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Hey Big Gender: Why are women being charged more for stuff?

If you've ever felt like the cost of being a woman was somehow higher than that of being a man, guess what? You were literally correct! Via Psychology Today:

The January 2010 Consumer Reports has an article that's sure to provoke some outrage. "Roam any drugstore and you'll see products that seem to be twins, except for one thing: One is for women, the other for men. We discovered that products directed at women-through packaging, description, or name-might cost up to 50 percent more than similar products for men."

WTF?


Image via Psychology Today

Apparently, women are being charged more for the same products as men, though no one has a great explanation so far as to why this is. Consumer Reports asked manufacturers to weigh in and got half-assed excuses (women shave in the shower so they need better cans!) at best. An experiment to get to the bottom of this (detailed in the article) at the University of Vermont showed that when asked to bargain with an unseen partner, "both women and men unconsciously set higher 'prices' for female partners." Somehow, even when it is allegedly not a conscious decision, manufacturers charge a higher price for products marketed to women. Which sucks, obviously.

An explanation not explored in the article is that manufacturers know that women are under more pressure when it comes to beauty standards, and therefore might be willing to pay more for cosmetic products. If we're consistently told that we must have soft skin at all costs or no one will ever want to kiss us, we just might pay that extra $0.49 to get the high tech skin-softening lotion. If we're consistently told that we must eradicate all PMS symptoms at all costs or no one will ever want to kiss us, we might buy the menstrual cramp Excedrin without checking to see if the ingredients are the same as the headache one.

So what's the deal here? Do most manufacturers harbor an unconscious resentment of female consumers? Is it a conscious resentment? Do women somehow require more complicated and expensive products because of our maze-like ladyparts and our unpredictable mood swings? Have you ever noticed this phenomenon? If so, what do you do about it?

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Comments

24 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Just buy the men's products!

Although I draw the line at clothes since I like my clothes to fit me, at the drugstore I just buy the men's products unless it is absolutely necessary that I buy something that treats more specifically feminine phenomena. Granted, I'm about to get an electric razor so it's kind of irrelevant now, but I've always used plain ol' Barbasol when shaving my legs and underarms—so what if it says "Beard Buster" on it if it gets the same job done? I don't need anything specially scented or whatnot!

Also, what does it say about men's products that they're so cheap? Is there an implication that it's manly not to put a lot of work into one's hygiene, and that "real men" only do the bare minimum of personal cleansing and then go about their business?

Re: stinky boys and product packaging

"Is there an implication that it's manly not to put a lot of work into one's hygiene, and that "real men" only do the bare minimum of personal cleansing and then go about their business?"

I feel like this feeds right into the somewhat childish, and often said with humor intended, stereotype of boys are stinky and gross, while girls don't make bad smells or sweat or poop.

On some levels I can appreciate the humor in this stereotype; in other ways I can appreciate it as crediting women with higher standards of hygiene. But there can be no question that it has serious negative implications - one of which is this kind of price hike in "women's" products.

I feel like part of the price hike could well be the packaging - the men's Barbasol container is considerably less "pretty" than the women's container. Women's marketing theory includes a point that is, I think, valid on some level: If a woman is buying something intended to increase her "pretty", then that thing should look "pretty". Just like you don't want to buy soap that looks dirty, you don't want to buy a pretty-enhancer that looks ugly. Hence the fancy schmancy lady-product packaging.

i've definitely noticed this

i've definitely noticed this - and for precisely this reason, i also buy any "male products" that i can (razor, shaving cream, unscented deodorant, etc.) speaking of "male" and "female" products... isn't it irritating when products are specifically manufactured for a certain gender? ie, female earplugs! female bluetooth! female cell phone (complete with bling) this is probably just so they can charge more money for the same product.

... because they will still buy it.

Capitalism at its finest - what you have is only as good as what someone is willing to pay for it, and if women are buying more expensive products for no reason other then they think they should, then that is what they get. People have the false idea that just because you pay extra, that what you are getting is really worth the difference.

