Alice Jones: Hairdressers, cleaners, insurers, they’re all levying a ‘vagina tax’

 

Share

If you are a millionaire or a granny, the implications of this week's Budget are crystal clear. And thanks to all of those helpful, number-crunching tables, it takes only the click of a mouse to discover that if you're a single mother earning £35,000, with child benefit and tax credits, you will be £373 worse off next year. Thanks, George!

What, though, of the day-to-day expense of simply being a woman? Can it really be true that in 2012, women are expected to pay more than men for a wide range of services and products, from dry cleaning and deodorant to cars and health insurance, simply because of their biological make-up?

Well, yes. A report in Marie Claire's American edition this month has lifted the lid on the murky-to-the-point-of-inexplicable practice of "gender pricing", or, if you prefer, "vagina tax". It makes for a depressing read, mainly for the weaselly justifications offered for the oestrogen-inspired mark-ups.

Women's blouses cost three times as much to clean as men's shirts – because, apparently, they are more fiddly to press. Women pay $200 more for a car than a man would for the same model because, apparently, we are terrible at negotiating. Most shocking is the revelation that 90 per cent of the best-selling health insurance plans in America charge women more than men – in some cases 53 per cent more – because, apparently, women are in the irresponsible habit of going for regular check-ups and therefore use more healthcare services than men.

It's not just an American problem. A quick survey of hairdressers, dry cleaners and the shelves of any high-street chemist reveals the same gender imbalance here, while many insurance companies tailor their plans according to which box you tick. So not only must women wrangle with unequal pay and the ins and outs of maternity leave, they also have to pay more than men for the same product. Is it our fault for putting up with prices that men would simply batter down?

Perhaps. Imagine, though, a hairdresser offering two price lists – one for white customers and one for black – and "gender pricing" is shown for what it is: an absurd, discriminatory nonsense.

 

* Despite the awards and glowing reports of the fine performance by Meryl Streep, I still haven't been able to bring myself to watch The Iron Lady. I grew up with Margaret Thatcher's hectoring voice ringing in my ears, and I somehow don't fancy sitting through a straight 100 minutes of it now.

It seems that the ever-industrious pirates of Russia's black market in movies feel the same. An unofficial version of the biopic currently circulating in the country features a hilarious dubbing which replaces Abi Morgan's soft-soaping script with something a little more bracing. "Crush the working class! Crush the scum, the yobs!" runs Thatcher's manifesto in the translated version, which also makes the leader out to be a warmongering fascist who lives to destroy the common man. It was so convincing that one leading critic believed he was watching the real film and went on to review the pirate version in the respected broadsheet Kommersant. I happen to think he should be applauded, not castigated, for his mistake – he's brought to light a film I might now consider watching.

 

* Joy of joys, The Apprentice is back, and since it's now the eighth series of Siralan's quest to find the person most likely to misuse the words "myself" and "literally", the BBC has had to ginger things up a bit. As such,1 Canada Square has been elbowed out of those luscious aerial shots by the thrusting, twinkly upstart The Shard. And as for the incidental music, the doomish strains of Prokofiev's Dance of the Knights are now leavened with occasional bursts from the soundtrack to The Artist. I wonder, though, if this is an entirely good idea. Even for a diehard fan like me (myself), hearing that joyous plinkety-plonkety piano played out over the contestants' ear-splitting squabbling made me wish the directors had gone the whole hog and given us the silent film take on The Apprentice instead this year.

a.jones@independent.co.uk

twitter: @alicevjones

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour leader Ed Miliband unveils Labour's pledges carved into a stone plinth in Hastings  

Election 2015: Smash the two-party system! Smash the voting system!

Armando Iannucci
Tactical voting is a necessary evil of the current first-past-the-post system, where voters vote against what they do not want rather than in favour of what they do  

Election 2015: Voting tactically has become more fraught in new political order

Michael Ashcroft
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power