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The Pain Tax

The “New” Pink Tax

By Ashley TrippPublished 3 months ago 6 min read
The Pain Tax
Photo by Klara Kulikova on Unsplash

Gender inequality is nothing new. History shows the countless ways women have been at a disadvantage since the beginning of time.

Every right women have obtained has been through immense sacrifice and labor. From working to voting to even having independent bank accounts, women have fought tooth and nail for these things.

By Rad Pozniakov on Unsplash

Despite our efforts, chronic inequality still exists, though often in more subtle ways.

Don’t get me wrong, misogyny is still openly accepted - a claim verified by the election of Donald “grab them by the pussy” Trump.

However, these extreme versions of sexism are often advertised as rarities while women face the subtler versions nearly everyday.

The Pink Tax has been a point of contention for generations, specifically among women’s rights groups. The nickname represents the inequality of expenses between men and women.

Nowadays, and more specifically, it shows how there is a significant price difference between men’s and women’s products.

As Healthline describes it, “Gender-based pricing… is an upcharge on products traditionally intended for women which have only cosmetic differences from comparable products traditionally intended for men.”

Essentially, products like shampoo, conditioner, body wash razors, etc. that are marketed towards women consistently cost more than the same products geared towards men.

NYC Department of Consumer Affairs Report on the Pink Tax

The Pink Tax is just one of the ways women are charged more for necessities. It directly aligns with “the tampon tax,” which is used to describe the extra expenses of period products and like.

As you can see, these are ways that women are unjustly overcharged simply for being women.

However, there is a new tax in town and her name is pain.

By Sydney Sims on Unsplash

By new, I mean completely not new.

For ages, women have been expected to tolerate pain at a higher rate than men.

Women’s pain has become a normalized aspect of society.

However, thanks to the advent of social media - and reignited feminist fire - women are sharing their own personal stories of how they have been mistreated by doctors, specifically when it comes to pain management.

Women are repeatedly withheld pain medicine, with their symptoms being dismissed as psychological.

Countless women have shared personal stories on social media of how severe medical issues were misdiagnosed and ignored. Because of this, they were not given pain medicine for real issues that later blossomed into severe medical emergencies.

But that’s not the worst of it. Women are also sharing stories of how they undergo the exact same procedures as men, yet are receiving weaker pain medication.

By Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash

On Tiktok, one woman shared that she and her husband both had a root canal on the same day by the same doctor. The only difference? She was prescribed ibuprofen while her husband was given an opioid.

In the comments, many women were sharing similar stories.

Another video showed a woman explaining that her epidural did not work, but she was dismissed by her male doctor, who claimed she was feeling pressure and not pain. She went on to explain that, immediately after she was stitched up “down there,” she walked to the bathroom.

This video was duetted by a female medical professional who explained that if the epidural had worked, the woman shouldn’t have been able to walk immediately afterwards.

This is only a handful of the thousands of stories that women have shared about their pain being dismissed, ignored, and minimized in the medical field – predominantly by male practitioners.

By Louis Galvez on Unsplash

The sad part is these are stories that women are telling about their experiences in the 21st century.

This doesn’t even begin to cover the abhorrent treatment and pain women were forced to endure throughout history.

Many of these conversations are happening thanks to it being women’s history month, a key motivator for women to share injustice and inequality.

But beyond this, women are still facing mass inequality when it comes to pain management. And talking about them on social media may bring about awareness, but we need real change to happen.

These are not isolated incidents. Women are regularly expected to endure unreasonable amounts of pain, often on a continual basis.

By Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

This can be exemplified by the amount of women with extremely debilitating painful periods - and the fact that many of us didn’t learn until we were adults that it’s not supposed to be that way.

In fact, an unusual amount of women endure dysmenorrhea - or painful periods - and PMS. These can often indicate intense underlying conditions, such as endometriosis.

Yet, nearly every woman who has experienced this pain and gone to their doctor - myself included - was shoved a prescription for birth control and sent on her way.

Not only does this ignore those deeper conditions, but it puts women at risk for future health concerns and side effects of the over-prescribed birth control.

In line with this, it takes a long time for these diseases to be noticed and diagnosed. On average, it takes 7 years for a person to be diagnosed with endometriosis. This is a severe and painful condition in which tissue grows outside the uterus onto other organs, causing deep lesions and possible cysts.

By Kat J on Unsplash

On average, women have to suffer this pain for 7 years before finally being recognized. And that doesn’t include treatment, which is disputed and difficult to ascertain.

Women’s expectations to handle pain can also be seen in enduring the dangerous side effects of birth control (which comes with a blanket-sized sheet of warnings), painful IUD insertion procedures, and more.

Yet none of these procedures or treatments are regularly distributed anesthesia or pain medicine stronger than ibuprofen.

All of this points to the fact that women are:

1) expected to endure more pain

2) not taken seriously when they are in pain

Though it’s not a new issue, it is a pressing one. We need to end the generations of pain inequality.

Women’s pain cannot - and should not - be reduced or ignored. This is dangerous, as it has lead to many women foregoing doctors and necessary medical procedures because they simply cannot endure the pain.

This doesn’t even begin to include the emotional and mental damage of your doctor ignoring and invalidating you, leading to many women having severe medical trauma.

Foregoing these necessary procedures due to pain is putting women’s lives at risk. For instance, many young women are choosing not to get Pap smear exams because of the pain they endure. This pain can be heightened if a woman has pelvic floor dysfunction or a number of conditions.

But, rather than find ways to make the exam more bearable, doctors only reiterate the necessity of it. Women are expected to grit their teeth and endure.

Yes, this exam is important to screen for cervical cancer. But when people are too afraid to get the exam, it’s not doing anyone any good.

So, many women are are not getting these exams, therefore risking their lives, because they cannot bear the pain.

By Žygimantas Dukauskas on Unsplash

Because women’s pain has been ignored and minimized for so long in the medical community, women are willing to risk life to avoid the pain they are forced to endure.

Read that again.

This cannot continue. Women all throughout history have suffered because of this. We can no longer force women to pay the pain tax.

politicshistoryhealthgender rolesfeminismbody

About the Creator

Ashley Tripp

Ashley is a freelance writer & artist. She likes to create pieces about feminism, chronic illness, and everyday ramblings. Her work has been featured in multiple publications. Check out her website for more at

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