#FightPinkTax is an innovation designed to democratically address the gender price gap, whereby women pay more for goods and services, using an internationally accessible online petition that conveys the issue.
Problems and Purpose
The hashtag campaign #FightPinkTax and subsequent petition was created to protest the fact that “Women Earn Less and Pay More”. #FightPinkTax is an online initiative to raise awareness and fight back against the gender pay gap and the gender price gap. The hashtag is backed by an online petition available internationally, with an aspiration to spread its message globally and implement pay equality.
Background History and Context
Why: The gender price gap, also referred to as The Pink Tax is a tax whereby women are charged more than men for certain goods and services. A Times investigation found that women are charged on average 37% more for clothes, beauty products and toys.
Individually, women’s razors, for example, cost on average 13% more than those of men’s. Additionally, although the public consensus is that men pay the premium on car insurance, a recent investigation found that 40 and 60-year-old women were charged more than men, twice as often.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Girl Talk HQ is the organisation behind the ignition of the initiative. Girl Talk brands itself ‘The Global Headquarters of Female Empowerment”, and seeks to settle issues of gender equality and female empowerment, whilst promoting their importance and reporting on news of the latter issues. Girls Talk has sought support for the campaign on a general basis cross-genders, but, the campaign itself is most appealing to females who have been affected by this issue, and therefore form the bulk of its support basis.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
#FightPinkTax is a campaign open to all. It seeks global help from anyone in order to achieve its goals and spread the word. The campaign however as previously cited is most appealing to the female populace, that have experienced the gender price gap on a day-to-day basis. However, the campaigns use of a ‘viral video’ to accompany the petition and hashtag have meant that responses have been broader than initially thought.
Methods and Tools Used
Hashtags are now at the forefront of multiple successful campaigns that seek to heighten democratic proceeds, campaigns such as #BlackLivesMatter, #PrayForParis, and #BringBackOurGirls are some notable contributions. Most notably, however, the #MeToo campaign, is a campaign-turned-movement, that has had huge success. The campaign was indirectly orchestrated as a response against sexual harassment/abuse, that was ignited after Hollywood director Harvey Weinstein faced sexual misconduct allegations. What started as a campaign, turned movement, became much more. Its global success led to the indirect lobbying of the US government, which eventually led to the implementation of the Me Too Bill in Congress. This example alone states the success of Hashtag Activism in the 21st century as a new democratic process.
The hashtag campaign works hand-in-hand with the movements online petition. By spreading the word on social media people are then directed to the movement itself, its website, and its subsequent petition. Additionally, to accompany the democratic innovation comes a campaign video, this is another strategy used to gain public recognition on social media platforms. The video itself expresses the gender price gap in a way that is easily demonstrated to the public; via a coffee shop, (Tokyo Smoke) that offers different prices for men and women. Unknowing customers reactions are recorded, with the majority refusing to pay a different price, but, a few partake. The video is set up in a way that many ‘viral’ videos are and received a wholly positive response. With the video and the hashtag, the petition has the potential to thrive.
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The initiative’s start came about in 2016 – in the midst of a time where equal rights and feminism are at the forefront of societies minds, with the prevalence of the US Presidential Election and Hillary Clinton, the release of Beyoncé’s Lemonade and the stigma associated with sexual assault and mistreatment of women being unravelled. 2016 has been branded the “year the feminist bubble burst”. The campaign, therefore, used this to their advantage and seeks to expand into the future.
Although Girl Talk HQ is a multi-national company based in California, their subsequent hashtag and petition campaign has used Canada as a starting point. Canada is a particularly Liberal country especially under the premiership of Justin Trudeau who himself identifies as a feminist. Further, Trudeau has made it clear the gender equality is one of his priorities in multiple speeches since his incumbency, but, this seems yet to transfer into policy – something the campaign’s petition wants to change. The starting point for #FightPinkTax is one of importance for the initiative’s success, once change has occurred domestically in Canada, it has a platform to grow on an international scale. Editor-in-chief Asha Dahya confirmed this choice of location was instrumental to their success when talking to CTV news; she stated: “Canada is kind of leading the way in terms of progress and equality”.
#FightPinkTax. The globally used hashtag that seeks to obtain a political and public response, whilst vocalising the gender price gap, using Twitter as their focal point, but the hashtag as a key to unlock their movement on all media platforms. Additionally, the campaign includes a follow-up petition that seeks to lobby the Canadian government and spread awareness of the gender price gap, and eventually implement a policy that can equalise the costs of all products, whether they are for men or women.
The campaign was met with a good response from the public. Both the petition and the hashtag campaign achieved their goals of formulating discussion, as well, the petition received 10% more support than their intended goal. This meant that Girl Talk HQ had the ability to lobby Trudeau as well as Minister of Status of Women Patty Hadju with a formal appeal. The virtual campaign became a physical one.
