“The mere fact that ‘girl’ scooters exist proves that girls tend to have different preferences than boys when making consumer decisions.”
In his recent article “Jordan Peterson, Women, and Who Really Makes 80% of Consumer Decisions,” Matthew Pinna claims that the 80% female consumer statistic Jordan Peterson invoked in the now-famous Cathy Newman interview is irrelevant to the discussion. In response to Newman saying “markets are dictated by men,” Peterson cites the statistic that 80% of buying decisions are, in fact, made by women. Pinna’s thoughts on this are as follows:
“The intent of her [Cathy Newman’s] assertion wasn’t to argue that men make the bulk of consumer decisions, but rather that men control the market as a whole. That is a significant distinction and warrants a completely different type of discussion.”
No, it does not. Peterson’s claim was predicated on the assumption that consumers dictate the market. So if 80% of consumer decisions are made by women, then women dictate the market. However, Pinna assumes the market is controlled in a top-down manner, so he does not see it from this perspective. The evidence he then provides to bolster his assumption is insufficient and rather arbitrary.
The following highlights Pinna’s faulty assumption again, when he states:
“But, even if women do indeed control a fair amount of consumer spending, it’s all taking place in a market orchestrated by men, opening the door for a potential mismatch in gender parity.”
This observation is, yet again, ill-conceived. Yes, if men make up the majority of senior management positions, they are responsible for key operating decisions. However, they certainly do not dictate demand—they respond to it. While they can dictate supply, this is irrelevant; since if there is no demand, whatever supply they have will not sell.
While the author rightfully points out that men hold a majority of high ranking positions, he then claims that either, consciously or not, men tilt the market to favor other men. This is a large leap to take. It rests on the assumptions that (a.) the market is controlled in a top-down manner, and that (b.) men will naturally favor other men in a grand conspiracy of the patriarchy. Pinna specifically uses the word “unconsciously” to bolster the latter assumption and uses the so-called pink tax to buttress the former. Due to assumption (b.) the fact that these decisions are “unconscious,” it can neither be tested nor disputed. Stating that something is “unconscious” renders it untestable (at least for now) and therefore can always be used to fall back on, despite the lack of evidence. On the other hand, the pink tax is at least backed up by statistics, but it does not provide the kind of fortification the author thinks it does.
In other words, the mere existence of a discrepancy does not necessarily imply discrimination.
Statistics suggesting that items geared towards women cost more than items for men do indicate price discrepancies between male and female products, but this does not prove that this discrepancy is caused by market-making-men in a top-down approach. This does not prove either that this so-called “pink tax” exists solely due to discrimination against women and girls. There are innate differences between women and men in preference and attitude that can account for these discrepancies in price, rather than solely attributing it to gender discrimination by men in positions of power. Are the clothes for men and women exactly identical? Are they the same material? Same shape? Same size? Same brand? Are “women’s colors” and the dyes needed for them more expensive? In other words, the mere existence of a discrepancy does not necessarily imply discrimination.
Additionally, using the example from USA Today about the pink tax on scooters (a red scooter is $24.99, and a pink one is $49), I will provide a rationale to illustrate how this same statistic can be used to contradict his assumptions. If you are buying a scooter for your son, you will most likely purchase him a scooter that will be at a price-point which will not cause added grief if he breaks it. Whereas, buying a scooter for one’s daughter, whom are often perceived as better-behaved, you may be more willing to spend money on a more aesthetically-pleasing scooter, considering girls are generally more careful with their possessions than boys. Perhaps young girls show a higher appreciation for aesthetics than young boys. There are other factors potentially at play that should caution us from appealing directly to discrimination.
The mere fact that “girl” scooters exist proves that girls tend to have different preferences than boys when making consumer decisions, as they persuade their parents to purchase them, and their parents are then willing to buy them. Girls are not forced to like or buy “girl” scooters, but the phenomenon persists; “girl” scooters exist because the demand for them exists. And so, the “girl” and “boy” discrepancy in the scooter market will continue to manifest itself as long as consumers are willing to purchase “girl” scooters—again, not because the men at the top of businesses are forcing them to buy it. Parents buy them due to their own volition—due to consumer forces.
Despite giving off the impression that I am advocating the market is solely controlled by consumers, I am simply suggesting that markets are controlled by a variety of factors, not just the top-down approach Pinna describes. Market forces are beyond any one person’s total understanding; thus to assume it is either controlled top-down or controlled by consumers alone would lack the necessary nuance. Ultimately, the market is governed by a mixture of many forces, though I tend to agree with Peterson that consumers have more pull (however small) than the so-called market-makers.
Lucas Gigliozzi is a student at Ryerson University in Toronto.