“In Apparel, All Tariffs Aren’t Created Equal”

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Today’s NYT has a story about disparities in tariffs based on whether an article of clothing is intended for men, or for women. Here is an excerpt:

Congress, it turns out, plays fashion favorites.

Take bathing suits. It slaps a 28 percent tax on men’s imports, but just 12 percent on women’s.

Or overalls. The government imposes a 14 percent tariff on women’s, but only 9 percent on men’s.

Woven wool shirts? Men’s are hit with an 18 percent duty, more than twice as much as women’s.

There is no apparent pattern to the tariffs, which penalize men in some instances, and women in others. But the fees tacked onto clothing, shoes and swimwear as they enter the country’s ports may be the last legal form of sex discrimination in the United States, approved year after year by lawmakers and passed on to consumers.

For decades, apparel companies have grudgingly tolerated the peculiar disparities, writing them off as a vestige of smoke-filled, backroom trade negotiations.

But now, several major apparel makers, like Steve Madden, Asics and Columbia Sportswear, are challenging the tariffs in lawsuits against the federal government that have broad implications for the clothing industry, not to mention the battle of the sexes. …

Read the whole article here. It seems like a good piece of journalism, except for the NYT homepage teaser blurb which reads: “The fees tacked onto clothing as it enters the U.S. may be the last legal form of sex discrimination in the country.” Writer Michael Barbaro might want to stop by the Pentagon next time he is in Washington and learn a little bit more about the U.S. Military.

–Ann Bartow

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