When you think of vital necessities that women require to make it through their monthly cycle, the list can be lengthy. There are various tampons, pads, and menstrual cups that are available for purchase at a semi-steep cost. We rationalize that since these items are imperative to completing a safe cycle, the continuous fee every month can be ignored. In exactly 32 states across the United States, there is still a sales tax on menstrual products, while products like Viagra remain tax-free.
State governments have justified this heinous tax by classifying menstrual products as “luxury items,” despite the fact that they’re not luxuries at all – if you bleed into something, it is a medical necessity. Fun fact, most medical necessities are exempt from state taxes according to the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. So, where’s the disconnect? Women, trans men, non-binary people, and intersex people in the U.S. who menstruate spend approximately $150 million per year on menstrual products alone, usually while simultaneously suffering under the wage gap. It’s even worse in places like India, where around 88% of people who menstruate don’t even have access to sanitary products, forcing women to put their daily lives on hold because of their periods.
And this issue isn’t limited to menstrual products. Companies that distribute personal care items such as razors, deodorant, Q-tips, soap, and body wash put gender markers on their products so they can make a profit off of selling women’s products at higher prices. Studies show that this gender-specific pricing, also known as the “pink tax,” estimates that women pay approximately 108% more for personal care products than men over their lifetime.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a New York attorney and the founder of the non-profit organization Period Equity, stated that the Pink Tax is an, “Income-generating scenario for private companies who found a way to make their product look either more directed to or more appropriate for the population and saw that as a moneymaker.” Groundbreaking.
The reason why it’s going to be so difficult to get rid of this problem is that not only would the companies selling gendered products lose money, but the government tax revenue generated from the tampon tax would decrease by approximately $20 million a year. This remains to be a symptom of the war on working-class people who menstruate, and how giant corporations and state governments have always found sneaky ways to profit off of minorities suffering under the pay gap. We must continue to add momentum to the movement spearheaded by people like Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, and organizations like The Pad Project that are dedicated to fighting period poverty by providing menstrual products to people who wouldn’t otherwise have the financial means to access them. As of 2015, only about seven states have made menstrual products tax-exempt, but the fight is far from over and there’s no sign of it slowing down anytime soon.
Just yesterday, a Tennessee republican moved to exclude tampons from their three day tax weekend, because he hinted that this may lead to out of control tampon-buying. According to Forbes, the republican lawmaker concluded that he wasn't opposed to including tampons and other menstrual products in the tax-free weekend but that he was concerned about how to limit women from buying large amounts of tampons at one time. Decisions like these exemplify the lack of knowledge surrounding periods and their immediate need to be tax free because they're not a want but a need.
Issues like these don't solve themselves. If the population of people who bleed monthly don't express their dissatisfaction with the cost of their products, similar lawmakers (like the one from Tennessee) will continue to make unfair decisions on our behalf.
If you are interested in getting more involved in the fight for menstrual equity, here are 10 organizations you should support:
- Period Equity
- Tax Free. Period
- PERIOD. The Menstrual Movement
- Alliance for Period Supplies
- The Pad Project
- Support the Girls
- Days for Girls
These organizations, amongst many others, are leading the charge in changing the status quo of period product taxes.