Moreover, the response on social media was a success. The hashtag reached considerable scope, even being reported by news outlets in France. But, the accompanying campaign video was the true winner. It was viewed nearly 70,000 times on YouTube alone and was reported as the main feature of the campaign by multiple Canadian news outlets, as well as featuring in the Canadian national newspaper The Globe and Mail. It was this video, partnered with the hashtag that successfully sparked debate and spread the word regarding the campaign petition.
Additionally, the issue of fighting Pink Tax has become hugely prevalent in modern-day politics and society internationally. GetUp! an Australian activist movement inspires multiple campaigns and lobby groups toward multiple issues regarding day-to-day Australian life. Within the movement, they initiated an anti-gender price gap campaign following the hashtag movement #genderpricegap. In this sense, social media has been the clear instrument of instigating debate for the issue on an international basis.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
In 2017, a year after the start of the initial campaign, Girl Talk HQ posted a follow-up video “Canada Reacts to our ‘Pink Tax’ Campaign”. The video outlines the successes of the hashtag campaign, video, and petition, they go on to explain that “Within days millions of Canadians were liking, sharing, commenting” on all the features of the campaign. The most important result of the campaign is referred to as the ignition of public debate in Canada on the issue, by Girl Talk. In this sense, the campaign had great success.
As well as Girl Talk’s own petition receiving overwhelming support, the hashtag and video inspired Canadians themselves to start an official e-petition to lobby Justin Trudeau – according to their follow-up video. However, no evidence of this petition can be found online.
Moreover, the success of the campaign can be traced internationally to having detrimental effects on some global corporations. Burger King for example, even started a similar viral campaign in 2018 against the Pink Tax. The video took on a similar format to that of Girl Talk HQ’s, whereby Burger King sold ‘Chicken Fries’ and ‘Chick Fries’ for women at different prices.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
The #FightPinkTax campaign was seemingly a success. It followed in the footsteps of its predecessor in 2015; the #TamponTax. The Tampon Tax was a Canadian campaign (turned international) that sought the stopping of female hygiene products being taxed. Its starting point similarly, was an online petition (253,630 supporters) and social media movement. The campaign had huge success, in 2015 the Canadian government removed the tax on female hygiene products. The Tampon Tax campaign seemingly set a precedent for Hashtag Activism and democratic innovations in the years to come.
Although #FightPinkTax may not have yet have ignited huge policy debate in government, the impact the campaign had on public opinion and global recognition was wholly impressive. Girl Talk’s use of a modernised democratically innovative technique within the use of hashtag activism did much to assist the campaign – and has become a highly effective technique in the years that proceeded it. Marcie Bianco stresses that the “largest protest march in America’s history began with a Facebook post”. This alone cites the ability of hashtag activism, or social media campaigning to ‘blow up’, and consequently have a detrimental effect on public policy and igniting change. This is further corroborated by Alison Crossley, who analysed the ability of social media outlets (n.b. Facebook) and their ability to mobilise and recruit the populace into debate and support for issues relating to feminism. Thus, social media is an extremely beneficial client for enhancing democracy in the modern day.
Today, the use of social media as a political tool is growing. A Pew Research study found, over half of Americans have ‘engaged in some form of political activity on social media in the past year’. Additionally, the platform of social media has been incredibly important at giving lesser heard minorities a bigger voice. In the United States, minorities feel like they are not listened to in commercial politics. Yet, when this issue is taken to social media, campaigns often highlighting the minority voice, are met with great success (e.g. #BlackLivesMatter). Which simultaneously puts pressure on governments to respond, if there is a significant mandate backing up a movement. Social media is now a political institution, that houses the voices of those often unheard, or those with a desire to be heard more. Jurgen Habermas’ idea of the ‘Public Sphere’, is now being transferred to social media, generating public opinion, that acts for the common good. Although there are some negative associations with its use as a political platform, such as the promotion of extremist views, the platform is wholly beneficial to modern day society.
Pressure on social media seems to have additionally sparked a new wave of politics, whereby representation in government is growing. In the recent mid-term elections, a record-breaking number of women won seats in Congress. The latter therefore, not only has the potential to aid further ‘Pink Tax’ policy, but, it gives the female populace an important voice inside one of the most prominent legislative bodies in the world. From this alone, it is clear to see why Girl Talk decided to use the hashtag at the forefront of their campaign.
Furthermore, within the formation of the initial ‘Pink Tax’ campaign, analysing the use of its website and online petition to assist the social media campaign, it is clear there may be some shortcomings. The campaign’s creator Girl Talk HQ is a website that seems to be strictly for women, although this is great for the voice of female empowerment, in terms of generating a popular support basis they may be limited to just females. On the whole, however, the campaigns eventual stretch into Canadian news meant that the platform was more accessible to the wider populace of both males and females. Girl Talk’s use of social media and ‘hashtag activism’, as a democratic innovatory process, was wholly successful.
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