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The Pink Tax (And Why It’s Time Women Opt for the Blue Razors)

Photo of three pink razors in a diagonal line on a white background

Paying significantly more money for a product based almost exclusively upon its pink color seems ridiculous. However, many women are unaware that they are doing exactly that on their weekly trips to the grocery store. In fact, the physical separation of men’s and women’s products in many stores often prevents both sexes from ever noticing the price difference between products. Awareness of the “pink tax” and the ethical debate associated with gender-based pricing has risen significantly in recent years. In fact, both New York and California have made gender-based pricing against the law and many consumers are calling for more states to do the same.

In order to grasp just how widespread and significant this issue is becoming a study was published in New York City called “From Cradle to Crane: The cost of being a female consumer”, which was research conducted to encourage government action. The study, as referenced on an NPR broadcast, illustrated that on average women are paying 7-8 percent more than what men were paying for comparable products in departments such as clothing. However, personal care products are the items most notorious for blatant price discrepancies, being on average 13 percent more expensive for women across a variety of products including deodorant, shampoo, shaving cream, and particularly razors.

In fact, many news outlets including NPR, NBC, and CNN have investigated these price differences at drugstores and grocery stores across the country to understand how this discrimination plays into female consumers’ everyday lives. Karen Duffin from NPR went to a Walgreens in Times Square and found one packet of the same basic razors from the women’s section and the other from the men’s. The brand and quantity for both packets remained the same, however, the men’s razors were priced at 59.9 cents per razor, whereas the same razors for women were doubled at $1.25 per razor. Also, price differences are not exclusive to retailers. Investigative reporting on The Today Show actually depicted gender-based pricing in services such as dry cleaning as well. A male and female reporter both bought the same white button-down shirt from the same department store in men’s and women’s aisles and took them to a dry cleaning store. The male reporter’s total bill totaled only $2.50 while the female reporter’s bill totaled $5.00. When asked about the price difference, the manager explained that the machines used to press the shirts were only made in sizes suitable for men’s clothing, women’s smaller shirts are unable to fit in these machines and thus must be hand-pressed. This difference in pricing between genders introduces the ethical issue of why services such as dry cleaning are designed for male consumers while not acknowledging the needs of female consumers. In other words, why can we not begin to standardize these sorts of businesses so that one sex is not charged more for the same service than the other.

Although a few dollars here and there may not seem like a significant issue for female consumers, these slight differences in pricing for comparable products result in women paying an annual “gender tax” of approximately $1,351 extra annually compared to men, according to the Study of Gender Pricing in NYC. The difficulty in addressing this issue, however, is because it is difficult to determine exactly where in the supply chain the price hikes are added to feminized products, as trade lawyer Michael Cone explains to CNN Money. Cone is convinced that price gouging is occurring on women’s products. The study elaborates on the example of women’s shirts:

“[S]hirts with buttons on the right side (for men)…were taxed a couple percentage points less than shirts with buttons on the left side (for women). He brought both examples to the federal court claiming that US import tariffs discriminate based on gender, however both of his claims were dismissed.” (Sebastian, 2016)

Higher taxes on women’s products, (for example, shoes: the tax on men’s shoes is set at 8.5 percent whereas women shoes are taxed 10 percent) have been under research for over 15 years. The United States is also not the only country becoming increasingly aware of the implications associated with gender-based pricing. In Britain, the issue has been brought to Parliament as women “could be paying up to twice as much as men for what appeared to be identical products” (Sebastian, 2016).

Another important ethical question is if perhaps these price differences are not discrimination at all, and are simply due to legitimate contrast in the ingredients and formulas between men’s and women’s products. However, the New York City study brings up a counterargument that these higher prices are difficult for women to avoid and that “individual consumers do not have control over the textiles or ingredients used in the products marketed towards them, and must make purchasing choices based only upon what is available in the marketplace.” As a result the choices made by marketers and manufacturers place a substantially higher financial burden upon female consumers in comparison to males.

This discrimination deserves more media attention, which is why many of these studies are becoming a call to action for women to become aware of price discrimination in products they buy. This awareness also has the potential to encourage women to compare products marketed to either men or women in a variety of categories, and base their product choices upon unit price instead of merely packaging. Eventually, if women begin utilizing this knowledge to put pressure on companies, more state governments would be willing to introduce a ban on gender-based pricing. In the meantime, it may be worth walking a few aisles further and picking up that blue razor.

 

In the Boy Scouts, Making Room for More than Just Boys

Photo of Boy Scouts saluting.

