From eliminating the Tampon Tax to a bill that supplies young girls and women with free sanitary napkins in public schools, jails and homeless shelters, New York state has made major progress in reducing the gender bias women face on a systemic level. Leading efforts to change policy from the ground up is our Fierce Woman of the Month – Assemblywoman Linda B Rosenthal. Assemblymember Rosenthal has consistently fought for women’s health rights during her decade in office and has been instrumental in transforming social conversations surrounding issues of reproductive health into larger policy changes, pushing gender and socioeconomic equality into the spotlight.
Our Chief Flow Rider, Rebecca Alvandi, first met Assemblywoman Rosenthal at the footsteps of NYC’s city hall to rally around the passing of a bill that was the first of it’s kind in making menstrual hygiene history! These fierce women were joined by other social activists like Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, whose most responsible for coining the term menstrual equity, and NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferrera Copeland, another champion behind the bill that addresses menstrual equity where it is most needed. It was there that Rebecca realized even moreso than ever “the importance of having female politicians in power so that women’s issues are better represented.”
And yet, while New York is leading the nation in addressing antiquated, patriarchal and sexist laws, the focus of national conversation in relation to women’s health has had more crescendo over Hillary’s bout of pneumonia and her completely unrelated ability to lead this nation. As the election winds down tomorrow, many have had a chance to think about what it would be like to have a woman at the helm of the Oval Office, yet how many of us have taken the time to honor those women in office that are already making positive change for women’s health? We couldn’t think of a better way than dedicating this month’s Fierce Woman of the Month post to Assemblymember Rosenthal, who by the way, just this past September won her primary election with 96% of the vote!
It’s more important than ever to tell the story of our city that could (and did), and of our female elected representatives, because people claim that voting doesn’t matter and it absolutely does. The work that these women have made is because of the social movement finally communicating with and working with the people that listen. It turns out, women listen; it’s been cited as a survival tactic women have had to develop to deal with everything from husbands to mansplaining, but it is also the key to making policies that affect needed change. It may be the key to good governance and good democracy as listening implies understanding and cooperation; it has worked with the state of New York and it may work for the country. Regardless of whether you’re voting for a female or not, we urge you to keep the female plight in mind and take the time to honor those women (and men) who so tactfully have already this year.
We got the chance to sit down with Assemblywoman Rosenthal and speak with her about women in politics, how each of us can work to make a change, and her inspirations. Read on below to learn more about her charity work and her experience as a woman in politics —
We’ve talked a lot about how the lack of representation of women in politics has led to sexist and outdated laws like the Tampon Tax. What inspired you to run for office and what do you thinking are some of the barriers holding more women from getting more involved?
“I never thought I would run for office. I had been working for Congressman Jerry Nadler as his District Director and Director of Special Projects for 13 years when the seat that I now hold became open. Some friends and colleagues encouraged me to run because they thought I was the most qualified candidate (in a field that included six men), and I did.
Though the number of women running for and winning elective office is higher now than it has even been, the historic dearth of women in governing bodies is an obstacle for women in and of itself. In Congress, only 19.4%, or 104 of 535 members, are women. Young women and girls have had few women in the political sphere after whom they can model themselves. Regardless of your politics, the fact that the first woman from a major party is running for president will have a tremendous impact on young women and girls, who will now be able to see themselves in the White House because of her.
In addition, politics has historically been a boy’s club, regardless of whether it’s been a conscious effort to keep the doors to the club closed. Women need role models and mentors in other women, people pushing and helping them to run and to win. Had I not been pushed by people who saw the drive and potential in me, I likely would not have run myself.
Finally, the lack of family-friendly policies has served as a deterrent for women, who take on the vast majority of family care and housework, even if they are employed outside the home, to consider public office a viable option. Without policies in place that support working women with families, such as paid family leave and strong child care supports, women often feel forced to choose. We can have it all, but only with the right supports in place, both familial and community.
Running for elective office is time-consuming and challenging, and without universal family-friendly policies in place, I fear representation of women and our unique issues will continue to lag. I am heartened by the national conversation taking place around these issues, and feel confident that as more states follow New York’s lead to pass paid family leave and other family-friendly policies, we will see more women running and winning elective office.”
