On January 15th, Ingrid Nilsen asked President Obama why tampons and feminine sanitary products were subject to a “luxury goods” tax. Ingrid is a YouTube beauty guru with over 3 millions subscribers and as such commands a small army of millennial women and men. Obama—and many Americans—did not know that tampons were subject to such a tax and was enraged when he learned. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” Obama said. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
According to United States lawmakers, dealing with your period is a luxury and not a necessity. Fusion reports that in the United States of America, at least 40 states have sales taxes on tampons, sanitary napkins, and other similar feminine hygiene products. Many people might think this is normal. These products are being sold and should be subject to sales taxes. However, necessities like groceries, food stamp purchases, medical purchases (like prosthetics and medications), clothes, and agriculture supplies are not subject to a tax because they are considered necessities and should not have barriers to access.
Feminine sanitary products, on the other hand, are not considered necessities and so are subject to a tax. These taxes are barriers to access for many women out there who cannot afford to buy these very necessary products.
Let’s get this straight: Women do not choose to have our periods. It’s a thing that happens. We can’t control when we get it for the first time. We can control it somewhat with birth control, but only if we have health insurance, or are wealthy enough to pay out of pocket. Otherwise, we’re just kind of stuck with it and forced to take care of it. Just like we’re forced to eat groceries in order to survive and buy medical supplies when we are sick or hurt. Effectively, American women are now forced to literally pay for the basic body functions that further society as a whole.
Women never asked to get their period. We just got it and all women deserve the ability to properly handle it. Taxing feminine products is essentially taxing something we cannot control. I am lucky enough that I have never had to think about the price of these necessities. The New York Times writes, “But for the more than 40 million women in this country living in poverty or on the brink of it—and for whom the cost of feminine hygiene products is yet another burden on an already stretched budget—periods are no joke. A year’s supply of tampons and pads costs upwards of $70 and is not covered by food stamps.”
This tax is a tax on a woman’s body—her right to take care of her monthly period. It is yet another attack on women’s reproductive health. It is yet another moment where lawmakers have failed to account for women.
The United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada have also faced protests about similar tampon taxes. According to the Independent, Canada removed the absurd tax in July. However, the United Kingdom and Australia have been unsuccessful.
California law makers have already proposed measures to rescind the tax, according to Newsweek, and “If it passes, tampons and sanitary napkins would be added to a list of health products already exempt in the Golden State, including walkers, medical identification tags and Viagra.” It’s a little ridiculous that a man’s ability to achieve an erection is not taxed, but a woman’s right to deal with her period is.
The tax is done at a state level and so people in every state must work hard to overturn this absurd tax and ensure a woman’s ability to sanitary protection.
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