Stuff You Should Know: The Tampon Tax & Period Poverty
The marginalization of menstruation goes much further than the physical burden of bleeding and bloating. Periods place extra socioeconomic stress on those who menstruate, highlighting the economic inequalities between people with and without vulvas that goes well beyond the pay and pleasure gaps.
It’s not news that our country is predominantly run by cis heterosexual white men; these elected officials who pass policies and run our health programs don’t (or refuse to?) fully understand the impact a monthly period can have on someone’s ability to go about their daily life—especially if they don’t have access to the tools they need to manage it.
With Menstrual Hygiene Day 2020 upon us (May 28th), we’re discussing the tampon tax and period poverty—and we have receipts.
WHAT IS THE TAMPON TAX?
Not to be the bearer of (more) bad news, but 30 states continue to tax menstrual products like tampons, pads, liners, and menstrual cups, while other traditionally male-gendered items like Rogaine and Viagra (and even non-gendered items like Pop-Tarts in California and Pixy Stix in Florida) manage to remain exempt. We don’t really get it either.
To clarify, the tampon tax isn’t a tax specifically added to menstrual products. Rather, it’s the regular sales tax applied to period-related products because they’re categorized as a “luxury good” or non-necessary item. One would think that a normal bodily function that half of the population experiences on a monthly basis would warrant tampons, pads, liners, and menstrual cups necessary—and certainly not a luxury.
The tampon tax is the regular sales tax applied to period-related products because they’re categorized as a non-necessity.
At any given time, it’s estimated that 800 million people around the world are on their periods, but many of them cannot afford period products, let alone the tax on these items. In fact, it’s estimated that $150 million is spent each year on the sales tax alone for menstruation products. The average person will spend a little over $13 a month on period products, which doesn’t sound like much—but it adds up to over $6,000 in their lifetime.
Simply having a period contributes to the socioeconomic inequalities still rampant in our country—the tampon tax is just the bitter icing on the Pop-Tart.
In the United States, 1 in 5 teenagers have struggled to afford basic period products while 1 in 4 have missed class because they did not have access to period products. This problem deemed “period poverty” isn’t new, and it’s certainly not exclusive to the U.S.
WHAT IS PERIOD POVERTY?
Period poverty is the limited access to menstrual products due to lack of income and resources. The harsh reality is that people around the world are pushed into isolation by essentially being forced to miss education or work due to their period. This is especially true in marginalized communities like prisons, shelters, refugee camps, and developing countries, where menstruation products and other supplies are not only unaffordable, but unavailable. Many may find themselves at risk of infection because they have to use unsanitary DIY alternatives like toilet paper, newspaper, cardboard, or socks instead of pads or tampons.
The harsh reality is that people around the world are pushed into isolation by essentially being forced to miss education or work due to their period because of their limited access to menstrual products.
Other circumstances that contribute to the marginalization of those who menstruate may include lack of access to safe toilet facilities or clean water, and, oftentimes, discriminatory cultural norms and practices isolate those menstruating even more, making it difficult to maintain good menstrual and mental health.
We believe everyone should have access to manage their menstruation safely, hygienically, and with normalcy and dignity. Wherever you are in the world—whether you have a period or not—period poverty affects everyone; when people lack access to basic hygiene and care products, there are social and economic implications for everyone.
Taking down the tampon tax can help alleviate the financial burden of menstruation, advance gender and economic equity, and challenge our policymakers to accommodate the needs of some of our most vulnerable populations. Menstrual rights are human rights.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP END PERIOD POVERTY
Check to see if your state has a tampon tax still in place.
Engage in the Tampon Tax Protest at taxfreeperiod.com.
Donate your unused period products to local homeless and domestic violence shelters.
Support nonprofit organizations that help fight period poverty and are committed to taking down the tampon tax like #HappyPeriod & PERIOD
Talk about periods and break the stigma surrounding menstruation.
RESOURCES FOR FREE OR LOW-COST PERIOD PRODUCTS
Try free samples with environmentally friendly tampons and liners from Libra.
Try a one month supply of organic Cora period liners for $6