With Canada’s recent abolishment on the taxing of feminine hygiene products, the pressure for the U.S. to follow its lead is quickly rising as women push for reform.
Despite items such as tampons and pads being mandatory for those who deal with menstruation, the “tampon tax” treats them as luxury items rather than necessities, ultimately telling women that to cramp, bloat, break out, and bleed for days at a time every single month is a privilege that they must pay for.
The call for the taxing of feminine hygiene products to end has been ongoing amongst women for years, but now that Canada has become the first country to ax the taxing, it is beginning to be a possible reality rather than wishful thinking.
Most states tax all “tangible personal property,” yet make exemptions for certain “necessities,” such as groceries, clothes, food stamp purchases, and agricultural products, as reported by . Though all of these items are deemed as necessary since life would be virtually impossible without them, our government has still failed to realize that feminine hygiene products being left off of this list causes great negative effects on women everywhere.
As anyone with a basic knowledge of how the female body works knows, menstruation is not a choice that women have the power to make, though they would very much like to.
“Like going to the bathroom, menstruation is an involuntary bodily function,” wrote Cosmopolitan Magazine writer Prachi Gupta. “If even made available in public restrooms, individual tampons and pads cost money—but can you imagine paying for every time you wiped your butt and washed your hands?”
The judging of feminine hygiene products as luxury is unjust and harmful to women in several ways that many people, both civilian and government-affiliated, still fail to realize.
“Tampons have always been considered a luxury. That isn’t by accident, that’s by design of an unequal society in which the concerns of women are not treated as equally as the concerns of men,” said United Kingdom Parliament member Stella Creasy, as reported by The Huffington Post.
Creasy compared tampons to several items that are not subject to tax, such as razors.
“The opportunity to shave for many of them [men] is a human right,” she said. “I’m sure they would be concerned to be charged that way.”
Since even pita bread is one of the many items not taxed, apparently it is more of a necessity than products that keep women from bleeding out all over themselves and things around them, Creasy said.
“It’s when you start looking at what is described as necessity and what is described as luxury that you see the inequalities in this debate,” concluded Creasy.
The tax law can not only have negative effects on the mindset of both men and women regarding the natural cycle of menstruation, but on the financial limitations of women as well. Despite merely being a few cents on the dollar, the inconsiderate taxing is very capable of having negative effects on women financially.
“Low-income women who rely on food stamps can’t use their federal assistance on tampons, nor are feminine hygiene products considered among tax-redeemable medical expenses,” wrote Gupta. “For the millions of women who are struggling to take care of themselves, and often times their families, a few cents can add up very quickly and painfully.”
Research suggests that women spend nearly $28,000 on period-related products and around $2,000 on tampons alone throughout a lifetime, according to The Huffington Post.
Remembering how much more expensive it is to be a woman than it is a man, the tax is proven to be even more ridiculous.
Women pay more than men for “92% of the best-selling health plans.” They also pay over $10,000 in necessary lady-specific medical care throughout their whole lives, even with the help from insurance, and are charged more for everyday products, like shampoo and deodorant, than men are, according to The Nation.
These numbers are even more outrageous when we remember that working women only make, on average, 78 cents of every dollar that a man makes, with the amount getting lower and lower within each race.
As of now, only five states have actively made decisions not to tax feminine hygiene products: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.
Some states do not tax certain items that can be argued as equally necessary as tampons, such as pregnancy tests in Colorado and incontinence pads for bladder dysfunction in North Dakota and Connecticut, yet they still continue to tax tampons.
Some states even find it reasonable to leave certain unnecessary items virtually untaxed, such as disposable heating pads in Vermont.
Even during “tax holidays” that make everyday items usually subject to sales tax duty-free for a day or weekend, in states such as Alabama, the taxing of feminine hygiene products is still forced upon women.
Jennifer Weiss Wolf wrote in the NY Daily News that making tampons duty-free does three major things. It lifts a small financial burden from all women, promotes gender equality, and “opens the door to what broader policy reforms would look like and what the problem really does look like for low-income women.”
It is high time that the United States actively makes the decision to help lead the world in the abolishment of the tax on women and in the support for gender equality in all issues of life, no matter how trivial they seem.
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