Wednesday, March 21, 2012

"It was on SALE!": The Myth of the Vagina Tax

I swear sometimes this blog just writes itself.

Over at Jezebel this morning there was an article entitled "Turns Out Being Born a Woman Is a Major Financial Mistake", by Cassie Murdoch.  She points out some of the differences between how much it costs to be a girl, compared to a boy, and she is outraged -- outraged, I say! -- that in this enlightened age of equality, equity, and fairness it still costs more to be a women.  Despite having twice as much underwear.

This is hysterical.  Literally.

Oh, I'll grant that outrageous gender pricing in healthcare needs to be reformed, and there are other institutional inequities in our system -- but I'll start paying more attention to that when my daughter has to register for selective service.

But as to the rest . . .

I'm a professional marketer.  You want to know why women pay more for everything?

They insist on it.

"I got mine for only $59.95, marked down from $100.00!"

"You lucky bitch!  I only paid $12.95 for mine at the discount store!"

Female buying habits are so predictable as to be formulaic.  When given a choice between two products of rough equivalence, female buyers will almost always choose the higher-priced product based on the notion that a higher cost means higher value.  It's the same impulse that convinces you that the sweater that was originally $70 but sold on sale for $25 was actually WORTH $70 . . . and not the $12.50 it will be at the end of the season.

Women are the perfect consumers -- men won't put up with higher prices for anything but baseball cards and sports cars, but one of the surest ways to increase sales for women is to mark it up and mark it down.
"I don't mind paying extra if the box
says it's worth it!  Boxes don't lie!
And gosh darn it . . . I'm worth the extra expense!"

Consider feminine hygiene products.  Given a choice of the exact same product in two different presentations at two different price points, women will consistently select the product with the prettier box and the higher price.  It's like a dog and a bell.

Ms. Murdoch wants to know if pink ink is just more expensive.  It's not.  It's profitable.

And who is spearheading all of this nasty gender-based consumerism?  You can blame . . . women.  

How Pink Tires Were Born
Once there was one household product for both men and women -- deodorant, razors, etc.  But in the 1970s feminism insisted that women needed special consumer treatment, since women made the majority of the purchasing decisions in the family.  And since women are far more brand loyal (that is, they will continue to purchase a brand  of product even when a comparable product is available at a cheaper price) the corporations ate it up.

Whole divisions arose to cater to women's specific consumer needs.  Women are a marketer's wet dream.  In advertising you have to convince men that a purchase is both prudent and thrifty. With women, you merely have to invoke anxiety about social ostracization ("Your girlfriends will talk about you if you don't buy this"), their innate craving to feel desired ("People will like you and want you more if you buy this") or change the packaging ("New!  Same Great Sponges . . . Six NEW Colors!).

Anytime you have to run two campaigns for the same product, that costs money.  And of course because they were marketing to women, advertisers and marketers naturally employed women to interpret and create the campaigns -- and of course almost all of these women had been forged in the feminist tradition.  Surely they had entered the industry with a mind of changing popular perceptions about women and advertising, back in the 1970s, addressing the needs of the modern woman, not the anxieties that had motivated her mother.  But did these female marketing execs try to cut women a break?  No.  Marketing is about making money, not enacting meaningful cultural change.  A marketer, male or female, who can't sell a product at a profit is a pointless expense.  And these ladies knew their market.  Knew it enough to brutally exploit it.  Since women will pay and pay and pay beyond all reason, if you hit the right buttons, it was profitable -- and a lot of feminist female marketing executives in the mainstream were as happy to fleece their sisters as the cosmetic industry was.

So all of this crap about a "Vagina Tax" is hysterical.  It's one of the biggest examples of the Rationalization Hamster at work I've ever seen.  Seriously, ladies, take some responsibility.  Do your due diligence the way male consumers do.  Buy generics.  Do without if it's not sold at a discount.  Forget about style and fashion and fad and stick to the basics.  Refuse to accept a higher price or a lesser-quality product . . . if you dare.

"I looked in her purse in the lady's room
generic tampons!  I wonder what other kind of
twisted character deficits she's hiding?" 
Apple proved how much women are suckers for slick marketing.  Sales slump, no one wants their computers . . . so make them pretty.  Put them out in colors.  Same computer, same software . . . but it's in PINK!  It's so CUTE!  I couldn't RESIST!  And it was 10% OFF so I saved a bunch!

So when it comes to the issue of the Vagina Tax, and why it isn't women's fault at all that they are being so unfairly treated, I have but one thing to say:

Ladies, on behalf of the entire Sales, Marketing, and Advertising industries, I humbly thank you.

Ian Ironwood, Esquire


  1. I think this is true. I had a friend in charge of a clothing department ( both men and women's). One day they put out two identical racks of skirts on opposite sides of the women's department. One rack was at £5, the other at £25. Now these skirts were exactly the same but the £25 rack sold out and the others were left languishing going nowhere. So yes, women expect to pay more and quite happily do so.

  2. Is this also the reason why almost every product on the planet is marketed to women? Because they know women will buy it.

  3. Of course its no prob for women to spend more - they dont have to earn the money they're spending

  4. Wow- I am bursting with thoughts about this. Way too many for just a comment so may have to write up a blog post. Oh but just bc ppl are so unaware of the option, um, there are reusable/washable cloth pads (GladRags, Lunapads, PinkLemonade) and silicone/rubber/etc menstrual cups (DivaCup, MoonCup, Lunette). A one time purchase sets you up for yrs so this whole "tampons are expensive but I have to HAVE my brand no matter what" nonsense is beyond bullcrap. Women have managed to handle feminine hygiene for eons before Kotex and Playtex came around:/ That's just one of many many unnecessary yet supposedly necessary purchases I see often. Even if others don't want to be that crunchy, comparison shop and maybe snag a few coupons. Seriously Kroger makes generic tampons that accomplish the job more or less as well as the name brand...