New York has taken a monumental step toward ensuring gender equity in legislation. Last month New York City passed the first bill of it’s kind in the nation to provide free tampons and pads to all public schools, prisons, and shelters for those individuals most in need and to all menstruators who all too often find themselves at a disadvantage when they don’t have access to this uncontrollable hygienic need. In addition to this significant advancement for women’s health, just last week New York state passed a bill to eliminate the 50-year old Tampon Tax, which will hopefully inspire the other 39 states that have yet to join. The growing movement to call out and change outdated laws that don’t account for gender differences is more exciting than we can ever remember!
What does menstrual and gender equity mean for the citizens of New York?
“The signing of this bill into law represents a new dawn,” said Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal, who was the first to introduce the no tax on tampons bill to the NY Assembly back in May 2015. “Women statewide will no longer be burdened by a lingering tax that was levied at a time when women were not part of government and the decision-making process,” a sentiment President Obama recently shared as well.
The initiative to provide menstrual hygiene supplies to girls in school was born out of a pilot program run by NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland to put pad and tampon dispensers in 25 public schools in Queens County. The pilot follows a national commitment to educational equity as reflected in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative that recognizes the inability to access menstrual products can affect attendance and productivity, especially for those one in four NYC public high school students who live in poverty.
In New York City, 79 percent of public school students are from low-income families; incarceration disproportionately affects low-income and minority communities; and being homeless often means having to prioritize food or housing over buying menstrual products. The cessation of this regressive gender tax represents an estimated $10 million in savings for women annually and addresses one element of the financial gap women acutely feel in cities like New York.
Dispensers are scheduled to be placed in 800 schools with an initial cost of $3.7 million and a yearly upkeep cost of $1.9 million. An estimated 2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads will go toward shelters at an estimated annual cost of $540,000, increasing access to at least 333,000 individuals.
In charge of allocating part of the city’s $82 million dollar budget, Copeland reports facing a lot of pushback and calls for justification about spending money on feminine hygiene products though she has never been interrogated her about toilet paper budgets. “[Tampons] are just as necessary as toilet paper, so they ought to be just as freely accessible,” she says. Amen!, we say.
Working alongside NYC locals Councilwoman Ferraras-Copeland and Assemblymember Rosenthal to slay taxes and inequity on the elected official side, were two other wonder women – State Senator Sue Serino and U.S. Congresswoman Grace Meng, who convinced the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, administered by FEMA, to allow shelters to purchase menstrual hygiene products with grant funds! Leading the civilian front was Jennifer Weiss-Wolf: author, activist, lawyer, VP of NYU’s Brennan Center for Justice, and Maxim’s very own Fierce Woman of May 2016! Her tireless advocacy work and many publications have been integral in making the taboo topic of periods a public issue.
What does menstrual and gender equity mean for the future of women everywhere?
It took the combined force of politicians, activists, non-profits and companies like ours for New York to make history, with tampons and pads. The media also played a critical role in bringing our stories to light and to the masses, giving people a chance to process and think about concepts and topics of conversation that are all too often considered taboo. Newsweek reporter Abigail Jones broke grounds a few months ago when she took grassroots efforts to the mainstream with her feature story entitled “There Will Be Blood” that was accompanied by an image of a bloody tampon on that week’s issue’s cover page, exposing the topic to the masses like we’ve never experienced before!
In her coverage of New York’s termination of the tampon tax last week, Jones took her exploration of menstruation to another level, when she roamed the streets of NYC, as seen in the video above, to ask its citizens if they know what tampons and pads are made of. Now that menstrual and gender equity is starting to get the attention it deserves and finally becoming less of a taboo topic, perhaps we can start better addressing the values our line of organic tampons and natural feminine hygiene products have been offering for over eight years – alternative and healthier menstrual care product options.
A Product Gift Certificate Giveaway in Support of Menstrual and Gender Equity
We’ve recently seen the resurgence of the “The Future is Female” t-shirt that was designed in the 1970s for Labyris Books, the first female women’s bookstore in New York City (ah, another great first for our great freedom fighting and trendsetting state of New York!). How ironic that during that time our fellow and past female rights activists were advocating for the passing of the Equal Rights Amendment that was finally passed by Congress in 1972, 52 years after when it was first written. Look how far we’ve come; although relative in size and affect, eliminating the tampon tax in New York only took 13 months and passing the initiative for free tampons and pads took even less time than that! While we continue to work on getting other states on board as quickly as possibly, we’ll also continue to advocate for your health. Until that time comes, we’ve got a giveaway opportunity for you that will give you a chance to try Maxim organic and natural tampons and pads for FREE!
To help spread the message about the need for changes in legislation in other states and in light of the $20.00/year on average that each non-taxed menstruator could and will be saving with the elimination of the #tampontax, we’re giving away twenty $20.00 gift certificates to our online store. To enter to win, fill out this form and review the other terms detailed on it.
It’s an exciting time to be female. As we close out the month of in which we celebrated our nation’s independence, it’s equally important to honor our traditional past as it is to honor our bright future, thanks to the current heroines and fierce women of our day. It is women working together and writing laws for other women, combined with men that are more educated about the female plight, that is creating equality and parity. Socioeconomic justice is closer than ever as is access to healthcare and dignity.