Tampon tax under fire from women in the U.S.A.


Story by Carly Berthiaume, Editor-in-Chief

Since the dawn of the sales tax, a portion of each woman’s monthly finances is spent on supporting her state government each time she purchases her monthly supply of feminine hygiene products. This sales tax on all things feminine-hygiene has come to be known as the “tampon tax,” and many women are taking a stand against what they see as a moral outrage.
Much of the anger stems from the wording behind the tampon tax: most states make exceptions for certain “necessities” in sales tax codes on “tangible personal property.” However, according to the majority of these sales tax codes, including Florida’s, feminine hygiene products like pads, tampons, pantiliners, etc. are considered not considered “necessities” and are, therefore, taxable. As any girl or woman who has been caught for her period unprepared can say, these products are not luxuries; there is no getting by without pads or tampons, and only five states have taken active steps to clarify the wording of their tax codes so that women do not have to pay fees to their state governments for unavoidable monthly cycles.
Some people have argued that the additional costs that go toward the sales tax are so small as to be inconsequential. This may be true for many, but it is often the core principle behind the sales tax that feminists find fault with. Also, for women who struggle each month to support themselves and their families financially- because food stamps don’t cover hygienic supplies- the little extra adds up. Meeting the required monthly cost of these supplies is even more difficult for the unemployed, but women have no other choice but to pay; some radicals or “free-bleeders” have gone without pads and tampons in order to protest the sales tax, but it is the common consensus that feminine hygiene products are required if a person intends to work, attend school, or even venture out into public.
Additionally, the little extra that goes toward the sales tax is not such a small price as it may originally seem. If most women get their first periods around age twelve and go through menopause around age fifty, that’s thirty-eight years times twelve months, which is 456 periods in one lifetime. If a woman spends between $10 and $15 per month on pads and tampons, the total cost spent in her lifetime on feminine hygiene products, not including sales tax or inflation, is roughly between $4,560 and $6,840. In Florida the sales tax is 6%, so the total cost due to just sales tax is between $273.60 and $410.40. This cost could be smaller or larger depending on her particular menstrual cycle and which products she uses.
Some women have managed to avoid the sales tax altogether by purchasing their supplies online. The founder of Cora, Molly Hayward, started one such subscription company offering organic feminine products to women monthly by mail, and for every box sold, Cora provides a month’s supply of products to girls in need. Though the company originally started their initiative in India, Hayward said that access to feminine hygiene products is a global problem. With their new website and product launch on Feb. 8, she hopes to see her business expand in the coming years and eventually expand the product types and the number of partners Cora has globally.
“Because we’ve been a business based in Pennsylvania,” said Hayward, “and we sell online, taxation hasn’t been an issue for us. But we are strong advocates for abolishing the tax on feminine products nationally as we believe these products are in no way a luxury good but rather essential for all women.”
Many people argue that part of the reason the tampon tax is an issue in the first place is that underlying idea that periods are something people shouldn’t talk about in public- something socially unacceptable or taboo. Many have said that becoming more comfortable with talk about periods and the monthly products they require can be a game-changer in women’s rights, especially when it comes to the male-dominated political world.
“Don’t be afraid to talk about it- it is a normal and natural process of women’s bodies. Openness and pride in our bodies,” said Hayward, “are the greatest ways to normalize periods and remove the stigma for both women and men.”

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