What is the Tampon Tax?

If you’ve ever had a period then you know that monthly bleeding is a luxury afforded to only about half the population. Wait...what? That claim seems outrageous and, for many of us who bleed, offensive. Anyone who has ever dug through their bag in desperate hopes of trying to find a tampon can attest to the fact that having a period is no luxury. And yet, the people who wrote the laws allowing adult diapers and viagras to be tax-exempt items, while levying a hefty tax on tampons, seem to disagree. 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.

The Burden of 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). So, why then, are we being taxed? In an interview with YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen, President Obama said he believes it’s “because men wrote the law”. I tend to agree with the President. While there is a good percentage of men who believe, like POTUS, that anyone who menstruates should have easy access to period care products, the men who are lawmakers often don’t affect that change for the better.

But taxes aren’t the only issue that needs addressing. People with low incomes often don’t have regular access to period care products because they simply can’t afford them. Tampons should be free - just like toilet paper. I mean, you would be shocked if you were asked to pay for toilet paper in a bathroom, right? Menstruation is as much of a natural bodily function as going to the bathroom. All states should be following in New York City’s footsteps - they were the first to mandate that schools and hospitals would be required offer free tampons.

Who is Affected by the Tampon Tax?

Some people have no access to tampons, period. In developing countries, girls are forced to use old rags or dirt and leaves to manage their periods. This isn’t even touching on the cultural taboos of menstruation that leave women feeling dirty and marginalized.

On the other side of that, we have people for whom buying tampons requires absolutely no second thought. They have plenty of money and don’t worry about whether buying a box of tampons to manage their flow means they can’t afford groceries for the week. That’s not to say that the tampon tax doesn’t affect them - it just doesn’t play into their buying decision.

Where most of us fall is somewhere in the middle. We’re neither rich nor poor. We need tampons but aren’t exactly thrilled to drop $15 a box on something that we’re going to need every month for the next couple decades or so. Still, we can buy products to manage our flows without worrying how we’ll put gas in the car.

What is important to realize here is that it doesn’t matter how much money you have when it comes to the Tampon Tax. Yes, it is easier for some of us to overlook the tax levied against our uteruses because it doesn’t come at that high of a (metaphorical) price. But the point isn’t the money - it’s the sexism and disregard for basic human rights that is the point. Our bodies should not be taxed.

What You Can Do About It

Especially after this election, people are wondering how they can get involved in changing policies that put groups of people into situations in which they aren’t being treated fairly. When it comes to the Tampon Tax, there are things you can do to help yourself and your fellow menstruators:

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.