The fight against tampon tax

Nina Schmidt, Editor-In-Chief

No one likes menstrual periods. That’s a fact. It’s also a fact that the majority of the U.S. government considers them to be a luxury.

Yes, that’s right. Tampons, pads and other products that help women manage their menstrual periods are taxed as luxury items in 38 states. Excluding Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon, states without sales tax, that’s 85 percent of states that tax “feminine hygiene products” as luxuries.

In the town of San Anselmo, sales tax is 8.75 percent. The average woman spends about $2,220 on tampons and pads in her life according to a 2015 article in the Huffington Post. That’s over $190 dollars in just sales tax.

That amount might not seem too large to Marinites who spend more than that on one pair of Beats headphones, but it makes a huge difference to women in other parts of the country.

Those living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota frequently miss school because of an inability to pay for tampons. As an already disadvantaged group, the education of women on the reservation is vital and their education is limited because the U.S. government thinks that tampons are not a necessity.

According to a January 2016 article in the Washington Post, tax on tampons and pads adds up over $20 million annually just in California. Many argue that the tampon tax is necessary because states need the income, but $20 million is barely a drop in the bucket of California’s annual sales tax income.

Only one demographic feels this tax’s effect: people who are biologically female. Menstruation isn’t something that women can control, yet the U.S. government taxes women anyway. It’s a tax on something that is a biological necessity for a functional life. Same as food or medicine. On top of that, it’s a tax that affects women who already suffer from other aspects of our sexist society like the wage gap. Recently, some institutions have decided to take action.

According to a Newsweek article from September 6th, 2016, Brown University has started providing free tampons and pads to its student body. In addition, last summer New York City passed legislation that requires public schools to provide tampons and pads in all school buildings with sixth through 12th graders.

Tampon tax is also a point of discussion in the U.K. Some major drug stores in the U.K. like Tescos and Waitrose are combatting this ridiculous tax by covering the cost of the tax for their patrons.

Scotland is taking their action a step further by running a six month initiative to provide free feminine hygiene products in schools and homeless shelters in low-income areas. Providing these essential items takes one cost out of a low income women’s tight budget. Women from low income families shouldn’t have to worry about how to feed and clothe their families, cover household expenses, pay for school supplies and on top of everything else, worry about how they’re going to pay for tampons.

The fight to end tampon tax in the U.S. is also picking up steam. According to a May, 2017 Huffington Post article, 20 states have introduced bills to end the tax or debated the issue.

Hopefully change is coming and not just because of the financial burden. Eliminating the tax on tampons and pads is a step towards eliminating sexism.