What inspired you to work on the eliminating the Tampon Tax and how did you first come to the realization that it was an issue that needed to be addressed?
“After a long week, my staff and I often sit down on a Friday afternoon and think about legislative or policy issues that need to be addressed. That’s how I have as many bills as I do! On one particular Friday, we were discussing the implicit bias that exists in the law. For instance, most of the pronouns used in New York State law are masculine. We’re working to change that, but that sparked a conversation about the subtle discrimination we as women experience, legally, culturally and otherwise. We discussed the “beauty tax,” and the fact that women often pay more than men for gendered hygiene products, like shampoo and shaving cream. This naturally led to a conversation about how expensive tampons and sanitary napkins are and then whether they are taxed, since they are the only women-only, medically necessary hygiene product. I introduced the bill about a year before the national conversation really started, so when the issue exploded, I was thrilled that I was ready to go!”
You mentioned on our call that out of the 65 bills you’ve worked on that have turned in to law, the bill to eliminate the tampon tax was the first to have nobody voting against it. Why do you think that is?
“This is a no brainer, once you actually think about it. Who could argue that tampons and sanitary napkins are luxury items that should be subject to tax?”
What tips do you have for any citizens who wish to share their perspective on other possible discriminatory laws? How can they get their voice to be heard?
“Social media has really provided each of us with an opportunity to amplify our voices in a way that we simply did not have before. Social media can and should be used as an effective agent for social change. In addition, I always encourage individuals to contact their elected officials directly to share their thoughts. Some of my best bills and laws have been inspired by constituents who have called or emailed to tell me about a problem. To find out who your elected officials are, you can visit https://www.270towin.com/elected-officials/.”
At Maxim Hygiene, we define a Fierce Woman as a “glorious female creature whose idea of beauty is hinged upon the idea that she can change the world with each choice, each moment and each breath of her life.” Who in your life is a Fierce Woman and why?
“It may sound cliché, but every women is a ‘fierce woman’ in her own way. From the single mother working two jobs to put food on the table for her children to the professional who chose not to have children, we are all making decisions, large and small, each and every day that break the rules and the glass ceiling. When we live our truth, honestly and without apology, when we stand up in the face of discrimination, when we demand better for ourselves and others, when we refuse to stay silent or back down, we are fierce women capable of changing the world.”
Maxim will be offering readers of this blog post feature a chance to support a non-profit of your choice or one of our non-profits for women’s empowerment partners via it’s #FierceWomenFunded campaign. Which charitable organization would you like to support and why?
“There are so many incredible, courageous organizations doing so much groundbreaking work to protect and promote women and our causes, so it’s impossible to list just one. I work closely with The Crime Victims Treatment Center of Mount Sinai West and St. Luke’s Hospitals, which provides support to survivors of rape, sexual assault and domestic violence. Susan Xanarios, the Executive Director, is helping to save lives every single day. In addition, the Center for Reproductive Rights is fighting to protect our right to make personal medical decisions for ourselves and the Ms. Foundation, which has helped to secure woman’s health, safety and economic justice for more than 40 years.”
Assemblymember Rosenthal has been so supportive of women’s rights and health, so let’s support her in funding her favorite other causes with our next purchase of Maxim Hygiene organic and natural personal care products at our online store. Just enter the following coupon code at check out and you’ll get 10% off* your next order and we’ll donate 10% of the sale to each of Assemblymember Rosenthal’s charities: FWLINDA
Most importantly, please get out and vote! It’s been almost one hundred years since women were granted the right to vote; let’s not let another 100 go by without more rights that will benefit our most important constitutional right of “all women and men are created equal.”
*This offer is valid now through December 31st, 2016 at www.maximhy.com only. This offer that can not be combined with any other offers, is not valid on shipping charges, not applicable to prior or pending orders and no adjustments can be made on previous purchases. Other restrictions may apply. Feel free to use the discount as many times as you like through the end of the year so that every purchase you make to feel better about your personal care can help make a difference in someone else’s health as well!