Price change follows investigation that found women were paying more in shops for the same products as men.
A few weeks ago the Guardian released an article regarding women's products and how, in some particular cases, they are more expensive to buy than the men's equivalent.
This followed a report carried out by Tesco acknowledging that razors marketed to women in their stores were often priced higher than those aimed at men, although the razors were fundamentally the same product; the only defining difference between the two being the colour of the plastic and the words ‘men’s’ or ‘women’s’ printed on the front of the packaging.
Pastels, pinks, glitter and white are generally considered the acceptable colour palette for women, whereas anything blue, black, green and red with a matt finish is suitable for men's tastes. This is something the majority of us have been aware of for as long as we can remember. Blue is for boys, pink is for girls. Though, if we skip back a mere two centuries ago, it was actually the other way round. In the 19th century boys were dressed in pink and girls in blue.
However, it seems that razors, shaving creams, moisturisers, and clothes, etc., are more expensive when they have been manufactured and marketed specifically for women. According to Tesco, bearded hipsters aside, statistically men buy razors more frequently than women. But is this true?
The 'shame' of body hair for women is a well known and long established paradoxical occurrence. Though we are born with the genetic disposition to grow hair from our limbs and pubic regions, very much like our male counterparts, from the onset of puberty any hair that isn't growing from our heads, nasal hair aside, must be swiftly removed. A woman should be smooth and hair-free like her pre-adolescent girl self, but that is a separate issue for another time. So we have razors, wax, epilators, hair removal creams and, for the seriously dedicated, laser hair removal.
For as long as I have been shaving my legs, I have used men's razors and this is for a number of reasons. They have been cheaper on average, they have generally done a better job and, personally, I prefer the aesthetics: clean cut and simple.
A few years ago, I saw a fancy women's razor on sale at a supermarket. The packaging boasted of its miraculous moisturizing strips, its ergonomically designed body and its safety features. The pair of legs on the box looked pretty happy with themselves and the jargon on the back hinted, not too subtly, that real women have super smooth pins, and that "you too can have legs like these!"
Now I’m generally pretty good at avoiding these marketing tactics, but I do like a bargain, and it was on special offer - money is usually the driving factor for me. I had been feeling a little low that week; I’d put on a couple of pounds and had an outbreak courtesy of my period, so I fell for it- I mean bought it. Hook line and sinker, all the way through the checkout and back home. A nice shiny new beautifying toy for the woman in me.
Once home, the thought of using a women's razor after so many years of using one designed for men, felt a bit strange. A self-confessed ‘tom-boy’ from a young age, I have generally been averse to anything pink and overly 'girly', but the idea of using something designed specifically for my sex had me curious - had I been missing out? Is this the key to projecting my femininity so favoured by the media? In not embracing my pink side, had I inadvertently put up a barrier to men, worn a sign that stated that I wasn’t soft, supple and moisturised in the right places?
Not really, but we do overthink these things and the media takes advantage of this. In all its guises: film, TV, magazines, music and advertising, it has trained us how we should think and feel, and most importantly how to doubt ourselves. To be insecure enough to feel the need to buy the next product that will make us fit in, make us desirable. For what are we, if we are not desirable? Again, that's a question for another time.
But the device itself just seemed needlessly gimmicky. Pearlised crystal white with shocking pink accents on the voluptuous handle, specifically designed for the fairer sex. "Look: I’m feminine," it screamed, "I’m a lady, seductive and sleek in all my glittery goodness." I can’t say I was overly taken with it. It all seemed a bit unnecessary, but if it does the job then who am I to judge on aesthetics, it’s just a matter of personal taste.
It was at shower time that I truly regretted my purchasing decision. The safety wires placed over the blade to protect our sensitive skin made it impossible for the blades to make direct contact with the surface to remove any hair and the handle that was ergonomically designed for our ladyfingers was annoying and cumbersome.
A shower with shave that would usually take me 10 minutes, became a 20 minute farce, dotted with expletives and very little evidence that I had managed to remove so much as a whisker from my legs. The moisturiser strip depleted, it seemed this women’s razor wasn’t up to scratch.
To add insult to injury, after checking online, the replacement heads were astronomically expensive, so there was no chance in hell I would be using it again.
Needless to say, after several failed attempts, the razor followed the packaging into the bin.
