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Editor’s Letter: On Tampons and Gender

Happy Halloween everybody!

It’s here, the one you’ve been talking about all term, #Halloween. No doubt you have now carved a pumpkin, doused yourself in fake blood and poked yourself in the eye attempting to fit your new scary contact lenses. What could be better?

Here at Her Campus Bristol we have seized the opportunity to celebrate the Day of the Dead; offering you a head to toe to Lakota guide on how to do Halloween right this year. The week has seen a whole host of tips from resident bloggers Becky and Danni on how to make your costume stand out – special mention to Becky for including a mermaid how to, my life long dream comes true. We haven’t just got your costume covered though, Jess introduces us to Spooky Boo Brownies and Oreo Eyeballs whilst Tash explores Bristol’s club fright night spectaculars – so you can dance off that sugar high.

Of course, there has been a darker (I should say bloodier) side to this Halloween. This week’s news has been all about the tampon tax and the appeal of a transgender woman to move from male to female prison.

As highlighted in our weekly ‘Snapshot’, this week saw the House of Commons voting against the amendment to scrap the “tampon tax.” It is thoroughly depressing to see tampons rated against “Jaffa Cakes, exotic meats and edible cake decorations” as a luxury item. As I sit here surfing my own crimson wave, I can tell you I do not consider my sanitary items to be a luxury. As a girl with quite a dramatic period, sanitary items are quite the necessity; tampon to stem the flow and a pad for security. Without my luxurious items, I would probably have to remain horizontal for three days, trying to avoid making too much of a mess. The luxuries I prefer to grant myself during menstruation can include chocolate, a hot water bottle or some fancy bubble bath – on these feel free to tax me.

It is bizarre that a basic bodily function is not provided for accordingly. It has been raised that razors are not classified as a luxury item, with the view that men need razors to allow them to regularly shave their beards. Why, then, is it not necessary for women to have periods? Simply, it is because periods are exclusively had by women, and so can be overlooked by men. The message, as voiced by Stella Creasy in the video below, is clear: the “tampon tax” is “by design of an unequal society.” Now that is scary.

It’s not all bad though. On Friday, having initially lost her appeal and been returned to the all-male HMP Bristol, transgender woman Tara Hudson was moved to a women’s prison in South Gloucestershire. Despite having had reconstructive surgery and living as a woman all her life, she is still legally recognised as man – and was placed in prison according to this legality. Whilst it is positive that the 160,000 signature strong petition to move Tara provoked the reconsideration of her placement, the case underlines an essential problem in our binary classification of people. To base someone’s identity entirely upon a legality is wrong. Our definitions of gender are too strict and the law needs to adjust to allow for a more fluid understanding of identity and selfhood. 

With that, I leave you to enjoy Hallow’s Eve. I’m off to dress up as a pumpkin.

– Ella XO

(Photo credit: BBC/Jackie Brooklyn)

Ella is one of the two CC's for Her Campus Bristol. She is currently in her final year at the University of Bristol, reading English Literature. Ella loves buffets, art and fashion - she is hoping to make it as the next Anna Wintour. You can follow her on Twitter @ella_wills where she will mostly post mindless attempts at humour.
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