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Cuomo looking to eliminate gender-based price discrimination

by Kari Ashworth - Executive Editor
Wed, Mar 11th 2020 11:00 am
Gov. Cuomo is attempting to eliminate the pink tax through a social media campaign. The campaign, #PinkTax, hopes to raise awareness about the gender disparity. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor
Gov. Cuomo is attempting to eliminate the pink tax through a social media campaign. The campaign, #PinkTax, hopes to raise awareness about the gender disparity. Photo Credit: Marios Argitis/ Photo Editor
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is working to eliminate the Pink Tax in New York State. Cuomo launched the campaign on Friday, Feb. 14, in an effort to make gender-based products more equitable.

The Pink Tax is the idea that a product marketed toward women costs more than the same product marketed toward men. This can include hygiene products, such as razors, shampoo and deodorant, clothing and toys. 

In a press release, Cuomo said the state will continue to fight gender-based discrimination. 

“New York has made tremendous progress in advancing women’s rights all across the board, but unfortunately women are still victims of cultural and institutional discrimination,” Cuomo said. “This year New York will once again lead the nation and continue our work to end this shameful and repugnant injustice by eliminating the so-called pink tax once and for all - because pink or blue, the price should be the same.”

The Pink Tax has been around for years. Women and Gender Studies Professor Barb LeSavoy said this is in part because society is male-centric.

“When we think about the world, it’s universally designed in ways that are ‘he is everyone,’” LeSavoy said. “So if we go all the way back, ‘he’ used to be the universal pronoun that accounted for everyone.”

LeSavoy said products were, and still are, patriarchal in design. 

“Every product that exists, whether it’s deodorant, shampoo, soap, a bicycle, a tricycle, it’s designed for men, and then women are the other,” LeSavoy said. “It’s why we see the bicycle, and then we see the girl’s bike, and the girl’s bike is pink. And it’s why we see deodorant and then we see women’s deodorant. We see that this happens in so many different ways that we see women really paying what’s known as a 7% surcharge or 7% increase higher than what men are paying for similar items.”

New York State will be one of the first states to champion the tax, and it is not the first gender-based issue Cuomo has taken on. In 2016, Cuomo signed legislation banning what is known as the “Tampon Tax,” which is the tax seen on menstrual products.

The Pink Tax has been researched by numerous organizations, showing there is a significant added cost to identifying as female. 

“A 2015 study of product prices in New York City analyzed prices of toys, clothing, personal care products and home health products that were substantially similar and found that 42% of the time, products targeted towards women are more expensive than men’s,” the press release read. “According to the data collected, women’s merchandise costs 7% on average more than similar items for men, with personal care products for women found to be priced 13% higher than men’s products. Because these products are purchased frequently, the study estimates that the compounding differences translate into a significant financial burden for women over the cost of their lifetime.”

One of LeSavoy’s past students wrote her honor’s thesis on the Pink Tax and found how it can be discriminatory on different levels. 

“We were looking at things like, not only the surcharge of women paying extra, but ways that it really hits women who are poor,” LeSavoy said. “So in some ways you could sort of start parsing that out and start looking at ways this is racialized and classed, which was something that thesis dug into a little bit. So, when we think about women being taxed more, it’s really wealthy women, privileged women that can pay that tax, whereas women who are poor, marginalized, trans folk are really sort of pushed further to the margin and being asked to pay this increase in charge.”

The elimination of the Pink Tax could be seen as the next step toward equality. However, there is still much more work to be done.

“I do think that anything that we do that’s a step forward like this brings us closer to equality,” LeSavoy explained. “So I would say a really hesitant yes; the hesitation is that I think sexism is entrenched and institutionalized into everybody’s practices and mindsets. And I think that it’s so so pervasive that most aren’t even conscious of it.”

Ultimately, LeSavoy said the elimination of the tax is a “small drop in the bucket.” 

While the tax has not yet been eliminated, Cuomo has launched the hashtag #PinkTax to raise awareness about the gender disparity. 

On a local scale, the Women and Gender Studies Department holds different events throughout the semester to educate the community on the Pink Tax as well as other gender disparities. On Monday, March 9, one day after International Women’s Day, the department tabled in the Union to celebrate, and showed a screening of “Period. End of Sentence.” later in the day. 

“It’s just an example of the simplest things we are doing progressively to try and educate students and our campus and the community,” LeSavoy said. 

Cuomo hopes to pass legislation eliminating the Pink Tax this year. 

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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