Lauren Richmond: Why you should still buy her a drink at the bar

By Lauren Richmond, Columnist
Published January 7, 2015

Every winter, I ask myself the same question: Why do I live in this godforsaken icebox? In the morning, after pushing snooze at least twice, eventually I make the insane decision to trade my toasty cloud of a bed for the arctic atmosphere that is my apartment. A morning shower means at least a 15-minute commitment to the blow dryer, a time commitment which would have doubled had it not been for my five-inch trim in October. Walking to class with wet hair is not an option; I learned this when I spent most of 2012 sneezing and sniffling through class. Bundling up in January and February usually means leggings before jeans, at least two pairs of socks, waterproof hiking boots, three layers of shirts, a headband, gloves, scarf and the grand finale, a three-year-old down parka that is starting to lose feathers. Most days, I don’t even look good. Makeup, styling and further delays aside, it takes me — a self-proclaimed low-maintenance girl — about 45 minutes to get ready in a frosty morning. Getting ready to go to the bar on a Thursday night, well, that’s a completely different animal.

We all know the drill, and if you’re new to Michigan and under the impression that November was the peak of our icy damnation, do yourself a favor and invest in some SmartWool socks while they’re probably on sale. People like to say that women and men are equal, but let’s get real. If you’re a girl, you should probably buy yourself two pairs, because you’re probably colder. The average American woman is 92 percent as tall as the average man, and weighs just 85.5 percent as much. Statistically we’re shorter, smaller and surprise: have longer hair.

The additional tax we pay as women isn’t limited to an extra 10-minute blow dry and an extra pair of socks. Forget makeup, nail polish and the cost differences of our clothing; in order for women to uphold societal standards of femininity, the cost is significant. Five products are the main culprits of this microeconomic division of the sexes: razor blades, conditioner, tampons, Midol and bras. Of course, men use conditioner and razors, but generally in much smaller quantities (as I’ll explain).

A wise woman once said, “Somebody wrote in that book that I'm lying about being a virgin, ’cause I use super-jumbo tampons, but I can’t help it if I’ve got a heavy flow and a wide-set vagina!” She makes a good point. This does, however, mean that she’s a member of the female population. An 18 pack of Playtex Sport tampons at CVS costs $5.49: 30.5 cents each. At a rate of four per day for four days a month, the total monthly tampon cost for women comes to a modest $4.88. Cramps? That’ll cost you. Midol sells for $8.38 for a pack of 24, 34.9 cents each. Two per day for four days out of the month comes to $2.79. Having your period every month? $7.67. Being a woman? Priceless.

I firmly believe that men and women are intellectually equal; however, men don’t have boobs. Victoria’s Secret sells bras for over $50 a piece, but as an Economics major, I can’t stomach dropping that much knowing they cost about four dollars to manufacture. In order to maintain as conservative an estimate as possible, I picked out my favorite bra by Gilligan & O’Malley, which goes for $16.99 on Target.com. If you’re a girl, you know that these stretch out and don’t last forever, so two bras per year is a frugal expenditure on bras. Since we’re calculating the extra cost on a monthly basis, this means women are spending $2.83 on bras monthly. Not bad, right?

Next, there’s everything that goes on inside the shower. I grew up with two younger brothers, who often accused me of using up all of the hot water. I typically ignored their complaints; I was older, smarter, a girl, and therefore entitled to use more water than them. I asked my brothers how much conditioner they used. RJ, who’s 18, poured out about one teaspoon. My 16-year-old brother denied using conditioner whatsoever, ran into the basement, and got back to his friends on Xbox live. At CVS, I picked out a seemingly gender-neutral and cost-efficient conditioner, Garnier Fructis. The bottle costs $4.79 for 13.5 fluid ounces, which comes to an average cost of six cents per day for my brother and 18 cents per day for me. Nickels and dimes, but still a difference of 300 percent. On a monthly basis, women are spending $3.60 more on conditioner than men.

We all know razors for both men and women are overpriced. Worse than that, they never go on sale. Before going and taking an inventory of CVS, I was under the impression that women paid significantly more for razors. As I compared basic three blade razors for men and women, I realized I was wrong. An eight pack of Gillette Venus Classic for women costs $23.79 each, and an eight pack of Gillette Match 3 for men costs $22.99. Each razor costs a woman $2.97, and a man $2.87. Just a slight difference, right? Not when you account for the differences in total surface area women and men are expected to shave, prescribed by gender norms. For men, from the nose down to the chin until the ears, and the entire area of the front half of the neck, this came to 435.5 cm^2. For women, accounting for average surface area of two thighs, calves and armpits, this number was 7,323.08 cm. Not only are we paying 10 cents more for a similar razor, we have to shave 16 to 17 times more surface area than our male counterparts.

Let’s assume that women shave a third as often as men. Let’s say the average man spends $22.99 per year on razors, switching once every month and a half. This means that women who shave even one-third as much as men are spending 5.6 times as much for the same quality of shave, an annual fee which comes out to $133.224. Monthly, this means a woman would spend $9.20 more than men on razors alone.

Accounting for just five basic and necessary products, it’s clear that from a cost-of-living perspective, men and women are not equal. I’m not talking about fashionable clothes, makeup or a girls' nights out. For the bare-minimum hygiene, it costs the average woman approximately $23.30 more per month to live than the average man. Guys, next time you’re at Charley’s with your female colleague, consider these baseline costs that she has to endure. If she’s wearing makeup, a stylish outfit or four-inch heels, the differential expands. Maybe next time, instead of splitting the bill for that fishbowl, you pay that $15. Plus tax.

Lauren Richmond can be reached at lerichmo@umich.edu.