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The 'Woman Tax': French Campaign Highlights Discriminatory Gender-Based Pricing

A feminist campaign against price discrepancies has prompted France's Finance Ministry to investigate why products that are marketed for women cost more than those made for men.

by Melodie Bouchaud
Nov 5 2014, 9:01pm

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Each year, women spend more than their male counterparts on daily consumer products like disposable razors and deodorant and services like dry cleaning and haircuts. This is on top of gender-specific costs that are not traditionally shared, such as gynecologist check-ups and contraception. The gender-based disparity in pricing has been dubbed the "woman tax," or "pink tax" — and it's becoming an increasingly bigger issue.

Since September, the French feminist collective Georgette Sand has been compiling examples of price discrepancies on its Woman Tax blog. The group's name is a play on 19th-Century French novelist Aurore Dupin's gender-bending pen name, George Sand. Its blog records a number of instances where products marketed to women cost more than the same products packaged for men. The examples include latex cleaning gloves, which cost about 50 cents more for the small size, or the female model of a backpack that, despite being the same size as the men's version, costs an extra $6 (differences converted from euros).

Pictured below is a pack of disposable razors that costs 10 cents more for women, despite containing only half the razors contained in the men's 10-pack.

Comparison of Monoprix disposable razors. (Photo courtesy of womantax.tumblr.com)

Georgette Sand started a petition demanding that the French supermarket giant Monoprix — whose name ironically translates to "one price" — eliminate discriminatory pricing for male and female products. It has already collected more than 41,000 signatures.

"The company takes advantage of the fact that women's and men's hygiene products are in different aisles to apply different prices on products that are similar, if not identical," the group said. "Whether as a producer of its own brand of products or as a distributor of other brands, the findings are the same: it is women who systematically and overwhelmingly pay the higher cost. Let us not forget that women earn 27 percent less than men do."

Monoprix claimed in a statement that the difference in the pricing of women's products derives from "higher production costs" and lower sale volumes.

The frustration over this imbalance has gotten the attention of the French government. Members of Georgette Sand met late last month with Pascale Boistard, the French secretary of state for women's rights, who subsequently raised the matter with the country's Ministry of Finance over this "injustice that must not continue." Finance Minister Emmanuel Macron launched an investigation into the price discrepancies earlier this week.

Georgette Sand member Ophélie Latil told VICE News that she is both surprised and thrilled that the "woman's tax" is the focus of a political debate.

"It started off spontaneously," she said, referring to the campaign. "One of us complained that she was spending more on a haircut than a guy would, and so we decided to start a Tumblr page."

Price differences between a woman's haircut and a man's haircut. (Photo courtesy of womantax.tumblr.com)

"The Georgette Sand collective has launched several initiatives," she added. "But with this one, we're talking about purchasing power, and saying that close to a monthly minimum wage gets spent on woman tax. We're dealing with preoccupations that affect the government directly. We don't know what [the government] will do, whether it's going to come down strong on the supermarkets, but now, at least, we have a window of opportunity."

The group is hoping to use the momentum to raise the visibility of its broader efforts on women's rights.

"Restraint is not something women are born with, it's something they learn," Latil said.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons