From Obama to Vogue journalists, people are speaking out against the #tampontax and citing the need to increase access for women in need. Just last week, NYC’s Queens Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland announced a pilot program that will equip 25 high schools in low-income neighborhoods with free, stocked tampon dispensers to combat girls staying home from school, a great step forward for the local community and ‘gendered policies.’
Earlier this month, five women from all walks of life came together and sued the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, arguing that the “Tampon Tax“, or sales tax levied on pads and tampons due to their classification as luxury goods, creates a double standard for men and women and “serves no purpose but to discriminate.”
Although our home state of New York may not be among the first five states to eliminate the #tampontax, we’re proud that it’s taking some serious action on this topic of #menstrualequity , an awesome follow up to another related and NYC Congresswoman backed issue around #healthymenstruation that we heard a lot about and reported on last year – the #tampontruth.
Ironically, although tampons are considered medical devices and are regulated by the FDA because of their risk in contributing to the occurrence of Toxic Shock Syndrome, they are not considered so under tax law. Currently New York exempts “medical necessities” from sales tax such as Viagra, Rogaine, Chapstick, and dandruff shampoo; but not tampons and pads, an exclusion that their well-known civil rights firm argues is a constitutional violation and one that exposes a glaring gender bias inherent in our legal system.
The tax campaign reflects a broader debate over “gender pricing,” the phenomenon that although women end up making about 75% in comparison to their male counterparts, they are charged approximately 7% more for similar products and services as well.
Legislation to eliminate the tax was introduced last year and since the beginning of the 2016 state legislative sessions, bills to exempt tampons and pads from sales tax have been introduced or resurrected in California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Virginia, Illinois, and Wisconsin, many with bipartisan support.
California has reported eliminating the tax would mean a loss of about $20 million, which in the grand scheme of things isn’t much, but might mean several dollars saved for the women who on average, spend well over $3,000 on tampons and pads over the course of their lifetime.
“Women’s outcry over this issue isn’t just about the tax on tampons. It’s a reflection of the routine unfairness that seeps into our everyday lives,” said Sonia Ossorio, president of NOW-NYC. “At the end of the day, the tampon tax movement is one small way to challenge the broader sexism that still persists. Because that’s the real taboo here.”
While Utah rejected the bill, the discussion has paved the way for others that may more proportionately affect women. For example, in Congress, Democratic Representative Grace Meng (NY) has introduced a bill that would allow people to pay for feminine hygiene products with their health care spending accounts, a partial win since many women are still trying to pay for pads with food stamps. The five states leading the national movement are Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and New Jersey.
As Margo Seibert, the lead plaintiff (and Broadway actor who co-founded RACKET, an organization that facilitates tampon/sanitary pad donation drives for New York City homeless shelters) said in regards to last week’s case, “Menstruation products are essential and it is time to acknowledge that access shouldn’t depend on who can afford them. It’s time to talk periods.”
So, join hands with us at Maxim Hygiene and support your local congress representatives making women’s health more affordable for everyone. Write them a letter, sign a local petition or donate to one of the causes supported by the Fierce Women we feature each month!