To disagree with this capitalist mentality and demand equal prices for products in some ways in un-American. Ironic isn't it?

Stop buying the products directed at women

Companies charge more money for products directed at women because they know (for whatever reason) that the majority of women will pay that price. Fewer men are willing to pay high prices for products. Hell, I have a difficult enough time convincing my boyfriend to replace his underwear, and men's underwear is cheap compared to women's.

If we want companies to stop charging women more, we have to stop buying their products at the higher price and follow the lead of the first two commenters: buy the "male" version of the same thing. It sucks we have to goad companies into doing what they should already be doing - pricing their products equitably - but that's the way it works.

Exactly

And it's long been known that hairdressers and drycleaners charge higher prices for females for no reason other than they are female.

My former stylist (out on

My former stylist (out on bed rest right now) said that it's because it takes her that much longer to cut a woman's hair than a man's. Men she can complete in 20 minutes. Women, whether they need a trim or a longer cut, it's a minimum of 45 minutes.

This may be true in some

This may be true in some cases, but it has never been true for my husband and myself. Whenever we would go to the barber, it would take 20 minutes or less to get my hair trimmed (I have very long hair and just needed an inch or two taken off to even it up) while it would take at least half an hour to get his cut in the style he liked. I always had to pay the women's price while he got to pay the less expensive men's price. The only time this wasn't true was at the local beauty college where we could pay the same price for the service, even though his haircuts always took at least twice as long as mine (the downside of getting a cheap, student-given haircut is that they're still learning so they take a lot longer). In the case of the beauty college I didn't mind so much because it was a flat-rate for a haircut, regardless of gender or time taken to finish the style, but having to pay more because most women's haircuts take longer than most men's really irritated me.

I decided that I refuse to pay more for less or equal service, so I have stopped going to barbers that charge more for women. This does mean that I haven't had a hair cut in quite a while (the beauty college isn't terribly convenient for me to get to), but I just can't stand being charged based on gender assumptions rather than how much work I require from the stylist.

Similarly, I buy men's products whenever I can because they are, for the most part, cheaper and do the exact same thing. The exception to this is clothes, since I haven't yet found men's pants that fit my hips comfortably without falling off.

I don't think large companies will ever stop marketing things expressly to women (and, in most cases, charging more because a lot of women will pay the difference), but I will continue to not buy into their propaganda and voice my dissatisfaction with the situation whenever I get the chance.

Supply & demand.

Next question.

It's a tradeoff...

for women being able to get maternity leave and work-at-home jobs...LOL!!! I also think that women are more likely to use coupons and manufacturers are recouping their money. Sounds stupid but...think about it...

Unfortunately...

paid maternity leave, while common in most industrialized (and even many 'developing' countries), is very unusual in the United States. Under the Family Medical Leave Act, new mothers and fathers may each receive 12 weeks of unpaid parental leave, and even that 'benefit' comes with a number of stipulations (i.e., if a parent works for a private company with less than 50 employees, s/he may not even receive unpaid parental leave).

As for 'work-at-home jobs,' I'm not sure what would enable women to more easily attain them or how such a job would be a trade off for spending more on products aimed at women.

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

Take note: Opinions expressed are those of their respective authors, not necessarily those of Bitch. Dig?

design

Which package cost more to produce? Women don't buy cheaply packaged goods. You're paying the extra money for the packaging, not "because we're women." The male version of the product doesn't even have a cap, and comes in a bargain basement can clearly from a manfacturer template. If the women's version had the same packaging but just in pink (instead of green) you might have a point.

This whole article is a bit misleading using barbasol is an example... barbasol is known as the lowest priced "men's" shaving cream... who knew they even offered shaving cream for women?

