The Pink Tax of California

In this day and age of America, it’s hard to believe that states are still being taxed for menstrual products — and yet here we are, still battling for the pink tax to be dropped. Luckily enough, this movement has already allowed for ten other states to have this specific tax removed, including Nevada, New York, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. However, shockingly enough, California - arguably the most progressive state - does not fall under that list. One main reason for that, at least in my opinion, must be due to the large population size that California holds. If these taxes were to be dropped, the country would lose a lot of revenue, especially from this state.However, that still is no excuse for a tax like this to be upheld.

 

Cristina Garcia, a Democratic Assemblywoman, is popularly known as someone who strongly advocates for the removal of the tampon tax and has even named herself the “Tampon Queen.” She has proposed bills in the past in the hopes that it will pass and allow for this “pink tax” to be dropped. In 2016 when one of her bills, AB1561, finally cleared legislature, it ended up being vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.

One of Brown’s arguments against this bill, to summarize, is that the country would lose out on approximately $20 million -- a small price to pay in order to keep the country’s budget in balance -- but what would he know about a “small price to pay” when he’s not a woman in need of tampons and/or pads. To that, Garcia responds via tweet: “Please mansplain why it’s ok to balance the budget on women’s backs?”

(Photo by Christina Garcia via Twitter)

Funnily enough, while Brown is worried about losing out on $20 million, he allows “snack foods” to escape taxes, which causes the country to lose out on $330 million per year, yet removing the tampon tax would be too much? Not only that, but Brown also argues that if we were to remove the luxury tax on menstrual products on the basis that it’s a necessity, then we supposedly would have to remove taxes on other “necessities” including toothpaste, toilet paper, and other hygiene products. Except for that type of reasoning won’t cut it, because those are hygiene products that everyone - men and women - are subject to buy. Menstrual products are being taxed to women and only to women, making this matter more than just what’s a necessity and what isn’t-- it makes it a matter of equity. Maintaining menstrual equity is exactly the type of ideology that Garcia follows, so even after her bill was vetoed by Brown, she still continued on with her fight.

 

Due to Garcia’s efforts, she was finally able to get a law passed by Brown in 2017 that required middle schools and high schools that receive funding for low-income students to provide free tampons and pads in school bathrooms, that’s why my school all of a sudden started having those in the bathroom which would’ve been nice to have back in middle school. Throughout all of this, Garcia has relied on rallies and “lots of gimmicks” in order to spread awareness to this issue, including putting up a 3-foot-long tampon and a 4-foot sanitary pad in her Capitol office in just the right place where the governor can see it from his office room where bills are signed.

(Photo by Anne Chadwick Williams via Special to The Chronicle)

 

The biggest annoyance with all of this is that society is more than willing to give out condoms for free, but when it comes to periods that’s a big no-no. In a way, I understand why it’s important to give out free condoms because it’s cheaper to have that than to raise a baby. However, having sex isn’t a necessity but periods are. 

 

Students in the UC system such as Annie Wang are working towards getting free pads and tampons set up in college bathrooms as well, because obviously periods don’t stop after high school. In their words, it’s just as important as toilet paper in the bathroom. UC Davis is one of the campuses that had agreed to begin stocking up their college bathrooms with these products and are actively working to get it installed on other college campuses. At the UCR campus, they don’t provide tampons and pads in the bathrooms yet, but there are places around that offer it for free such as the LGBT resource center, certain front desks in buildings around campus, the Well, the HUB, and many other places.

 

Luckily enough for both Garcia and the rest of those fighting towards menstrual equity, Brown has decided to retire from his position in office, allowing for a new governor to step into his place. Hopefully this governor (named Gavin Newsom) will have a different, more progressive perspective on this issue.

 

Although the “pink tax” is still present, there are efforts being made to lessen its impact and hopefully the entire tax will be removed in our country just like how it is in other countries such as Canada, India, and Australia.