Opinion

Seeing Red About The Pink Tax

Now that American women have overwhelmingly achieved economic, political, and social equality, feminists are yearning to stay relevant. Their latest outrage? The “Pink Tax.” That’s their term for the extra amount women pay for the same products, which supposedly costs hundreds of dollars a year.

But the Pink Tax is not a tax, unless the activists achieve their goals and the government forces businesses to solve the “problem” in the most natural way – by raising prices on men’s products. Here’s the absurdity of the claim women are being overcharged: nobody’s stopping women from buying the “men’s” product. A CBS Report showed blue Walgreens earplugs that cost $4.19 next to a box of bright pink “women’s earplugs” at $5.49. Who is forcing the pink ones down women’s ears?

Nobody. But Walgreens does have a marketing department for maximizing revenue, in part by market segmentation. Do the “Pink Tax” activists think women spend more on earplugs because they naively think their “female ears” are anatomically distinct? Preposterous. Women buy women’s earplugs because they like the way they look, or perhaps because they feel a sense of exclusivity. Nobody’s being scammed.

Marketers are famous for charging extra for irrelevant features. None of my friends prayed for a lightbulb for Chanukah. But several wanted an Easy Bake Oven – a toy that is, essentially, a light bulb. Consumers, male and female, are born suckers, and packaging can make all the difference. The price of a 7.5 oz. gift bag of Jelly Belly jelly beans shoots up from $5.99 from $6.99 once the the princesses from Disney’s Frozen appear on the front.

Feminists may disdain gender differences in shopping, but they’re real and deserve respect. One professor suggested chiding daughters who want pink bikes by schooling them in the mechanics of gender inequality: “Do you really want to support the idea that girls are getting charged more just because they’re girls?” One wonders if she’s ever gone shopping with an actual girl wanting a pink bike.

The government supposedly furthers the Pink Tax, according to media reports, with unequal tariffs on items like sneakers (women’s 10 percent; men’s 8.5 percent). But for historical reasons, there are tariff differentials in both directions, including gloves (women’s 12.6 percent; men’s 14 percent).

The most ominous-sounding manifestation of Pink Tax hysteria is the so-called Tampon Tax, forcing women to pay extra fees for feminine hygiene products when snacks and other non-essentials are exempt. This differential, which results from America’s quirky and decentralized sales tax system, has nothing to do with gender. No state has a specific rule for tampons; the divergent rules relate to broader categories. Every state that taxes tampons also taxes toilet paper, for example, and that sure seems essential to me.

Responding to such mushy, emotion-based arguments is exhausting, but l guess we could look at the bright side. At least American liberals have finally found a tax they want to repeal.

David Benkof is a columnist for The Daily Caller, where this essay first appeared. Follow him on Twitter (@DavidBenkof) and Muckrack.com/DavidBenkof, or E-mail him at DavidBenkof@gmail.com.