortunately it's going to $100,000-plus that you lose as a woman. Forgot the fact that you don't even make as much money. The pink tax isn't pretty."

Since the vast majority of lawmakers have probably never taken note of how much a package of Venus razor refills cost, the onus is on women to make the issue known — so it's one hell of a great reason to give your local members of Congress a call and encourage support for the bill. Outside of political action, it can also help to be a little more savvy when selecting which products and services you pay for. Not sure how to do that? We've got you covered, as Deutch provided POPSUGAR with some very useful tips as to how women can outsmart the pink tax.

Don't Buy in to the Gender-Based Hype

Market research suggests that a blue razor is about just as a effective as a pink razor for hair removal, and the same holds true for many other products as well. In other words, an easy way to save money is to buy stuff that's made for men, including other items like deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, and body wash. And if you prefer not to smell like your dad, the barbershop, or Old Spice, then look for unscented products. However, it's important to note that a little muskiness can be enticing.

Deutch takes her approach even further, and purchases some men's clothing such as basic T-shirts, since the women's versions can cost nearly $4 more, by some estimates. For designer clothing, the price discrepancy is even worse, with women's versions often adding hundreds of dollars to the bill.

Keep a Man On-Hand

Okay, so in a perfect world, gender bias and the pink tax wouldn't exist. But until human decency triumphs, survival skills are all we've got — so keep a guy you can trust on-the-ready when you need to make a purchase that could potentially break the bank, like if you're going to buy a car. One way to avoid the extra cash women are charged for cars is to buy a car online, where there will be no haggling necessary since the financial transaction doesn't involve a real live person.

"I never in my life buy a high ticket item again without a man by my side," said Deutsch. "I don't care if this man is your dad, your grandfather, your brother, your lover, or a friend."

The same goes if you have a leaky ceiling, broken boiler, or a busted toilet. Call that guy and make sure he's there to stare down the contractor when you ask for a price quote. "When these people come to your house and they see you're a woman, you've got a target on your back and it says 'pink tax victim,'" said Deutch.

Don't Be Afraid to Do the Unconventional

If you're feeling adventurous, it's always a fun social experiment to head to your dry cleaner with a guy and both drop off a pair of pants to see what happens. Or, send the dude to drop off your clothes. Might as well take advantage of the blue discount while you can, right?

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