Pink Tax – a conversation lesson

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of a really funny Ellen DeGeneres video. In it, Ellen makes fun of the Bic for Her pens and the fact that they are more expensive than regular Bic pens. Having an interesting video, I started looking for an article I could use it with and found out that women pay more than men do for a variety of products. This is now called pink tax, which refers to the premium women pay for certain products (that are generally pink).

This is the lesson I taught to an adult student, but it can probably be used with young adults (16-18 year-olds) as well.

To start with, show students the pictures of two (or more) pens.


Ask them what they would call these and use the opportunity to introduce the word biro, which will later appear in the article. Quickly get them to discuss if they have a favourite pen and explain the reasons. After eliciting answer from some students, go back to the pictures and ask them how much they think those pens cost.

Tell students they are going to watch a video from Ellen DeGeneres talking about the Bic for Her pens. These are the things they should pay attention to:

  • How does Ellen feel about the Bic for Her pens? Why?
  • What colours are they available in?
  • How does their price compare to that of other Bic pens?

Play the video up to 2:01 if you are pressed for time. Alternatively, you can break the video down and show the commercial after discussing the answers to the previous questions. If you decide to show the ad, ask students to pay attention to the following:

  • Why did Ellen decide to do the commercial?
  • What can women do with Bic for Her pens?
  • Is this a real ad or a spoof? What makes you say that?

As a follow-up, you can get students to discuss whether they agree with Ellen’s points or not. You may also want to ask them if they think other products targeted at women are also more expensive. Try to elicit some examples and write them on the board, as this will help you set up the reading activity.

Tell students they are going to read an article from the Guardian about a similar topic from the video. As a gist task, ask students to see if any of the products they mentioned in the previous discussion appear in the text.

Aftar that, get students to read the article again, this time focusing on these questions:

  • Are male and female shoppers treated equally?
  • What is the author’s opinion of Bic?
  • How much more do women pay for products, on average?
  • Is this a problem only in the UK?

The original article can be found here and my adapted version is below.

Sexist Surcharge (The Guardian)

A follow-up to the reading activity would be asking students if they think similar things happen in Brazil and what could be done to remedy the situation.

You could also decide to work with the vocabulary from the text. These are the words I selected for my student. Make sure to also work on pronunciation, including the silent S in ailse, the /tʃ/ sound in charge or the connected speech in ripped-off.

  • an aisle
  • be staggering
  • be ripped-off
  • no-frills
  • a retailer
  • to charge someone
  • to baffle someone
  • be taunted for something

If you have upper-intermediate students, you could pair them up and get them to tell each other about the words they know and try to guess the meaning of the ones they don’t. If you have intermediate sutdents, you probably want to provide them with definitions for them to match.

To wrap things up, ask students to discuss some questions using the target language and after that get them to produce their own questions.

  • Have you seen any staggering news on TV recently?
  • Were you taunted for anything as a child?
  • Do you remember your first car? Was it a no-frills model?
  • Have you ever felt you were being ripped-off by a salesperson?
  • What products or services do you think people shouldn’t be charged for?

Thanks for reading.

3 thoughts on “Pink Tax – a conversation lesson

  1. Pingback: So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish | ricardo barros elt

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