I felt cheated, furious that I had fallen for the product. Where were my Venus legs, my princess pins, silky smooth and hair free?
So I have stuck to my 'male' razors, brushed steel handle with blue grips and a sunset orange rubber strip. They are cheaper, work better and most importantly, it’s my personal choice.
It’s interesting to note that if other women like myself are choosing to buy ‘male’ products, because they’re cheaper and (in my experience) work better, why would women want to buy the more expensive 'feminine' option?
One might speculate that, because pressure on women to be well-groomed is higher, we are prepared to pay more. By making it seem that this woman-specific product is somehow superior- whether true or not- we are encouraged to part with more cash for the experience. I think it just comes down to that fact that they, whoever ‘they’ are, think they can get away with it.
Pricing discrepancies have also been noted in the fashion industry. Inch for inch, women's clothing does typically cost more than men's. This is because the tariffs on men's clothing differ, with women's clothing often being taxed at a higher rate. This gender based pricing, known as the 'women's tax’ or the ‘pink tax’, does indeed exist and has been an accepted phenomenon since a study in California in 1995 revealed that women pay on average $1,351 (£1,120) a year more for the same products as men. This had such an impact in California that it became the first and only state in America to ban gender-discriminatory pricing. But it’s the same here in the UK too. A newspaper investigation at the start of 2016, showed that women were paying an average of 37% more for gender-targeted items ranging anywhere from toys to beauty products.
And nowhere else is this gender-tax more prominent than on women’s sanitary products. For a number of years, women's groups have been campaigning about the unfair tax levied on these essential items. In 2001 after being put under extreme pressure, HMRC downgraded them to a reduced rate of 5% from the previous 17.5%, but is this any fairer? Indeed, were it not for these items, how would women reasonably be able to contribute to society during their monthly menstruation?
Let's be honest, getting your period is a pain in the ass - well, the tummy - oh, and then there's the back pain, and some of us get headaches and insomnia to boot. It’s messy, it's uncomfortable, and at times downright painful, but by using these products, and painkillers (lots of painkillers), means we can at least get out of the house and function as humans.
Being in the 5% VAT category, HMRC still class these hygiene products as ‘luxury goods’, which are items that are deemed to be unnecessary or non-essential, unlike Jaffa Cakes, exotic meats such as kangaroo and crocodile, and helicopters which are all VAT exempt. That’s right; Jaffa Cakes and helicopters are considered essentials by the powers that be. Oh and men's razors, they are essential too, so no tax on them.
So the government makes around £15 million pounds each year on the VAT imposed on tampons.
This is a tax on women, for being women. Men do not have an equivalent tax.
Let’s get something straight here, there is nothing luxurious about periods, so having to pay a toll each month for being born with a uterus is not only ridiculous, it’s downright unjustifiable.
What is the defining feature in all of this? Capitalism. That’s right, baby, and capitalism at its finest. It’s all about the money. The sexism is technically secondary, though innate within our traditionally patriarchal capitalist society.
If you create a product to address a human condition and advertise it a particular way, you’re exposing people to the idea that they might need it.
Fundamentally, it’s cheap to remarket an existing product to gain an additional revenue stream. This goes for products aimed at both genders, though in most cases it is women's products that have the additional levies piled on top. A round of applause to the overpriced women's razors.
Take painkillers for instance, extra-strength variants are often packaged in colours that are attractive to men, although they are suitable for both men and women. However, this same pain killer can then be repackaged as 'Menstrual Pain Relief' for women, marketed exclusively for a female condition, but with an inflated price tag. Same product, different market, more profit.
So, back to the shaving thing.
I’m very pleased that Tesco have now decided that they will be charging women the same price as for the razors they're selling to men. It sets a good example, I think.
Maybe the next step should be to scrap the ‘for men’ and ‘for women’ labels altogether, and remove the women's pink tax, you know, to really get to work on this equality thing.
Let us hope that lots of other products will soon be following suit, but just remember ladies and gents, it’s all down to you, the consumer.
If you’re prepared to pay more, then you will be charged more. If you’re not prepared to pay more, then what better way to let ‘them’ know that, than by voting with your wallet.
Don’t let the fancy packaging or ‘his’ and ‘hers’ labels sway your judgement.
If it gets the job done, who cares if it’s blue or pink.