By Wiley K. March
Gender discrimination, far from being an issue of the past, persists in various forms, challenging the notion that it is merely an overblown concern of feminists. Pricing disparities, specifically, have been a longstanding manifestation of gender inequity, tracing back through the annals of human history. However, this should not be misconstrued as an acceptable state of affairs.
The financial implications of being a female consumer are striking. Regardless of the product in question—be it razors, shaving creams and lotions, or hygiene items—those traditionally marketed toward and purchased by women come with a substantial upcharge, amounting to over two thousand dollars annually. This gender-based price gouging not only constitutes an assault on women's rights but also obstructs their pursuit of wage equality, particularly affecting low-income women who struggle to make ends meet. Remarkably, this pricing disparity extends to women's and girls' clothing, where identical items to their male counterparts command higher prices. Even when the size, color, and manufacturer are identical, a female child's t-shirt will invariably carry a higher price tag than that of a male child's. Furthermore, toys traditionally associated with girls incur an average premium of 7% compared to toys typically marketed as "male-oriented." Similarly, women face an added financial burden when purchasing razors or shampoo, as the female versions of these products manufactured by the same companies tend to cost an extra 50 cents to several dollars.
The discriminatory treatment of women goes beyond pricing disparities in consumer goods. It seeps into other facets of their lives, such as mortgage rates, health insurance, and vehicle insurance. Paradoxically, women, despite often boasting higher credit ratings than men, find themselves subject to higher mortgage rates. In the realm of insurance, women are charged more for health and vehicle coverage, despite exhibiting greater health consciousness and maintaining a better track record when it comes to tickets and accidents. Even in the realm of senior health care, elderly women bear the brunt of inflated prices, despite generally being healthier than their male counterparts.
Curiously, these discrepancies do not stem from an overt tax system. Many states were unaware of this pricing inequity targeting women until the 1990s, when California conducted a comprehensive study on the matter. Consequently, while women continue to endure a persistent wage gap of over 30 cents for every dollar earned by men, this disparity is further compounded by the consistent overcharging they face for identical or similar-value items. Retailers capitalize on this opportunity for profit, exploiting a system driven by greed and capitalist principles.
To be clear, the critique here lies not in the pursuit of wealth or the possession of it. The concern stems from the flawed rationale employed by retailers and manufacturers, wherein gender-based pricing aligns with classic manifestations of male patriarchy. The assumption that women place a greater emphasis on personal hygiene, health, and appearance represents a dubious line of reasoning at best. Within most stores, men's products are often segregated from women's products, sometimes even across several aisles. One cannot help but question the motivation behind such practices, perhaps rooted in the belief that consumers are not astute enough to discern the pronounced discrepancies in pricing.
Consider, for instance, a recent personal experience when purchasing "sports rub" from a store. Upon further examination, it became apparent that this product closely resembled a bottle of isopropyl alcohol. Carrying the bottle from the sports section to the first aid section of the store revealed that the product's composition was indistinguishable from the one labeled as "rubbing alcohol." However, the former was priced significantly higher. Consequently, I opted against purchasing the sports rub and instead chose the more reasonably priced rubbing alcohol.
Such instances underscore the presence of pervasive double standards in our world, whether they pit men against women, young against old, or perpetuate racial divisions. Corporate America thrives on exploiting and dehumanizing consumers, preying upon their fears and insecurities. In this context, women emerge as the group most willing to challenge these practices and assert that such injustices are fundamentally wrong.