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Man - it costs to be a woman

By Margaret Ann Williams - posted Thursday, 14 September 2006

Ask any woman and she’ll tell you it costs more - way more - to be a woman. Ask a man, and he won’t disagree.

All generalisations are wrong, of course. But nine out of ten scientific surveys confirm what we already know … so I’ll just skip the science.

Surveys are fun, though, so I surveyed Adelaide pharmacy assistants about the differences in Mars v Venus spending they’ve observed.


Sure enough, despite all those rumoured sightings of metrosexuals and “peacock males”, from the expert vantage of the males and females behind the counter, it is true that women customers spend more on personal care products - much more. “Steve” estimated $20 a month for a man, and “Pauline” suggested about $80 for a woman.

This is backed up by the women’s magazine New Idea’s pitch to potential advertisers, which claims that New Idea readers, with an average annual household income of around $65,000, spend about $70 a month on cosmetics, perfume and, OK … aftershave. Much of this spending is an effort to achieve the so-called “natural look”. Not too natural, though.

Eccentric as she is, Germaine Greer made a good point earlier this year when she railed against the “exhausting, sometimes painful, and expensive business of hair and hairiness management”.

The “clothing and footwear” category is another money pit for the fairer sex. New Idea readers spend an average of $170 a month on dressing themselves. Whoever invented the “layered look” was a marketing genius - you have to pay for every garment it takes to get from naked to decently covered.

In the UK, surveys show that women are spending 56 per cent more on hair and beauty products and services than a decade ago.

Co-incidentally (or perhaps not), 31 per cent of those British women surveyed said they couldn’t afford to save. Could that possibly be because as a sex feel we compelled to spend on sequined tops, herbal spa treatments and Brazilians?


A scary report in the UK’s Daily Mail, “Are you spending your pension …?” earlier this year mentioned the unmentionable about unmentionables and other fripperies: we women buy things we don’t need and don’t wear. Also, I might add, things that fit for only a week or so and then are filed in the “too small” drawer. The Mail persuaded four young women with different salary levels to keep a spending diary for a month. They were spending at a rate that gobbled up between half and two-thirds of their income: on fishnet stockings, dresses, hair accessories and designer make-up.

It couldn’t be as bad here … could it?

I’m embarrassed to confess there’s an haute-couture skeleton in my cupboard, wearing those impulse buys that were wrong, wrong, wrong. I also have to face up to several lifetime supplies of moisturiser in my bathroom cabinet. Luckily for my self-esteem, I’m not alone.

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About the Author

Margaret Ann Williams has a Masters in journalism. She is presently living in the United States.

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