Now I'm going to blow your mind... Walgreens (wasn't this article about the prices in drug stores?) is selling the same shaving cream to men and women from Gillette right now... but... for the same price...

http://www.walgreens.com/store/catalog/Shave-Cream/Satin-Care-Shave-Gel-...

http://www.walgreens.com/store/catalog/Shave-Cream/Series-Shave-Gel/ID=p...

uh-oh! How can this be????!!!!

Confirmation

Women don't buy cheaply designed goods...damn. Now I KNOW I'm not a woman! I knew everyone was lying to me!!!

PS. Barbasol does have a cap, it's just smaller and less conspicuous. I'll give you that packaging is an important factor as far as price, but regardless, I think the obvious bigger issue at hand here is the gendering of products that are really the same (one of the results being differences in packaging or marketing that lead to price inequalities in some cases).

Marketing

I don't think that's the best image to really illustrate the issue. With a quick scan I see the base average can of shaving cream vs a more "stylish" looking can with a greatly enhanced design and "Melon Splash". I would expect the second can to cost more. It should come as no surprise that you aren't just paying for the stuff inside. You are also paying for the design, marketing, etc..

I can't actually speak for the point of the article, though. My wife and I use mostly the same products. There are very few cases where gender matters. Neither of us need "Melon Splash" or anything in bright pink.

I have to carefully,

I have to carefully, respectfully disagree here.

This specific example isn't correct; Barbasol is about as old a product as there is...your dads probably used it. It's shaving cream.

That woman's product is shaving gel. Men's shaving gel costs more than shaving cream. I know, I know, what's the difference? Who cares? They do the same thing, right? Yes, they do.

Shaving gel is kind of like a step up from shaving cream. There are more moisturizers, it's thicker on the skin, etc.
I actually use shaving cream; it works better on my face.

I also have to (sort of) disagree with you about women being under more pressure when it comes to beauty standards. Maybe for the last 100 years, yes. But not so much in the world today, the playing field is evening out in terms of what's acceptable and attractive for the sexes.

In any case, I think the IDEA you pose here is very interested and I would love to see more proof, one way or the other. What about deodorants or sex-specific products- make up for ladies, cologne for men, etc.

evening out?

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It isn't just beauty products!

It isn't just beauty products. Other items marketed to women cost more, too. Example: I recently purchased a Fiskars "All Purpose Cutting Tool." It is like a pair of industrial scissors. I bought it at Home Depot and it was about $9. The EXACT SAME product is also for sale at Michael's (a craft store) as the "All Purpose Craft Shears" for $17!

It is exactly the same product, same color, same size, same everything. The only difference was the packaging. Both came attached to a piece of cardboard with plastic straps. But the colors and name were different. For men, dark blue with red lettering. For women, pale gray with black lettering. The cost of the packaging should be the same - cardboard is cardboard. I know you could say that it isn't a gender thing, things marketed for crafting cost more than just plain old tools. But why is that? Why do we see a distinction between the two? Is it because women are assumed to be crafting while men are building? One is a cute hobby and one is a productive pursuit?

I am not remotely surprised by the Consumer Reports article. I am a little confused as to why this isn't already well known. All types of products marketed to women are consistently more expensive and in my opinion often of poorer quality. Take disposable razors, men's razors (in dark blue or green) always have two or even three blades and the easy grip handle. Women's razors (yellow or pink) have one blade and usually plain handles. The women's version also costs more.

I do the same as a lot of the posters here, buy the men's version. It saves money. But it is surprising how much resistance I get from friends, family, even store clerks.

Michael's

I know this is an old post, but it's not ancient history, so - just as some people have pointed out that Barbasol vs fancy scented shaving cream in a nice bottle might not be singular, ultimate, conclusive evidence of inequality in pricing... your example isn't great either.

Because honestly, it doesn't matter what you buy at Michael's, it is more expensive than it would be anywhere else (at least of the art stores in my town) - lots of their products of the same quality, even brand, are literally twice the price as those offered in the Wallacks, or even the small, independent art suppliers. So far as I can tell, women aren't any more likely than men to shop at Michael's over Wallacks.

