Would you class tampons as a luxury? Do you think we should pay more for a shower gel if it has a picture of flowers on the front? Are biscuits more essential than tampons? If you’ve answered ‘No’ to any of these questions, congratulations - you’re just as annoyed about the pink tax as we are!
Whilst there has been much progress in recent years to make products for people with uteruses more affordable, the fact is that around the world there is still a huge financial disparity - and we need to keep talking about it.
What is the Pink Tax?
The ‘Pink Tax’ refers to gender-based price disparities that leave women, people with uteruses or anyone that wants to use products traditionally aimed at femme-identifying people - out of pocket. The Tampon Tax (more on that in a minute) is one of the biggest issues when it comes to this misogynistic financial burden, but it runs a little deeper than that.
Research has found that femininely branded products ‘aimed at women’ ie. clothes, deodorants, razors and shower gels are more expensive than those ‘aimed at men’ and branded masculinely. This not only highlights how ridiculous it is to have a gender binary when it comes to something as simple as cleaning ourselves but that once again the people not aligned with the traditionally masculine way of doing things are missing out.
What is the Tampon Tax?
Look, you know we all love a bit of period positivity here at Lunette - but even we wouldn’t describe having a period as a luxury. Yes, it’s pretty cool that we have superpowers at each stage of our menstrual cycle and everything, but it’s no five-star resort in the Maldives.
And yet, the people who decide how much tax is put on the products we buy certainly class period care products as a luxury. Despite items like cakes and books being deemed as ‘essential items’ worldwide, in many countries tampons, pads and reusables (like menstrual cups) are still classed as ‘non-essential’ and come with a hefty tax price tag.
The reality of this is that tampons - and pads and menstrual cups - are basic necessity items. If you have a menstrual cycle, then you need a period care product. In other words, you’re being taxed for having a uterus - also known as the Tampon Tax.
The average person uses approximately 11,000 tampons during their reproductive years. That means that each person is paying roughly $800 - in taxes. It’s an unfair burden to place on people with uteruses - periods are not something any of us asked for, are necessary for the continued growth of the human race, and, for many, are painful (emotionally and/or physically).
But things are changing
Over the last few years, many countries have realised the error of their ways and reduced the tax on period care products to zero - most notably India in 2018, Australia in 2019 and the UK in 2021. All of these changes came after long campaigns from activists who fought against the idea that periods were a ‘luxury’. There have been other successful campaigns in countries like Spain and France where the tax has been greatly reduced and although we’d love to see everywhere at 0% eventually - progress is progress.
However, there are still many countries where the tax on period care products is astronomical, including our home country of Finland where the tampon tax is 24%!
Some of the other worst offenders of the tampon tax include Hungary, where it’s 27%, Croatia where it’s 25% and Brazil, where taxes form 34% of the price of menstrual products. Whilst there have been many campaigns in America to end the tampon tax, tax is decided on a state-by-state basis. States like California, New York, Iowa and Massachusetts have no sales tax on menstrual products, there are still 20+ states that do!
Who is affected by the tampon tax?
Obviously, it’s frustrating to know that our period care products cost more than they are supposed to due to the tampon tax. These prices impact everybody, especially when we are in a global cost of living crisis and everyone is watching their budgets.
However, there are some people that are more affected by this than others. Period poverty impacts people all over the world, particularly people experiencing displacement - like homelessness or those seeking refuge - or those who simply cannot afford to purchase the period care products they need. We believe that not only should the tampon tax be banned, but we should push to make more products completely free for those in need.
What You Can Do About It
It’s clear that people power works when it comes to the tampon tax - and when we all come together we can make positive change happen. Here are just some ways you can help when it comes to the tampon tax - and supporting people who are effected by it.
- If you’re in a country or State that still taxes menstrual products unfairly - don’t be afraid to use your voice and push for change n your local area!
- Support a menstrual hygiene education organization like WASH United by donating here.
- Buy a menstrual cup - and save yourself thousands of dollars on tampons
- Write to your State Representative and ask them to lobby for no tax on tampons
- Talk about it with your friends - conversation is the catalyst to change
Though we may be behind the times when it comes to women’s rights (and the rights of anyone with a uterus), we are making progress. More change will come as we speak up and make our voices heard.