Rebecca Kamm

Poking a stick at ladies' issues, pop culture, and other cutting-edge curiosities.

Rebecca Kamm: Does life cost more for women?

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Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

I took my car to a garage for a Warrant of Fitness last week and it failed. Then the mechanic guy started yawping on about all sorts of car-ailments he'd need to fix, which sounded like "KjhdSkf jbkjsxbckjbxknbcvkncxbkjbvjsh dfvhsdmcnmxncmcndjklsnckjdnj nbvDbgcdfnvd."

There wasn't much I could do but feign comprehension and approve the quote, so I did. But when I went to pick up my car again, that quote had doubled. They hadn't realised the extent of the problems, said the mechanic, until they'd already started fixing it. And "Jkhdsfjkhksdjhvkjsdbnvkjsdb".

But I don't want to pay double, I said. You should have run it by me first.

AND THEN: he shrugged, said 'OK', and brought the cost back down.

Great news! Except, what was that extra cost, exactly, if it was no big deal for him to slash it in half again? Would a man have received the same quote - or had I been momentarily faced with some kind of Female Premium?

To be honest, I hadn't actually given the matter a huge amount of thought, until I came across a report by US Marie Clare called Women Pay More. A protest against the extra costs incurred by possessing the X-chromosome, it calls to attention a range of goods and services that women pay more for, like mortgages, insurance, cars and car repairs - even small, supermarkety things:

"Sounds like blatant discrimination, right? It is, and yet it's perfectly legal. Though civil rights laws prohibit job and housing discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation, there's no federal law banning discrimination in the sale of goods and services."

In response to the above, Guardian blogger Laura Barnett decided to explore whether this was also the case in the UK, looking at the price discrepancies at UK hair salons, dry cleaners, and health insurance. Sure enough, she found women paid more across the board. (Health insurance is higher for women because "Statistically, women are more likely to suffer illnesses during their lifetime compared with men. This means they are classed as a higher risk.")

Even deodorant costs more for ladies, says Marie Clare. Sociologist Megan Duesterhaus, co-author of the paper The Cost of Doing Femininity, says:

"These companies have us convinced men and women are so biologically different that we need completely different products, as though we are a different species.

"We suggest such practices contribute to gender inequality by increasing women's economic burden and reinforcing essentialist thinking about gender."

Here's some essentialist thinking: paying more because I'm a lady is bad. My mechanic said "Lkdhflkhkdhkhdvkhsd", but what he really meant was, "This is too easy".

Or: maybe he was a completely honest guy, and cut the cost back down out of kindness.

How could I ever know?

Follow Rebecca on Twitter.

Do these findings reflect your own experiences? Is there a Female Premium in New Zealand? Which goods and services do women pay more for in this part of the world?

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