Colleen Hammond | Opinions Editor
Strolling through any local drugstore, men’s and women’s health and beauty products line their respective sides of the aisle. Shades of pink, purple and a variety of other gentle pastels decorate the female products while dark grays and cool blues hold the promise of masculine appeal.
While this gender division has existed for centuries, these products were primarily birthed out of the post- World War II era. In a time of booming American prosperity, middle-class consumers had the money to buy more gender specific goods, and advertisers took notice. Subsequently, the personal care market experienced a massive boom in gendered products.
Products that were previously seen as unisex suddenly became highly feminized and masculinized. Soap became one of the largest culprits with companies advertising pink, flower-scented soap for women specifically. The previous standard, unisex products suddenly became marketed for men only, and the industry practice only grew from there.
Today, most stores and consumers are still feeling the effects of the advertising practices of the 1950s. It is no secret that the personal hygiene industry is highly gendered. Nearly every health and beauty product has a male or female counterpart. Everything from razors to body wash to deodorant are strategically marketed by gender.
But in this day in age, are these gender-specific products still necessary?
While large corporations will argue that they gender specify products because those products have certain advantages for members of that gender. Women’s shampoo is said to volumize hair or restore salon color; men’s razors are said to leave the perfect, clean shave. However, there is little proof that these claims are valid.
To the disdain of die hard, brand-oriented consumers, shampoo is shampoo. Despite what advertisers would like the public to believe, there isn’t a large difference between the quality of men’s and women’s products. For the most part, they achieve the same goal: they wash hair.
However, despite their similarity in quality, gendered health and beauty products do not come with matching price tags.
The U.S. Senate Joint Economic Committee conducted a study on this issue. “Everyday products marketed to women often come with a higher price tag when compared to nearly identical versions marketed to men,” said their 2016 report.
This is completely absurd. There should not be a higher price for goods just because women are purchasing them. Likewise, male products should not be inherently cheaper because they are marketed toward men.
The current system of gendered consumer goods needs to reevaluate its place in the American market, and consumers need to gain a greater awareness of the unfairness in the current system.
Luckily, this movement is already underway and gaining momentum. This week the Wall Street Journal released a study stating that 30% of consumers have purchased and used genderless beauty products.
Businesses like Dollar Shave Club, a shaving tool subscription delivery service, are working to erase the stigma of men’s and women’s products. By including both men and women in its ad campaigns, they open up its consumer base to a much wider range. In addition, Dollar Shave Club was originally marketed to men, and therefore it has evaded the dreaded pink tax.
While the pink tax is overall unfair and should not exist, genderless companies offer a major solution to this problem. Genderless hygeine products eliminate the need for the more expensive female products.
Although this may seem like a niche issue, equality in the marketplace is a major step to ensuring equal rights and social standings between men and women.
There is no need for gender specific health and beauty products. Despite company claims and smoke and mirrors marketing strategies, it does not matter if a product is made for men or women.