Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

I'd like to welcome the 3 people that read this blog to the new year and... the first post of the new year.

Today was my first day back at work, and the first thing I read today (after boring emails from customers and coworkers) was an article on MSN Money Why It Costs More To Be A Woman

MP Dunleavey (a lady!) says it costs more to be a woman. We are talking actual dollars here, people. Some examples of things that cost more for women: body wash, shampoo, deodorant, razors, dry cleaning, hair cuts, alterations, cars, houses, health insurance - little things like that.

Ms. Dunleavey's advice is basically "buy like a man" i.e. don't pay a premium for the pink bottle, nice fragrance etc. It gets a little trickier when you're dealing with buying a car or house. You see, you need credit (usually) to buy these things and women were more likely to carry subprime mortgages with higher interest rates.

This could be because women still make 78 cents to the dollar of what men make, making it harder to save and have good credit.

The article concedes that some things for women really do cost more! (i.e women's shaving cream needs a rust-resistant aluminum-bottom can because women like to shave in the shower). But there are also plenty of examples where the markup is obvious.

I was going through some of the comments and they were actually pretty hard on the author. This particular article got over 800 comments (no i did not read them all) and from my experience as a somewhat frequent reader of MSN money that is way above average so something in this article must've resonated with readers.

The comments ranged from: "Yah well da the ladies get free drinks in the clubs!!" to "my wife has 26 different kinds of lotions, 87 pairs of shoes, 207 handbags so it is her own fault" to "women only make less money because they take breaks to have kids. DUH." to "um, excuse me guys pay more for car and life insurance."

So I thought I'd post my own thoughts on the matter...

As far as women paying more for incidentals, though I try to be a "bargain" shopper and only purchase what I "need" I end up buying a heck of a lot more stuff than Greg. When Greg needs something, he puts his empty deodorant stick on the sink... and that's about it. (I know, totally anti feminist, he should buy his own damn deodorant, but you know - someone has to go to the store)

We have shared soap/shampoo, and I stopped paying money for $9.00 body washes, well basically when I had to start paying my own bills. However, I do have my own facewash, moisturizer, lotion from Target, razors, makeup, nail polish etc, oh and eye makeup remover. That shit is expensive and I seem to go through a whole bottle every 2-3 weeks. Not to mention tampons, which are not cheap. And I learned the hard way that you do not want to go generic on that.

Now, some gentleman might say, "hey ladies, you don't need makeup! We like you just the way you are without all that gook on your face. You shouldn't be wasting money on that stuff."

I would argue that *some* of the makeup/products women buy ARE necessary. Not just tampons either. See, someone at my first "real" job told me a little secret. She said, "a woman cannot just throw on a suit and look presentable." What she meant was, if a woman walks into an interview or a board meeting to make a presentation, she cannot just have a nice pantsuit. Her hair must be done nice, and she is generally expected to have some, though not too much makeup on. There's been books written on the beauty standard, how women strive to live up to to it, how they fail, how they are marketed to nonstop to always look their best. I guess what I'm getting at is no, you probably shouldn't buy the super expensive makeup at the mall, unless you happen to have lots and lots of money i guess. Because the $20.00 lipstick is probably not 400% better than the $5.00 lipstick, but to say "well just don't buy lipstick" is generally not realistic.

About the whole "women get free drinks" complaint, I don't think that "evens things out" as a lot of people suggested. I guess SOME women might expect a drink bought for them before a conversation is started, but that sounds kinda lame, not to mention antiquated to me.

Now, the whole insurance thing, this is actually a legitimate concern for men although to be fair, the article was called "Why It Costs More To Be A Woman" not "Why It Costs More To Be a Man."

Guys do pay more for car insurance, although (and I might be wrong on this) I think the difference is more noticeable for young drivers, absent other factors like accidents, tickets etc. i.e. It's a bigger difference between a 17 year old boy and 17 year old girl with everything else being the same, that it is for a 26 year old woman and 26 year old man with everything else being the same.

If I'm going to say "well women of childbearing age shouldn't be charged higher insurance premiums than men of the same age" shoudn't I also say "Men should not be charged more in auto premiums than women?"

I am not sure. For health insurance, men might say "I shouldn't have to pay as much as her; I am never going to need maternity care." But yet his premiums do help pay for the maternity care he'll never need like my premiums help pay for the prostate cancer treatments I'll never need (oh and Viagra pills, but that's another post). That's the point of health insurance, spreading the risk (and it's why younger people are going to be forced to buy insurance soon)

With auto insurance, men are more likely to get into accidents but I don't know if that necessarily means they should be charged more if say they have no at fault accidents or tickets on their record. Same with life insurance, men are likelier to die sooner, so it costs more to cover them. I don't know the fair answer to that one.

Overall though, I think I would agree that "it costs more to be a woman" especially a divorced or widowed woman, or a single mom - Not that there aren't men in poverty, but women are more likely to be in poverty And as far as the "well women shouldn't have kids if they want a higher paying career like men, it is a choice (except of course when it's 'NOT A CHOICE)" argument... Right, I'm sure that will work out really well for society. I've written before about work/life balance and I'm not going to spend a lot of time doing so here, but it'd be really nice if we lived in a country that valued children and valued that parents of both genders need to make a living wage. Flex time and paid family leave for mothers and fathers is something many other first world countries have.

But that being said, I think overall women do need to work at being better consumers and not buying stuff we don't need. Those little things do add up. I wouldn't say "shop like a man" though. I would say "shop like an informed consumer."

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