Last week in NYC, a brave little pharmacy called Thompson Chemists in SoHo put up signs on its windows saying “All Women Customers Shop Tax Free” and “All Male Customers Are Subject To 7% Man Tax.” In reality, male customers are just being charged the usual amount, and female customers have gotten a no-sales-tax discount, which is being compensated out of the owner’s pocket.
The owner, Jolie Alony, who has been running her store for more than two decades, explained that she wanted to point out how products marketed toward women cost on average 7% more than those marketed toward men. That includes woman-friendly snack products, women’s clothing, accessories, etc. This phenomenon even has a name: “pink tax.” Which means, in addition to making 22% less than men all factors being equal (78 cents on the dollar), women also *pay* 7% more for gender-specific products.
Predictably, this “Man Tax” has instigated a wildfire of criticism on the internet, evoking comments that it’s “reverse sexism” and that “This is exactly why this new age feminism isn’t liked. Feminism is about equality. This isn’t.”
But is it really? Here, men are not actually paying more than they ought to, and women are just getting a nice discount–a pretty standard commercial practice if you’ve ever gone to a nightclub where women get in for free, and men pay a cover charge.
Nevertheless, judging by the deluge of backlash, it appears that a lot of male feelings are hurt because they are not getting the fair treatment at a single pharmacy in NYC since less than a week ago. Instead of lashing out at what’s intended to be half a publicity stunt and half a protest against gender gap, shouldn’t they feel a bit more empathy toward what women have been experiencing everywhere, all over the world in areas of business, government, tech, the arts, and at all stores, since the beginning of history? (As deafeningly scary as that sounds.)
As a business practice, this Man Tax is questionable, and ideally we would live in a world where everyone is treated equally. But the Man Tax brings up an interesting possibility that there can be financial mechanisms to “correct” the gender wage gap and the Pink Tax, similar to tobacco tax and carbon tax. In those cases, companies that have negative impact are taxed more in order to discourage them from harmful practices. So instead of charging male customers more, how about charging “Gender Fairness Tax” to companies that don’t have a balanced representation of women in leadership positions, and most importantly, fair and equitable pay between genders?
Even considering that companies can argue individual merit is the single biggest factor in determining pay, pretty soon a pattern begins to emerge if year after year, women in the same pay grade as men make less than their male counterparts, and few women break it into management-level positions. So the idea is that these companies would be paying gender fairness tax, which would make them loath to keep having a wage gap.
Actually, I’m not the only brilliant mind who’s thought of this. A real live company in London already practices “Pay Gap Tax” internally! At Brainlabs, they take the difference between the average male wage and the average female wage, and distribute it to all the women in the company, no matter their position or pay. It’s also called a “Pay Rise.” Of course, I can imagine that there is a lot of backlash to this “extreme” practice as well since ONE single company has decided to “favor” women with a pay rise that just brings them up to *equal* with their male colleagues–while millions of companies around the world do exactly the opposite. (Probably the same commentators who hate on Thompson Chemists!) (I’d say, quit your Reddit habit, get off your couch, and go to the gym!)
As someone who has firsthand experienced gender inequality in the workplace, let alone the pink tax I can’t even know I’ve been paying all this time, I think it’s time to institute Gender Fairness Tax. Men, un-ball your fists, you’re not getting hurt–women are just being treated fairly, as your equals.
What do you think, dumplings?
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Photo: BoredPanda; Patrick Tomasso