Story by Elizabeth Schoof, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Mum’s Lounge
The first health class I took, they separated boys and girls into two classrooms. While the boys learned about growing hair and cracked voices, the girls learned about the wondrous gift that every woman gets each month: her period.
At the end of the course, the girls in my class each received a “goody bag” filled to the brim with informative pamphlets, tampons, and pads. We were told that the things we learned in the classroom were “top secret” and we weren’t allowed to talk to the boys about any of it.
As if getting your period is something you should feel ashamed of. .
I remember the boys in my class being so frustrated with us. The girls got goody bags and they didn’t. The girls wouldn’t share what they talked about. The truth of the matter is that we were embarrassed.
I would like to say that the stigma surrounding periods has changed, but it hasn’t. The proof of this? The Tampon Tax.
As of April 2017, 45 states impose a statewide sales tax. Of those states, only 7 exempted feminine hygiene products from the tax. In an ideal situation, states that implement a sales tax on products would include that sales tax on all items purchased. However, this is not the case. Most states tax items based on whether or not they are considered a “necessity” or a “luxury”. These categories vary depending on the state that you are in, but the vast majority of states consider feminine hygiene products to be a luxury.
Now, other items we might consider to be necessities are taxed as well. Things such as toilet paper can be taxed as a luxury item. Toilet paper is something regularly used by each individual. Here in the United States, individuals have free access to toilet paper when in a public restroom, but have to pay small fees to buy feminine hygiene products in those spaces.
The issue that comes with the tampon tax is only women require feminine hygiene products. While these products are not a necessity for men, they are required for the sake of a woman’s health. For women, they are a medical necessity.
Without proper access to products, many women have no other option but to refer to unsanitary methods of keeping clean. They are exposed to things such as Toxic Shock Syndrome because they cannot financially afford to purchase the products necessary.
Feminine hygiene products, unlike toilet paper, are not free. Not even in public restrooms.
While expensive to begin with, the price of tampons and pads only escalates when an additional tax is imposed. The average American woman will spend thousands of dollars over the course of her lifetime on products intended to deal with a completely natural process of which she had no say in participating.
When debating on the issue of whether or not feminine products should be taxed, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a question of whether or not tampons are a “luxury” or a “necessity”. It’s a question of whether or not women should have to pay extra for a natural process that only they experience, and one they have no control over. The answer? No. When you tax feminine products, you tax women for being women.
If you want to take a stand against the tax, there are a lot of ways of getting involved. Women can purchase products such as Diva Cups or THINX underwear. These are two sustainable products that can be reused. They are a bit costly, but when comparing their cost to the cost of purchasing products each month, they are definitely cheaper. Both men and women can donate feminine products to organizations such as Degage Ministries here in Grand Rapids, so that women who can’t afford to purchase products can still handle their period with dignity. If you don’t want to make a donation, you can also create “Health and Hygiene Kits” and hand those out as you see fit. Finally, you can call or write to your state representatives asking them to take the issue under consideration.
The most important thing to recognize is that in order for this issue to be addressed, we need as many voices to be heard as possible. Regardless of if you are a man or a woman, someone you know is affected by this issue. Don’t be afraid to speak out.
About the writer: Elizabeth Schoof is a sophomore at Aquinas studying English and Communications. She loves reading, writing, photography, and laughing at her own jokes.