The Luxury Of Womanhood: Why It's Time For Tax-Free Tampons In The US

by Ursula Ambrose-Simpson

"Tampon tax" is a term that's catchy, alliterative and still a little taboo.

But when it comes to the taxation of all feminine hygiene products, it's important to realize they are considered luxury items in far too many places.

This is a global issue not limited to just the United States.

More than 3.6 billion people on our planet need to use these products for an average of 360 weeks of their lives, so why is this such an intractable issue for politicians?

Why is it that in developed nations — with what we like to think of as increasingly liberal attitudes — we still have to put up with this throwback of attitudes toward menstruation?

The tampon is not a modern invention, and its first origins can be found in ancient Egypt with softened papyrus.

The Romans used wool, and in Indonesia, vegetable fibers were the material of choice.

The practice of using various materials to stem the flow of menstrual blood has been around thousands of years, and it’s going to continue to trouble us until the eventual demise of the human species.

If women didn't menstruate, they wouldn’t be able to procreate.

Just accept that and get over it, people.

Taxing these goods as a luxury item is like penalizing someone for breathing.

I’m sure you’ve all seen the Twitter swipes at this issue with sentiments like, "Tough day, need to unwind. Treating myself to a cheeky box of Tampax."

These comments are so apt because not only are feminine hygiene products hardly a bubble bath and a Netflix binge, but they are also fundamental to the functionality of our society.

Without these products, we would have to choose between braving public transport and the workplace with blood running down our legs, or, like the majority of the women working in factories in Bangladesh, we'd take six working days off every month.

That would result in a 30 percent drop in working days for half of the workforce.

Our industries and economy could not sustain themselves without menstruating women.

Only a paltry five states in the US — Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota and New Jersey — have consciously decided not to tax tampons and sanitary napkins.

If you’re lucky enough to live in Oregon, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire or Alaska, you will also escape the taxation, but only as a happy side benefit to sales tax legislation in these jurisdictions.

Contradictions in health priorities are highlighted nationwide, with 10 states taxing tampons, but not candy.

As The Guardian highlights:

In the United States, access to tampons and pads for low-income women is a real problem, too: food stamps don’t cover feminine hygiene products, so some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for 'luxuries' like tampons.

Both Australia and Canada have produced petitions large enough to not just catch the attention of, but actually garner governmental support for legislation change.

Tampons became tax-exempt in Canada as of July 1, 2015.

Do we all need to start taking road trips over the border to purchase our feminine hygiene products?

Here's to sanitary napkin smuggling!

With the breakdown of the lifetime cost of periods, this idea becomes much less ridiculous.

To fund a lifetime of tampons, you would need to work six full 40-hour weeks at the current minimum wage.

That’s a month and a half of your life spent paying for your naughty little habit of extravagantly menstruating.

Well after all this chat, I may have to go out and grab myself some indulgently absorbent Kotex products.

I'm really living the high life.