Deodorant Discrimination Stinks

BlogHer Original Post

Perhaps here is proof that I have too much time on my hands these days. While buying deodorant at my nearest convenient drugstore chain (Duane Reade), I noticed that the price of deodorants designed for men and those designed for women was the same. I spent at least 40 minutes looking at every deodorant product on the shelf, logging the prices in my BlackBerry, and getting angrier by the second. What I found: men's deodorant sticks contained as much as three ounces more of deodorant than women's did. I reiterate that the price was the same.

I tried to be calm. What reasons could there be that men's deodorant - which was often advertised as being stronger - somehow contained fewer or cheaper ingredients than women's deodorant, thus justifying giving men more for their money? Fortunately, the internets allowed me to run a free side-by-side comparison from the comfort of my living room.

From drugstore.com:

Degree Men Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant, Invisible Solid, Cool Rush 2.7 oz (76 g)
Active Ingredients: Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly (17.8%) (Anti-Perspirant)
Inactive Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, PPG 14 Butyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, PEG 8 Distearate, Talc, Fragrance (Parfum), Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, BHT

Degree Women Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant, Invisible Solid, Shower Clean 2.6 oz (73 g)
Active Ingredients: Aluminum Zirconium Tetrachlorohydrex Gly (17.8% W/W) (anti-perspirant)
Inactive Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, PPG 14 Butyl Ether, Stearyl Alcohol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Talc, Fragrance (parfum), BHT, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch

Nope. The ingredients are almost 100% the same, albeit in a slightly different formula, and men even get an extra ingredient (PEG 8 Distearate - whatever that is, I do not want to know). I am thus forced to conclude that men get much more product for their money.

Here in New York City, Duane Reade is the most prominent drugstore, with over 250 locations charging women more money for less product. (Degree for women: $3.99 for 2.6 oz; Degree for men: $3.99 for 3.0 oz; Speedstick: $4.19 for 3 oz; Lady speedstick: $4.19 for 2.3 oz; only Mitchum Power Gel and Mitchum Lady Power Gel offered the same amount of anti-stink for the same price, $5.49 for 3.4 oz.) Things were not much better online. The same-price-for-less-product issue is also true of drugstore.com and walgreens.com. (My local grocery store, however, actually charged more for men's deodorant than for women's. Yay, Fariway!) My other findings include: Arm & Hammer and Arrid give 1 oz less if the deodorant is in powder scent instead of regular, and on the flip side, Sure for Men is actually 1 oz less than plain ungendered Sure.

Speaking of ungendered, do you remember when deodorant, for the most part, was just deodorant, not deodorant for men or women specifically? That was when I got into Degree. It worked wonders for me. When it split into "Degree for Men" and "Degree for Women" a few years ago, I was disappointed. I suspected that "Degree for Men" was actually just plain old Degree, so I kept using it. I've noticed that when the same products are marketed to different genders, ones made for men tend to be of higher quality. The women at Cafe Mom agree that men's deodorant seems to work better than women's.

While studying the prices and sizes of deodorant at Duane Reade, I also noticed a marketing difference. The sticker on one brand (*cough, Degree, cough*) read, "Extra responsive in emotional moments" on women's sticks, but "Guaranteed odor protection" on men's. You know how we women are with all those crazy emotions! Men just have pressure and stress at work or at home that they need odor protection from, but women have "emotional moments" that cause us to sweat. I suppose the rage that encompassed me when I noticed that was just another of my "emotional moments." That "moment" caused me to buy Suave, though.

"Emotional moments" aside, I also noticed that deodorants that came in clinical strength cost the same and supplied the same amount of product regardless of which gender it was pitched to. This is somewhat meaningless, though, as clinical strength is costs about 50% more than regular deodorant anyway. Medium Happiness points out that the active ingredients in this product are the same as that of Mitchum, which is about half the price. As noted earlier, Mitchum, which may now be my new favorite deodorant, offers the same amount of deodorant at the same price to both men and women.

I stumbled into this topic just as Consumer Reports blogged that they are looking for information about campaigns that use gender marketing to sell the same product for different prices (with women usually being the ones paying more). I'll be curious to hear what their investigation yields.

Regardless of price, I have read many articles that discuss the potential role deodorant may play in breast cancer, and I would be remiss to leave this out, however tangential it is to my rant about gender marketing. At Why Kan't Doc Zoe Write?, there is a four post series exploring this issue (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). The conclusion:

...there is no conclusion yet. More extensive research is needed to investigate the long-term effects of the applicaiton of these underarm cosmetic products over an entire lifetime and on a global population of men and women.

I, however, conclude that if women are going to wear deodorant, we should not pay more money for less product. This may be due to experiencing an "emotional moment," but I am boycotting companies that rip women off, including dry cleaners and health insurance companies, although I suppose I have a lot less control when over who I use in latter. It just pisses me off to no end that the most effective way to save money on so many things is to not be female.

Suzanne also blogs at Campaign for Unshaved Snatch (CUSS) & Other Rants, and is the author of Off the Beaten (Subway) Track, a book about unusual things to see and do in NYC.

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