Women have come an incredibly long way throughout history; we have fought for our right to vote, our right to contribute to the workforce, and even our right to have a voice in policy and legislation to help (quite literally) change the world. While it is vitally important to acknowledge such accomplishments, it is equally essential to acknowledge where there is room for change so we can make progress as a society. In recent years, feminism has evolved into an even more widespread movement empowering a multitude of young women across the entire world and continuously exposing sexism and injustices toward women worldwide. Yet, in a country as industrialized and modernized as the United States, sexism is still institutionalized and integrated into nearly every aspect of modern life.
One example of this regulatory sexism is the sales tax on feminine hygiene products. In short, products such as tampons and menstrual pads are not exempt from states’ sales tax in the majority of states in the U.S. — meaning that the maintenance of a non-preventable and biological process such as a woman’s period is considered non-essential. Not only is this inherently sexist due to the delegitimizing of a woman’s biological functioning, it also leaves an even more detrimental impact on the overwhelmingly large homeless population in the United States, where the difference of tax versus no tax is the difference between health and sanitation versus dangers of infection and discomfort. Tampons and other feminine hygiene products have already been classified as medicinal devices by the FDA, sparking the question: how are these products not tax exempt under medicinal goods?
According to BBC, “the average woman menstruates from the ages of 12 to 50 and tampons in the U.S. cost roughly $7 for a box of 36.” If the average woman has a menstrual cycle each month for 36 years, the amount of revenue produced from the sale of feminine hygiene products is monumental. In fact, it has been estimated in New York that extinguishing the tax on tampons and other menstrual products would save consumers $10 million a year. The greedy and sexist tax placed on necessary items such as tampons and menstrual pads proves Americans are capitalizing off a woman’s inevitable cycle. In a society where a woman already earns only 80 cents to a dollar earned by equally qualified men (this only being white women, women of color earn even less to their equal counterparts), this tax only bolsters already existent discrimination toward women.
Efforts have already been made worldwide to eliminate the sexist tampon tax. A Bill 1561 was proposed by Cristina Garcia of California, requesting that the tax on such products be abolished in California, where women pay over $20 million in annual taxes for menstrual products. Various online petitions can be signed by those outraged and seeking change in order to treat women as equal by not undermining their periods as “luxuries.” It is time to put an end to this “regulatory discrimination” and prove that if doughnuts or a bag of potato chips are considered essential enough to remain tax exempt, feminine hygiene products should be too.