Although only twenty-one, I

Although only twenty-one, I have been loyal to Barbasol since my Dad taught me how to shave. This was a poor example on Bitch Magazine's part for a few reasons. Just upon quick inspection of the packaging, how much do you think Barbasol pays a graphic designer for the men's version compared to the women's. Honestly, it doesn't look like they've been paying much of anyone since the mid to late 70s to label the men's version. The women's has rather elaborate computer-generated images to compete with the other products we see in the leg shaving cream market. For facial shaving cream, Barbasol does not typically cater to a customer base that appreciates the equivalent glitziness in extreme marketing and modern designs. Secondly, there is an added melon scent to Pure Silk, which chemically may or may not be more expensive to produce. Using Barbasol quite often, I can tell you it is really nothing else but shaving cream, and apparently aloe. Barbasol is also well known for being the economic shaving cream of choice. Pure Silk may have not had as much time to establish a reputation in the women's market.

Basic capitalism

This isn't some sexist scheme, it's basic capitalism. Women are willing to spend more money on these products so the price is higher. The Excedrin people are just selling a product, someone figured out if you write "Menstrual Cramps" on a box of normal pain killers they can sell them for more money, it's no different than adding new packaging or colors to attract a buyer. Many men's multivitamins are priced higher than a normal multivitamin as well even though they are the same of a normal multivitamin; the same can be said for woman in this case. This is just another example of how shitty capitalism is and how blindly people are willing to buy a product geared toward their target audience.

Capitalism is sexist

Kait said, "This isn't some sexist scheme, it's basic capitalism."

Capitalism is sexist. Just think about pay inequality. Or the fact that women are often treated as commodities to whom commodities must be sold because we won't be "pretty enough" or "good enough" without such-and-such a thing. Or the fact that women are still portrayed as stereotypes and sexual objects in the media and advertising.

Capitalism preys on people's natural or conditioned insecurities. While both women and men are socially conditioned to do certain activities or behave in particular ways in order to be accepted as "feminine" or "masculine", women are still more frequently victimized by the kind of sexism and misogyny that requires us to act and think "like girls". One might argue that men experience just as much pressure to act "like guys", but one would be ignoring the fact that in order to act "like a guy", one is usually pressured to behave in way that suggests dominance, strength, independence, and often enough, ruggedness (which requires that less excruciating detail be paid to grooming rituals) while to act "like a girl" usually suggests submissiveness, dependence to a certain extent, and prettiness (the associated grooming rituals of which are typically more time-consuming and more expensive due to the number of products that are encouraged to be used). Social conditioning dictates what women and men should look like, smell like, behave like, think, want, and need. The difference between the two products shown in this post may reflect the difference in our attitudes towards "female" and "male" values. Men don't "need" fancy packaging, fruity scents, or "vitamin-enriched" formulas as much as women "need" those things. Women are "supposed" to have soft, hairless skin all over their bodies and smell like fruit or flowers at all times (or else!) If it is more expensive for a company to produce a product that is in accordance with one set of gender values, then the consumers of that product will pay more for their social conditioning than consumers with different values/conditioning. The market takes advantage of and perpetuates oppressive attitudes in order to make a profit. And that's why the price difference is a symptom of both sexism and capitalism.

This is also true in the case of many over-the-counter medications and vitamins. If a person believes that a product is designed for the specific health needs of their body, then they might be willing to pay more for that product without checking whether or not it actually differs from the original, non-gendered product or the product being advertised to the other gender. To me, this is really a direct violation of a person's right to honest, affordable healthcare products. People should not be cheated into thinking that they have to shell out more money for the sake of their general well being when they could pay less for the same thing.

Um, seriously?

You folks are just figuring this out now? This crap has gone on for eons. The best way to fight it is to not buy the aforementioned products. Vote with your wallet!