You Think My Period is a Luxury?

Everyone by now has heard of the protest marches going on all over the world to show support for women’s rights as human rights and to spur hope for continued feminine social progression. It’s been all over the news, and it’s no doubt a cause worth the continued fight. But while most of us are aware of the controversies concerning things like current abortion legislation and the gender wage gap, there may be another controversial component to women’s health that’s been overlooked by many; and which warrants our acknowledgement if we’re going to continue to combat gender injustice.

How many of you ladies have heard of the “Tampon Tax”? You know, that extra bit of money we women have to pay to purchase those already expensive feminine hygiene products? Yeah, that. It’s hard knowing we, as everyday women with monthly periods, are contributing to a part of the federal tax revenue that men aren’t responsible for. According to Sarah Larimer of The Washington Post, the state of California alone accumulated “over $20 million annually in taxes,” from the Tampon Tax over a 40-year span. Christina Garcia, a women’s activist working to combat gender discrepancies in justice, has pointed out that for those women who are on a tight budget, and already on the wrong side of the gender wage gap, these extra charges add up. Now, I realize that we all need to pay taxes. They’re necessary. Important. But there’s more to this often unnoticed, yet cringe worthy “luxury” tax than many may realize.

According to Patricia Garcia of Vogue, “products that are considered necessities, like food and medical supplies, are usually exempt from state sales taxes.” But tampons and other feminine hygiene products don’t qualify. However, and interestingly enough, some less critical items fit the bill, “including sunscreen, ChapStick, [and] anti-dandruff shampoo.” Even more interesting is the fact that there are men’s products much less crucial than tampons that don’t get taxed due to their “necessity” status. Products like Rogaine, a hair loss treatment specific to men, is an example. And, yes, even Viagra is tax exempt in some states. Because we all know how important it is to dodge hair loss insecurity and maintain an erection easily well into your 70’s.

As of now, there are four states that won’t tax your period – Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Minnesota. Another several don’t have a sales tax – Oregon, Montana, New Hampshire and Alaska. As for the rest of us, well, you get the picture. And for those of us living in Utah, supportive legislation may be even farther off than in other states. As Garcia reports, in Utah, legislation condemning the taxation of feminine hygiene products was struck “down by an all-male committee.” Surprised? This is just further evidence that the Tampon Tax is a discriminatory tax, and it should be done away with.  

Sometimes it’s hard to see the light of justice at the end of a tunnel lined with middle to upper-aged men running the show. But that doesn’t mean that some people aren’t on our side, or that we should shut our mouths on issues like these. Garcia points out that former President Obama greatly supported feminism, acknowledging that, “I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items, [but] I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.” But with Obama’s retirement from the Presidency, some have been losing hope as we now have a sexist and indecent bigot who has made claim to our nation’s highest seat in office. But even living in a Trump America, it’s important to remember that there are still significant forces on our side, and we must continue to educate ourselves and fight for the social justice we, as women and human beings, deserve. Ending the Tampon Tax is just one small fraction of a much larger and more complex equation. So let’s keep fighting.