As if being a woman wasn't difficult enough—what with all the not having control over important decisions about our own bodies, making less money than our male colleagues, and, yes, let's play the childbirth card—we are also routinely hit with financial penalties just for having the balls to be born with a vagina. That's right, women pay more for everything from razors to houses to health care for no reason other than that we are women. It's like our own personal vagina tax, and it sucks.
In fact, it's enraging. You might think such gendered pricing practices would be illegal and we wouldn't even have to worry about them, but alas they are not. Of course, there are federal civil rights laws which project against discrimination in employment and housing on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation, but the same cannot be said for the sales of goods and services. Some states and cities have their own statutes, but they often don't make much of a dent in these kinds of widespread problems.
In fact, this problem is so pervasive that often we don't even notice it's happening—we just accept the cost of items as a given, sort of like the air around us. But there are lots of little ways we're charged more than men. Marie Claire has a detailed run-down of how this plays out, and they point specifically to dry cleaners, who often charge women three times as much to clean shirts which are virtually identical to mens' dress shirts. They justify this by saying that these "blouses" require extra labor to press. Hmm, seeing as I wear a larger shirt size than some of my male friends, yet their shirts fit on the pressing machine, this hardly seems possible.
Then there are things like haircuts and women's toiletries, which are typically priced higher than their men's counterparts, despite the fact that, even though they are all wrapped up in them purty pale pink packages, they are virtually the same products. (Maybe pink ink is just astronomically expensive?) Obviously retailers don't like to admit to it, since if they did, we'd come running at them, nails filed to a point and extra-gentle razors in hand, demanding a refund, but it is happening.
A study done at the University of Central Florida found that on average, women's deodorant costs 30 cents more per ounce than men's, even when the only difference between the products was the smell. The study's coauthor, Megan Duesterhaus said, "These companies have us convinced that men and women are so biologically different that we need completely different products, as though we are a different species." Well, they are from Mars, and we're from Venus, which probably has an atmosphere that affects our sweat differently and necessitates special deodorant technology to neutralize our female brand of stank.
We could consider ourselves "lucky" if these price gaps stopped at relatively trivial expenditures like dry cleaning and hair products, but unfortunately they extend into far more substantial purchases like cars, homes, and even health insurance. Blergh. In the case of buying cars, it's long been known that women often get the shaft, and it doesn't seem to have improved one bit. On average, women now pay $200 more for a car than a white man would, and black women pay a whopping $400 more.
When it comes to home loans, the Consumer Federation of America found in 2006 that women were 32 percent more likely to end up with high-interest subprime loans, even if when they had better credit ratings than the men. This may not be a case of discrimination, but rather the result of the way women tend to shop for things. Economists theorize that we rely on word-of-mouth rather than just taking the lowest rate from whomever is offering it. We aren't as likely to negotiate either, which puts us at a disadvantage when buying cars, homes, or other big items like appliances. As Yale Law School professor Ian Ayres explains, "The idea of just giving a discount to those who ask for one puts women at a strong disadvantage since they are less inclined to ask." (Here is some help for this very problem, should you need it.)