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What is the ‘pink tax’, and what does it mean for women?

You’re paid less, but made to pay more for almost every gendered product. The tampon tax might have been scrapped, but women are still being hit twofold by the price of living.

In 1973, the tax on sanitary products as a “luxury, non essential item” was set at 17.5%, which at the beginning of the 21st century was brought down to 5%, the lowest tax can be set at under EU law, a move lead by Labour MP Dawn Primarolo.

The past few days have seen EU leaders allow the UK to scrap the tax on tampons and other sanitary products following an online campaign begun 2 years ago on petition website Change.org, but this is not the only unfair payment women have to make.

Although Prime Minister David Cameron said yesterday in the House of Commons that there will be no tax on “sanitary products” resulting in “the end of the tampon tax”, there has been no explicit mention of scrapping the 5% tax on maternity pads, also included in the “women’s sanitary protection products” VAT notice.

However, there is a “tax” less transparent and more sinister that women face over men. The so called “pink tax” might not be a government inflicted tax as such, but covers the fact that women pay more than men for like-for-like products.

An investigation run by The Times highlighted that women paid around 37% more than men for clothes, beauty products and toys, whilst high street retailer Boots was singled out online for its “sexist pricing” of men’s and women’s equivalent razors and eye cream, which the company amended and described as “exceptional cases”.

However, despite Boots being named and shamed, other companies are still attempting to get away with the same trick. Take a look at Tesco’s website and check their prices for disposable razors, and you’ll find the same problem. For men, £1 will buy you ten fixed heads, disposable twin blade razors, but the same pound will only buy you five of the women’s equivalent. The only differences are that the women’s are pink instead of blue, and the men’s lubricating strip includes aloe vera as well as vitamin E. With no discernible difference between the two products, women may as well just go against the grain and buy the men’s razor. 

The majority of the time, women will pay more than men to have their hair cut, which hairdressers can put down to any number of reasons, from using different products to simply needing more time and effort, but a case in Blackpool highlights the problem with this.

A non-binary teenager is charged differently for the same hair cut depending on what gender they are. The 18-year-old said that when they went into the hairdresser in Lytham St. Annes, Fylde, dressed in “masculine” clothes they were charged £4, whereas “feminine” clothes saw the price rise 50% to £6.

As well as having to pay more for products, women are also paid less than men despite the 1970 Equal Pay Act. Women’s equality charity The Fawcett Society says the gender pay gap means that women in full time work earn on average 13.9% less than men. The European Union acknowledges that “the educational and career expectations for boys and girls are different”, resulting in men earning around 16% more.

Disposable razor prices and sexist hair cuts may only amount to a pocket money level of difference, but these are only the tip of the iceberg and with women getting ripped off twice, it’s important to remember that scrapping the tampon tax is only a step in the direction of equality.

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