Get Pissed: You're Still Paying More Than Men Do for Deodorant


Dear Faceless Overcharged Everywoman: Did you know you are still paying as much as 30 cents more per stick of deodorant than a man “version” for no good reason, when, if anything, a dude’s deodorant needs more of the anti-pit stink stuff in it? Seems fair, huh? And don’t get me started on what you’re squandering on dry cleaning!

It’s an issue that’s as old as the day is long — women pay more money than men for certain goods and services and it don’t make no sense. Anecdotally, you realize this when you go for a smart new haircut and notice that men’s haircuts cost several dollars less even if you literally only need a trim or have a pixie cut.

Or when shopping, you might notice that your shaving cream is substantially pricier, ostensibly because it has some soft-ifying flower-scented gel lady beads in it to erase that irksome natural leg scent of yours. Or when you drop off your dry cleaning and discover that men’s shirts are easily a third cheaper (or more) to spiff up than your own basic “blouses.”

In a recent piece at Vox, we learn that, FYI, nothing much has changed since that infuriating update at Marie Claire a few years back:

In the discussion about gender-based pricing, a few sources pop up regularly. In one often-cited 2011 study, researchers at the University of Central Florida found that women pay significantly more for haircuts, dry cleaning, and deodorant than men do. In 2010, Consumer Reports found an array of products, like razors and body spray, that cost more for ladies than men. When the state of California in 1996 outlawed gender pricing, it found that women spent around $1,351 per year more than men due to gender-based pricing at places like dry-cleaners and hair salons.

Vox author Danielle Kurtzleben note that it’s #notallproducts, and that some companies offer men’s and women’s products at the same price (though I can’t tell you what those are and am having trouble finding them). But the real issue is of course WHY IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS HOLY ARE WE PUTTING UP WITH THIS SHIT? It seems so clear-cut, as issues go, that it’s wrong. And every time I think about it, I’m infuriated again, and then I just go back to my life and forget about it until another thing reminds me. For some weird reason, I think nothing is to be done. But that is not true. And it’s also lazy.

Kurtzleben explores why this is really happening with the following explanations:

You Don’t Know Any Better

This is probably the biggest culprit, in my opinion. You know, of course, intellectually that gender pricing is real, but when you go shopping and hit the actual pain point, you probably don’t realize it. The very process of shopping for certain grooming aids is segregated by gender, so you’d have to go out of your way to even note the price of Old Spice deodorant compared to your Dove. In fact, the only comparison you’re probably even making is just within a slew of all-overpriced products geared to you by gender. As usual, to do something about this, you’d have to go out of your way to investigate a different section of (cheaper) product, and unless you’re doing so on purpose, this probably won’t happen.

Get Pissed Alert

Kurtzleben quotes Emily Spensieri, president of a Toronto marketing firm called Female Engineered Marketing, who says of this gendered pricing phenomenon:

“It’s absolutely there. The problem is that we just kind of, we’re lulled into not doing anything about it.”

You Buy Into the Whole Made-For-a-Woman Thing

It’s pink, it smells more “feminine,” and looks tailor-made for your lady body, so it must be specifically right for you in a way a man’s product would not! Spensieri tells Kurtzleben that both women and marketers dig this whole arrangement.

“That whole ‘it’s made for a woman’ thing makes it feel more special because it’s made for me,” she says. “And that’s where the real opportunity is.”

Opportunity = chance to charge more and justify it because demand.

Women Develop “Relationships” With Brands and Are Loyal

You know what I always say: Dove Original Clean 24h Invisible Solid is as good as a boyfriend who keeps you really calm. No really it’s just the least annoying scent. But now I feel motivated to go find the dude non-musked up spice cabinet version of this and save that dolla. But sure, “brand loyal.”

Some Products Are Legit Diff

Vox spoke to someone at a dry cleaning place in DC, who said there are honestly really real totally huge important differences in men’s shirts versus women’s and they just totally really do have to charge more you guys!

According to Kebba Gaye, a managing partner at The Press Dry Cleaning and Laundry in Washington DC, high-priced ladies dry cleaning has to do with actual differences in the clothing. Men’s dress shirts tend to be standard in shape and material — often cotton, with two long sleeves, one button-up front, maybe a pocket or two — and one machine can press all of them.
Women’s shirts, on the other hand, are far more varied — sleeveless, rayon, cap-sleeved, buttoned, silk, pullover — and can’t all be handled the same.
“The reason a woman’s shirt is $5 versus $1.85 for men is because of the different types of shirt,” Gaye says. But he says he does make exceptions: “If men wear a polyester like Hawaiian shirt, then they’ll have to pay more, too.”

If I owned a dry cleaning business that made bank off charging one group more than others, this is EXACTLY what I would say too.

As for hair salons, the Vox piece argues that most women have longer hair, which means more work cutting, blow drying, and styling (“more product”), and that could be a justification for higher prices. But in my experience at most salons, you still get charged more for the basic cut even when you don’t get a blow dry or styling, even when you have short, or super basic, five-minute hair. The author also notes that men will probably be back more often for more frequent touch ups.

You’re a Woman

The real reason you are being charged more is not really any of the above stuff — those are justifications for charging you more because you are a woman. The haircuts, dry cleaning, makeup, grooming, and general maintenance of complying with baseline femininity means more product on your body, and more services to maintain an aesthetic. Because that is more likely an everyday part of your existence than it is for dudes, your demand for these goods and services is higher and more routine, meaning you have to, for all intents and purposes, buy this shit.

“Grooming for men is almost seen as either a very elite activity — so you’re talking about a very elite group of people who are always very well groomed,” says Annamma Joy, professor of marketing at the University of British Columbia. Meanwhile, women of all classes feel pressured to wear jewelry and makeup.
Why do women do it? To belong to their gender, says Joy. Women play out their gender by wearing lipstick and all sorts of frilly shirts that don’t dry clean easily. And to a certain degree, says Joy, that makes them happy.

I guess. I mean, call it conditioning or call it preference, but accept that it is always, inextricably a mix of the two, and face the facts: It’s even worse because women are paid less. Not that being paid more would make it fair to be charged more (for just about everything else too), but it might seem less exploitative overall. Maybe that was all for naught when it was a preliminary expense you would soon offload to your new husband, lured by your meticulously maintained feminine appearance, but that notion is about as reliable as a man’s deodorant on a woman’s body! D’oh.

Get Pissed Alert

I can’t say it better than Kurtzleben: You’re paying extra to play a made-up role that society pays you less for inhabiting.

You’re paying extra to play a made-up role that society pays you less for inhabiting.

You’re paying extra to play a made-up role that society pays you less for inhabiting.

You’re paying extra to play a made-up role that society pays you less for inhabiting.

Whaddya Gonna Do Now?

Seriously, what? Kurtzleben says watch your wallet, at the very least. When it comes to deodorant, sunscreen, moisturizer, and razors, check ingredients and buy the cheaper dude version. Find, and patronize, hair salons that charge one price for everyone.

I like a more confrontational approach: Ask for the cheaper rate at your salon if you feel your haircut merits less work, or ask for an explanation of the pricing. If more people do this, more retailers and businesses will reexamine their approach. And never underestimate the beauty of complaining: Online, on social media, to retailers, to brands, to marketing companies, to your representative, to anyone who will listen. Investigate pricing at your local drugstore (as Bustle did recently), post the results online and alert the brands that you’re aware of this scam. Make them have to answer for it! Sure, it’s one more job you won’t be paid for, but hey! That’s just playing out our gender right? And that makes us happy, remember?

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