Women's shampoo? 1 euro more expensive. Women's perfume: 30 euros more expensive. Experts warn of 'pink tax'

Shampoos, deodorants, perfumes, razors or a haircutting appointment: women pay more for a lot of products than men. Is that allowed, the pink tax? A marketing strategist and MEP explain where the pink tax comes from and what you can do about it

Lobke Gielkens 25-04-23, 10:50 Last update: 25-04-23, 11:40

You already saw them in the store: the items in pink, lovely packaging. Extra feminine, "natural. Only: those pink products "for women" are often more expensive than the variants for men. Just look at perfumes. For Acqua di Gìo by Armani for men, you pay 107.06 euros for 100 milliliters. For the women's version of that fragrance, you pay 135.89 euros at checkout.

The "pink tax" is called that. Legislation knows the term and even prohibits it. And yet the "pink tax" still exists today. "It is forbidden to sell products of the same nature at a different price, simply because your marketing is aimed at women. But unfortunately this is very difficult to fight," MEP Kathleen Van Brempt (Vooruit) tells us.

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Kathleen Van Brempt. © rv

"To verify that a manufacturer is implementing a pink tax, economic inspection must know every detail of a product. Very often, moreover, manufacturers can still demonstrate a demonstrable difference," she says. "A deodorant for women may contain different ingredients than those for men. So they can make the higher price seem justified."

That women should pay more is ingrained in our culture
Van Brempt compares the pink tax to the tampon tax that was abolished not so long ago. Until then, our country considered sanitary pads, tampons, panty liners and menstrual cups - basic products for female hygiene - to be luxury products for tax purposes. We therefore paid 21 percent VAT on them instead of 6 percent.

"European inspection should check the products where the price difference is really striking. Such an inspection would really set something in motion." Kathleen Van Brempt

"That women have to pay more for certain products is still hard-wired into our culture. That really needs to change," says Van Brempt. "That's why we need to sensitize our society about this. If there is more awareness and as a result we would agree with all European ministers to take action, we can really change something. The European inspection should then spend some time checking products where the price difference is really striking. An inspection of those companies would only really set something in motion."

But a new generation is coming ... And that worries marketers
Marketing and innovation strategist Kirby Van den Brande also sees an opportunity for improvement in the future. "The pink tax is a technique that comes out of traditional gender marketing. But we see our current generation becoming more and more gender fluid."

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Kirby van den Brande. © rv

Van den Brande: "Gender fluid people are no longer constrained by classic stereotypes. Young girls, for example, no longer want typical pink clothes, but oversized sweaters or men's shirts. Adult women also think whether a product is for women or men is much less important. Sustainability and the origin of a product are now more weighty. That trend will continue.

"Gender marketers are therefore at their wits' end as a very different generation approaches. A generation that is much more aware and rebellious. One that will no longer put up with this pink tax."

Why have we been accepting this pink tax for years anyway?
"We should not start looking for the cause of the pink tax in higher production costs. Or in the excuse that women are willing to pay more: that is also a lie," says Van den Brande. "Only if there is a functional difference in the product can and may a woman pay more for it. Think of a bulletproof vest for police officers. That vest may cost more because, thanks to differences in production, it protects women better."

"What does come into play is that we come from a society where mostly men were in charge. Moreover, until recently we lived in a society where especially beautiful people had better opportunities. The beauty industry has responded strongly to that."

"And the psychology behind our buying behavior also comes into play. Men are hunters and buy very result-oriented: 'I need a razor now.' Women are caregivers and are more emotion-oriented. That's why women from a previous generation were willing to pay more for certain products: because they buy on emotion. Smart marketers capitalized on that."

So the future may be "brighter," if politics and marketing are to be believed. At least if we keep raising this issue.