I came across a startling revelation this past weekend, one that I think counts as a human rights violation since it violates Article 2 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. What did I learn?
There’s no federal law banning discrimination in the sale of goods and services.
Now, there are a lot of things that aren’t banned by federal law. What makes this so troubling is that discrimination does exist in the sale of goods and services, gender discrimination in particular. It’s called, “gender pricing.”
Gender pricing is the deliberately pricing goods and services differently for each gender, and no surprise, women have the short end of the stick on this one. Women typically pay more for everything from dry cleaning to mortgages, from health insurance to deodorant, and it’s perfectly legal for businesses to do this. Granted, a few states and cities do outlaw this practice, but consider that it was found in 1996 that women paid an extra $1,351 per year in costs and fees for the exact same things men got at a cheaper price. Considering that figure is from over 25 years ago, it’s likely much higher today. Forbes dubbed this the “Woman Tax” just a month ago, and a 2010 Consumer Reports study found that across the board for drugstore products, ones branded for women cost more, up to 50 percent more.
Also consider that women buy more than 80% of all goods and services, so it’s unlikely that businesses themselves will make this change if they are engaging in gender pricing (keep in mind that not all businesses do this). It’s also unlikely that Congress will take up this issue on their own. Not only do our senators and representatives have more pressing things to attend to, but the organizations that lobby will have millions of reasons to lobby against such legislation. With that much profit at risk, most industries and industry organization won’t let this happen. Plus, only 16 percent of Congress is female, and look at the difficulties surrounding reauthorizing VAWA! Imagine how hard it would be to pass this legislation if it actually made it committee!
This issue startles me because it’s been going on for so long under everyone’s noses that nothing has been done about it, with little fervor to do something about it. This issue startles me because women still don’t make as much as men, yet we pay more for some of the exact same goods and services. This issue startles me because I suspect by correcting this issue, we can correct a lot of other gender inequality issues that are still happening in this country. This issue startles me because it is a form of discrimination, and any form of discrimination is a human rights violation because the practice violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Because it is so startling, more should be done to bring awareness to the issue and to do something about it.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of options right now. There’s always calling our elected officials about the issue, but without a coordinated campaign to call many of these officials many of times over a certain period of time, a few sporadic calls won’t mean much. There’s a petition that folks can sign and share, but it doesn’t have a lot of traction either. Perhaps things could be done to make a change locally, but as for action to get the federal law in place, that’s about it. Any and all ideas on how to move this forward are welcome.
I just hope you are as startled as I am, and that you are moved to make a difference.