In October of last year, the Boy Scouts of America announced that the organization would begin admitting girls.  Cub Scouts, the organization for youths 7-10 years old, will begin welcoming girls this summer.  The program for youth 11-17—The Boy Scouts—will change its name to Scouts BSA and will begin accepting girls, providing a pathway for young women to become Eagle Scouts.

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Eric Schneiderman and the Moral Wrongs of Hypocrisy

Image of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman

Eric Schneiderman was the New York Attorney General since 2011 and a strong opponent of President Trump’s policies to end DACA. Most recently, he sued the Weinstein Company over sexual harassment and civil rights violations while being a vocal supporter of the #Metoo movement. His clear stance as an advocate for civil rights, and specifically feminist goals, has made the circumstances of his recent resignation particularly frustrating.  Schneiderman resigned as New York Attorney General the first week in May in response to claims that in four past relationships, he had physically assaulted his partners.

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Does Implicit Bias Explain Gender Discrimination?

Photo of men's and women's bathroom stall signs

Implicit bias is a concept that’s been enormously useful to feminists grappling with the way progress for women has stalled in some areas. Women are still under 5 percent of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. They still make considerably less per hour than men for doing the same work. Women are still just 20 percent of PhD engineers and around the same percentage of philosophers. They still haven’t made it into the pantheon of US presidents, and only 23 out of the current members of the US Senate are women.

It’s all difficult to explain, especially if you don’t believe that women as a group have distinctive interests or aptitudes. But then, what’s going on? Outright sexism and misogyny aren’t exactly rare in the US, but neither are they common. Thus, if you suspect bias is at the root of the underrepresentation problem, implicit bias is a welcome concept.

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Opinion: Kevin Williamson Is Right (About One Thing)

photograph of an anti-abortion protest

Kevin Williamson, a flame-throwing National Review contributor for many years, was recently hired by The Atlantic as part of the magazine’s effort to include conservative voices, and then he was fired. The bridge too far was not the fact that he had once tweeted out a call for women to be hanged for having abortions, but the fact that this wasn’t just an impulsive tweet. In a podcast unearthed by his critics, he can be heard saying that he does indeed think women who have abortions should be treated however we treat murderers. He also expresses doubts about capital punishment, so—rejoice?—the bit about hanging was just a rhetorical flourish.

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When Men Dominate the Film Industry, What’s the Problem?

Watching the Oscars recently, I was struck by the fact that, for all the emphasis on women over the last year because of the #metoo movement, the winners were still mostly a parade of men. Greta Gerwig did not win for her wonderful movie Lady Bird; Guillermo Del Toro won for the overly contrived movie The Shape of Water. Yes, there were female winners in the acting categories, but there have to be: those categories are gender-segregated.

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Trusting Women and Epistemic Justice

An anonymous woman holding up a sign that says #MeToo

Over the past three months, public figures have been exposed as serial sexual harassers and perpetrators of sexual assault. Survivors of harassment and assault have raised new awareness of toxic masculinity and its effects in a short period of time.

However, as time goes on, supporters of the movement have been voicing rising concerns that something is bound to go awry. There is an undercurrent of worry that an untrustworthy individual will make an errant claim and thereby provide fodder for skeptics and bring the momentum of the movement to a halt. In response to this, it may seem like more vetting or investigation of the claims is the way forward. On the other hand, wouldn’t it be unfortunate to erode trust and belief in women’s stories in hopes of keeping the very momentum in service of hearing women’s voices?

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Bathrooms and the Board of Trustees: The Ethics of DePauw’s Restroom Protests

An image of three bathroom stalls, with one stall door open.

In a recent newspaper article for DePauw University’s student newspaper, Madison Dudley interviews five DePauw seniors about their decision to begin a petition. This petition implores certain members of DePauw’s Board of Trustees to end their support of politicians who “support laws that can be interpreted as regulating women’s bodies, fail to protect DACA students, and support the recent Republican tax plan.” The petition campaign was accompanied by posters hung in women’s bathrooms in every stall of every academic building on campus. Each poster pictures a conservative politician’s face, with information about the petition and the expression “He might as well be watching you pee.”

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Should Hugh Hefner be Buried Next to Marilyn Monroe?

An old snapshot of Hugh Hefner smoking a pipe.

Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, died on September 27 at the age of 91. A leader in the sexual revolution of the second half of the twentieth century, Hefner has been a controversial figure throughout his life. Playboy magazine launched in 1953 and hurled his empire into mainstream success that spanned media, later including multiple television shows, clubs, restaurants, and the notoriously excessive Playboy Mansion.

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Frank Ocean: Challenging Hip-Hop’s Hyper-Masculinity

A snapshot of Frank Ocean in a crowd.

