by Brynn Gibson
You are about to pee your pants. You are sprinting, full speed ahead, to the restroom. You Usain Bolt it to the nearest stall and slam the door shut. You made it! Congrats. But just as you perform your victory dance, you turn to the right. The toilet paper is locked up in a dispenser. It costs 25 cents to wipe. Who even carries change anymore?
Yes, this might seem outrageous. Toilet paper is a necessity; it should be provided in a public restroom, right? Now, imagine the same situation, but you are physically incapable of holding it in, and instead of urine, it’s blood.
Why aren’t tampons and pads free in public restrooms? The answer is simple; they are too expensive. In thirty-five American states, sales tax, or “tampon tax,” still applies to basic feminine hygiene products like pads and tampons. While feminine hygiene products are not subjected to additional taxation, pads and tampons are classified as non-essential items and are therefore subjected to the same sales tax as luxury goods. According to state legislators in 36 states, feminine hygiene products are optional. Periods are part of a mandatory biological process; I can assure you, they are not optional. The products needed to handle them should not be considered as such.
Things like toothpaste, shampoo, and toilet paper are basic hygiene necessities and are obviously not subject to sales tax. However, apparently, humans also cannot live without erection medication, pop-tarts, or condoms, which are also exempt from sales tax. How is wanting access to period products such an unreasonable and luxurious request? It is not fair or constitutional to tax a bodily function. Those born with a uterus did not choose to have one, and should not pay a tax because of it.
People who menstruate in America spend a total of over two billion dollars annually on period products, according to a study by San Francisco State University. Since menstrual products are already expensive, when subjected to additional taxation, period products become unattainable for those experiencing financial hardship. Many menstruating individuals experiencing homelessness are forced to choose between tampons and lunch. Many must resort to using toilet paper, rags, trash, or even old socks as makeshift replacements. Since these replacements are often unclean, there is a very high risk of potentially life-threatening infection.
Another consequence of this financial barrier involves the stigma surrounding menstruation. Without access to proper menstrual hygiene products, many people are ashamed to go out in public and attend school or work. According to The Pad Project, the organization behind the Academy- Award-winning documentary “Period. End Of Sentence.,” one in five American girls have reported missing school as a result of lacking access to proper period products. This so-called “period poverty” prevents impoverished menstruating individuals from receiving a proper education, or even getting a job. If those experiencing financial destitution cannot attend school or work, how are they expected to break free from the cycle of poverty?
To those who disagree with me, I only have one question: why? What possible gain do you receive from taxing tampons as a luxury? It’s not even a big request. All we are asking for is to take away a tax on something that should never have been classed as a luxury item in the first place. In an ideal world, period products would be free in all public restrooms, just like toilet paper. How would you like to carry around a roll of toilet paper with you at all times? As a bare minimum, female hygiene products should be considered the absolute necessity that they are. You shouldn’t be paying a price because you bleed monthly.
So, the next time any girl or menstruating individual brings light to this issue, please, have some empathy. This is not an argument worth fighting against.
(Sources: The Pad Project, SFSU, Huffington Post)