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'Pink tax' means women still pay more for goods and services

French Junior Minister for the Elderly and Autonomy Pascale Boistard
Eric Feferberg | AFP | Getty Images
French Junior Minister for the Elderly and Autonomy Pascale Boistard

Is pink a luxury color?

That's what France's State Secretary for Women's Rights, Pascale Boistard, asked on Twitter in 2014.

She was making the point that women pay a kind of "pink tax" whenever they are charged more for "feminine" items, or even general services, such as dry cleaning.

Four years later, in the midst of Women's History month, the question still looms.

Young girl's clothes cost 4% more than boys' clothing. Women pay 7% more than men for accessories such as tote bags and watches, 8% more for clothing and 13% more for personal care like deodorant, according to NYC.gov.

"It doesn't take any more chemicals to make women's deodorant than men's deodorant," says Angela Hattery, director of the women and gender studies department at George Mason University. "Part of the point is being able to take advantage of a group of people – in this case, women – by extracting more resources from them."

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And it's not just these "taxes" that erode equality between women and men, but other obstacles and biases as well.

In 2016, the American Association of University Women reported that women in the United States are still making 80% of what a man makes. Not only are women charged more than men, but they're not making as much.

And, according to the AAUW, most black women make 79% of what white women make.

"Women make less money, particularly women of color," says Dana Berkowitz, associate professor of sociology and women and gender studies at Louisiana State University. "Taxing them has more devastating consequences."

Plus-sized women are also at a disadvantage. Women are often charged more for plus-sized clothing, while men are not.

The average women's size in the U.S. is about 14. Usually, that is where plus sized clothing starts. Plus-sized women account for 67% of the population according to Plunkett Research, a global market research company based in Houston, Texas.

"These companies know that there are plenty of women out there whose bodies don't conform to their 'traditional' sizing charts, but who still want to be fashionable and keep up with trends," says Ammarie Grassle, an Instagram model. "They're using that fact to make extra money off us."

Manufacturers justify the added expenses by stating that they use unique elements and design patterns on plus sized clothing, which have more features overall.

These women are in "double jeopardy," says Hattery of George Mason University. She believes not only are they charged more because they are women, but also because of their race or size.

But all over the world, activist organizations are fighting the pink tax.

Girl Talk HQ works to educate Canadians about the price gap and gather enough support to get the government's attention.

Some U.S. states are also working to fight the "tax."

New York, for example, effectively ended the tampon tax in 2016, no longer taxing tampons as though they were luxury items. Also in 2016, California introduced a bill that would outlaw gender-based pricing.

Companies like Billie, a woman-oriented shaving company, do not charge more for feminine items. Founded in 2013, 75% of company employees are women.

"I was actually buying men's razors out of principal," says Georgina Gooley, Billie's co-founder, about why companies need to stop charging more for pink razors. "Why charge women more for anything, right? There's just no reason."

Boxed, a bulk-item shipping company, is another company working to eliminate the pink tax by charging the same amount for men's and women's items.

According to Ashish Prashar, the vice president of communications at Boxed, the company has made more money since charging the same amount for men's and women's items because it has attracted more customers.

"We absorb the costs ourselves," said Prashar. "It doesn't matter if we break even on those products because it is the right thing to do."

There are several things women can do before they shop to avoid the pink tax:

Compare prices:

Some companies will charge more for things like dry cleaning women's clothing, while some will not. Make sure to look up those brands beforehand to get the best deal.

Buy men's products:

Often, the only difference between a pink and blue razor is that the blue one works better. Shop down the men's aisle to compare prices.

Spread the word:

The more people know about the pink tax, the more pressure there is on businesses to charge women the same as men for the same products. Spreading the word about the pink tax could be the key to ending it once and for all.