Inspired by the ongoing debates and misunderstandings about birth control and women's health care, Jezebel's Tracie Egan Morrissey has run down the general cost of being a woman, or as she puts it, "how much it costs it to own a vagina." This is not a small amount of money, as she points out: "Were you aware of the fact that in your 20s alone, you will spend over $26,000 on vaginal maintenance?"
Helpfully, she's done the math based on staffers' personal experiences. Obviously, experiences vary. But in general, purchases that adult women make that adult men do not (unless perhaps they're buying these things for women) include birth control pills, tampons and maxipads, PMS relief medication, Vagisil, UTI remedies, yeast infection remedies, and waxing or other pubic hair removal. Adult women also have pelvic exams and pap smears, and make other female health visits to doctors. (While Morrissey doesn't note this specifically, such health visits could also include procedures like colposcopies and LEEPs, biopsies of various female parts, and so on—all of which, even if a woman is insured, add up with co-pays and costs beyond what insurance covers.) Women also buy condoms (men do, too): but that's a cost significantly less than the pill (say a high of $129.99 a pack for a month's supply of pills versus $17.99 per box of 36 condoms). Morrissey also includes toilet paper in this list, because women "use toilet paper every time they go to the bathroom"—therefore using "at least twice the amount of toilet paper than men, if not significantly more." Huh, we hadn't really considered that.
All this, Morrissey estimates, adds up to $2663.02 yearly—give or take for what a woman might actually spend on all of those things, and not including emergency contraception, pregnancy tests, or abortions. And then there are the "woman" costs that go beyond this list: Like makeup, cosmetic treatments and surgery, clothing and handbags, among other personal products for women that often cost more than those, if there are such, for men. Some of these things are necessary and some are less so... And in some cases, like birth control, if you don't spend the cash, you risk having even greater costs associated with womanhood—like getting pregnant, or having to undergo treatment for cancer that's spread because you didn't have regular checkups.
But beyond any of the things women buy because they're women, there's still a wage gender gap and problems of unequal pay compounding the problem. On Friday, President Obama spoke at a White House forum on women and the economy, writes The New York Times' Mark Landler, promoting the pro-woman steps the administration has taken, "from signing the Lily Ledbetter act for equal pay to pushing employers to show more flexibility to female employees so they can balance work and family." (Obama also took a moment to be pro-woman in general to a crowd of mostly women.) Via Landler:
“There’s been a lot of talk about women and women’s issues lately, as there should be,” the president said, to a largely female audience. “But I do think that the conversation has been oversimplified. Women are not some monolithic bloc. Women are not an interest group. You shouldn’t be treated that way."
Of course, there are costs associated with being a guy as well, like, for instance, in Rush Limbaugh's case. But somehow that seems a bit different.
Image via Shutterstock by Evgeny Atamanenko.