it more expensive to be a man or a woman?
la difference, say the French. Of course, those romantic Frenchies meant
the physical and social distinctions between the genders. However, they could
have been talking about the costs of our appearances as well.
if the battle of the sexes needs more fuel for the fire, we're going to examine
the cost difference in maintaining appearances for men and women. From maintaining
our body to cleaning our clothes, we'll find out which gender is spending more
dough to look good.
a hint at the obvious conclusion: Men, plan on continuing to pay for that first
date and beyond.
The sexes go shopping
Since prices vary across the country as well as across town,
I went to a national source, the Web site Drugstore.com,
for price comparisons on numerous everyday products. Surprisingly, prices are
equitable for many items. Even when marketed to different genders, razors, deodorant,
vitamins, shoe inserts, nasal strips and even hair coloring have similar costs.
But not everything is fair in beauty and money. There
are a few things that are more expensive for women. In addition, women
just plain have more to buy. To illustrate this, let's follow two fictional shoppers,
Dave and Rhonda, as they fill their shopping carts.
want to remove unwanted hair. So Dave picks up an 11-ounce can of Gillette Regular
shaving cream and a 12-pack of Gillette Good News pivot razors. Meanwhile, Rhonda
has in her cart a 7-ounce can of Skintimate Shaving Gel Ultra Protection, and
a 12-pack Gillette Daisy razors.
Of course, they both want to smell
good. Dave throws some Axe deodorant body spray and a 4.25-ounce bottle of Old
Spice Original in his cart. Rhonda picks up a much more costly 12-ounce bottle
of Caress Body Spray and some powder fresh Secret deodorant.
As Dave picks at his ingrown thumbnail, he grabs a Revlon
deluxe nail clipper that's on sale. Rhonda decides to forego her bi-monthly $18
dollar manicure and do it herself. So she buys a pack of 10 Revlon Super Shape
emery boards, a Trim buffing block, a Revlon cuticle trimmer, some cherry red
Maybelline Wet Shine nail polish and a bottle of base and top coat and finally
a 6-ounce bottle of Cutex nourishing polish remover.
Dave remembers his two-year-old socks have a hole in the
toe, so he picks up a pair of black Futuro men's dress socks. In the interest
of her own professional image, Rhonda picks up a pair of Futuro support pantyhose,
which surely won't even last the month.
In the interest
of putting their best faces forward, both Dave and Rhonda pick up something to
wash with. Dave's cart now includes a 3.5-ounce bar of Neutrogena facial soap.
Rhonda's cart is loaded up with the same soap, as well as Oil of Olay beauty fluid,
Mudd facial masque, Maybelline Expert Eyes makeup remover and bottle of Neutrogena
Deep Clean astringent.
Dave heads for
the checkout. But wait! Rhonda's not done. She continues piling stuff into her
cart, adding Almay Amazing Lash mascara, Revlon New Complexion Even Out Makeup,
a tube of Max Factor Lipfinity lipstick, an eyelash curler, a box of tampons,
and a bag of cotton balls. Now she can push her overloaded cart to the cash register.
it on society ... as usual
course, this is assuming that Rhonda doesn't pay three, four or even 10 times
as much for her beauty products at a department store or a spa. As the ultra-female
Dolly Parton has honestly admitted numerous times, "It costs a lot of money to
look this trashy."
"Women view [these products] as a necessity," answers
Wendy Lewis, a New York City-based beauty expert and author. "Women view beauty
and personal grooming in a totally different way. We're willing to spend more.
Men aren't willing to do it."
And it's not just money that
women are spending on themselves. It's time too. "How long does it take a woman
to get ready in the morning compared to a man?" Lewis reminds. "Women have a mix
of beauty products that are part of our daily arsenal. A man shaves, shampoos,
brushes his teeth and uses deodorant. He's got 5 products; we've got 50."
the drugstore, the department store cosmetic counter and the beauty product store
in the mall, Lewis examines the cost of other costly maintenance for a woman.
She lists spa services, manicures, hair removal, chemical peels, collagen injections
and so on. Lewis also reports that while plastic surgery is not more expensive
for men than for women, four times as many women go under the knife for cosmetic
If you choose to follow societal norms -- and it is
a choice -- then you should expect to pay that price. Some women are willing to
pay plenty to look how they're expected to. And our men better damn well appreciate
Discrimination in the form of price
However, sometimes women pay more for no
good reason. Gender discrimination in pricing is something both men and women
should fight. Recent research by Pennsylvania Public Interest Research Group (PennPIRG)
found the same results as numerous previous studies: Women often get charged more
at dry cleaners and hair salons for the same services as men.
law they shouldn't be able to get away with it," says David Masur, field director
for PennPIRG. "Unless you do research, you might not realize you're being charged
more or less."
Hair salons often justify the price differences
because women's hair is longer. Ahem, that's not always true. Besides the fact
that hair length is no longer an easy indication of gender, length of hair has
nothing to do with the complexity of a haircut.
use a similar excuse -- women's shirts are more difficult to press or launder.
But a Massachusetts PIRG found that women's shirts fit on the same presses as
men's shirts, and men's pleated tuxedo shirts were not being charged more for
their complexity. Everyone agrees that a business should be able to charge more
for a more difficult or more time-consuming service. But those factors are not
determined by gender, and gender, therefore, should not determine the price.
one thing for societal norms to pressure women to care more about their looks,
requiring additional maintenance and additional costs for females. But this sort
of nonsense can be stopped by consumer awareness. If you discover a shop is charging
more to clean a woman's shirt than a man's shirt or more for a basic haircut,
then take your business elsewhere. Masur says, "Be proactive to protect yourself
and other consumers. When you find unfair gender pricing, report it to the attorney
general [of your state] or your state legislature. Keep the pressure on the politicians"
like a lady
Stepping off my soapbox, I turn to our
final authority on this topic, Kathryn DuBois of Anchorage, Alaska. She says,
"Based on what it takes to look good, I think it definitely costs more to be a
DuBois has a unique perspective on the issue
because she is a male cross-dresser. She gives this example, "As everybody knows,
it's the accessories that make the outfit. It's also the accessories that make
dressing as a woman so expensive. Take shoes for instance. In my closet, there
are probably more pairs of black women's shoes than all of my men's shoes put
Willing to put up with the expense of appearing
like a woman, DuBois says, "To me, given all the wonderful choices women have
in fashion and style, it is a sacrifice worth making. Men's fashions are soooo
boring."On a final note, she comments, "I love being able
to transform myself from drab to fabulous. I can sympathize, though, with those
who often don't have such a choice and are forced into paying premium prices for
being a woman. In the best of worlds we would all have that choice."