When I think of luxury items, I think of video games, cars, maybe even Cheetos. Something I (and most people) would never put on that list? Tampons.
But apparently I should start.
Currently 40 states in the United States impose a tax — either a regular sales or gross receipts tax or a luxury tax — on tampons and other menstrual products.
Sanitary products in the varying states’ tax laws sometimes fall under the “luxury tax,” which applies to products or services deemed unnecessary or nonessential. To make things more uncomfortable, the tax is also sometimes referred to as the “sin tax.”
In what world is dealing with a period nonessential and luxurious? Not ours.
As anyone who menstruates knows to be true, sanitary products are an essential and expected part of life. At work, at school, or pretty much anywhere, it’s not an option to go without caring for your health and hygiene. And making sure you’re covered every month really adds up: If tampons are your go-to, you could be spending almost $2,000 on those alone in your lifetime. Putting an extra tax on them only adds to that financial burden.
Taxes can be confusing, sure, especially since they’re all state-level. But certain conditions do make you wonder. For example, most states don’t tax on essential items like groceries, which often includes candy and sugary drinks.
No matter your sweet tooth, it’s hard to argue that candy is essential. But you’d be hard pressed to find someone who could say that it’s not essential to deal with a non-optional part of life every month.
Activist Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Cosmopolitan have teamed up to demand legislators in 40 states drop the tampon tax.
As the first to really shine a light on the tampon tax in the United States, they’re hoping that states will follow the lead of the those that have said “no” to it: Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
The tampon tax is not just happening in the United States. Canada eliminated its tampon tax earlier this year.
In the summer of 2015, a successful public campaign helped convince the Canadian Parliament to vote unanimously on eliminating the national tampon tax in Canada. A big victory!
Other campaigns can be found from Australia to parts of Europe, with women protesting the tampon tax on social media and even free-bleeding (which is exactly what you think it is) to make a point in public spaces. Women from all over are demanding that their governments eliminate this unnecessary tax.
If we want to live in a more equal world, this is a good start.
The menstruation taboo still stands strong today, whether a girl’s period becomes the butt of a joke in a movie or it forces a girl to actually drop out of school in a developing country. This stigmatization especially affects disadvantaged communities, where resources and education aren’t as readily available to start conversations and shift perceptions.
Access to sanitary products is a right, not a luxury.
When our periods are used against us, it sends a message that we are being punished just for existing. That’s not the world we want to live in. As Canadians can attest, this tax can be defeated. We might as well try.
You can start by signing the petition here.
You can tax me for my Cheetos, but leave my already-expensive tampons alone, please. I’m trying to kick ass in this world and that’s one more thing that unfairly gets in the way.