Christopher Breaux, better known by his stage name, Frank Ocean, is coming off a month of success after releasing his fourth single of the year, “Provider,” on August 24. The track opens with the line, “Memo finna start acting out if I don’t see him soon,” potentially referring to Ocean’s rumored boyfriend, Memo Guzman. While the interpretation of this lyric is based off mere speculation, openly referencing his sexuality in his music is nothing new to Ocean.

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Gender Segregation: Empowering or Exclusive?

A black-and-white photo of a movie theatre during a film.

With over $400 million dollars in North American profits, Wonder Woman has set the record for the biggest U.S. film opening with a female director. Even before setting this record, the 2017 comic book adaptation was heralded by many as a feminist film, including actress and former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter. Despite its success, the film was not without criticism, with some women claiming that they did not find the film empowering, and even that it ignores non-white women. Perhaps the biggest controversy surrounding the film has to do with a Texas movie theatre, which offered “women-only” screenings of the film back in June. This decision was met with a wave of retaliation, accusations of discrimination, and even a lawsuit. Is it sexist to provide a women-only screening of the film? Is it fair to call the movie theatre’s actions as feminist? And most importantly, how does this reaction reflect American society’s tolerance, or lack thereof, of gender segregation?

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Fearless Girl, Charging Bull… Sketchy Dog?

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the Wall Street standoff between the Fearless Girl and the Charging Bull sculptures. It’s quite clear that Americans are still split between Team Girl or Team Bull, but now there is a new player in the mix.  Recently, Charging Bull gained a new ally in the form of a temporary installation named Sketchy Dog, who spent his few hours of fame urinating on the girl.

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Mike Pence’s Marital Practices: Workplace Accommodation or Discrimination?

On March 28th, a Washington Post profile on Mike Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, emphasized the closeness in their marriage by reiterating a controversial policy of theirs: Mike Pence does not eat alone with any woman besides Karen, nor does he attend any event that has alcohol present without her. While some laud this commitment to honoring and protecting his marriage, others have voiced concerns about the practicality of following such a rule and fairly performing the roles of his professional position.

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Classical Sexism: Gender Bias and Female Conductors

Classical music has a long legacy of sexism, and the most evident reminder is often standing right in front of the orchestra. I’ve stared at this inequality for most of my own musical career. In twelve years, I’ve worked with only one professional female conductor, but countless males. And even in the world of instrumentalists, equality can be hard to see. I remember being in middle school band, shocked that there wasn’t a single boy in the flute section, but all the professionals my teachers told me to listen to were men.

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Sexism in Birth Control Research

Changes in mood, pain, depression, increased or decreased libido, and weight gain are all common side effects for women who choose hormonal birth control. Recently, news broke that a study of hormonal injections as birth control for men was stopped earlier than planned after men experienced various adverse side effects – all of which women have been experiencing for decades when using hormonal birth control. Due to these effects, the study was terminated earlier than planned.

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Rape Culture, In and Out of the Locker Room

Last week, President Obama signed the Sexual Assault SurvivorsRights Act into law. Peyton Carper, writer for Uloop, a college politics news website, summarized: [t]he legislation states that survivors must be informed of the results of their rape kits, which, shockingly, was not a requirement before this bill. More importantly, the kits must be preserved for the states maximum statute of limitations, and survivors can request that the kits be preserved for longer than that period if need be.

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Beyond the Locker Room: Donald Trump and American Misogyny

Only days before the second Presidential debate, a video of Donald Trump making misogynistic comments about women surfaced. The video is an excerpt of a conversation between Access Hollywood reporter Billy Bush and Donald Trump on an Access Hollywood Bus in 2005. Throughout the video, Trump can be heard recounting his attempt to seduce a married woman, and stating that he can “do anything” to “beautiful women” because he’s famous.  Numerous gendered slurs are used by Trump in reference to his sexual advances on women, which also sound a lot like sexual assault. The release of this tape was met with outrage by citizens and politicians alike. Despite this, mere minutes into the second debate Donald Trump brushed off his comments as “locker room talk” and admitted that he was “not proud of it”.

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Our Views of Women in the Military Demand Complexity

Donald Trumps reemerged tweet about sexual assault in the military has brought the topic of womens roles, rights, and risks in the armed forces to the forefront of discussion. In his recent interview with Matt Lauer, Trump defended his tweet from May 2013, which reads: 26,000 unreported sexual assaults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together. His logic suggests that the creation of an environment in which females and males are mingledwhether it be a place of work, an educational institution, or just plainly the worldnaturally encourages sexual assault. This tweet also implies that women are the ones who have been integrated into the military; they are the outsiders; they are the reason that these sexual assaults occur. To understand todays sentiments toward this issue, we have to look at the history of women in the U.S. military that is so often left out of textbooks.

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