Tampons: The Pamper Product

By Hannah Leverenz

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The so-called “tampon tax” has recently been the subject of much debate, especially after Chicago and the European Union have removed sales taxes on feminine hygiene products, putting pressure on other countries and states to repeal the extra duty. The taxes currently imposed on feminine products fall under the category of a luxury tax, which is usually applied to items deemed inessential for the general population. In some states, toilet paper also falls under this category.

Women have taken to social media to express their frustration with the tampon tax, posting photos of their packages of “luxury goods” and criticizing the selective legal processes behind the tax. Although many of these jabs are lighthearted, the issues they raise are serious. Many women point out that rationale behind determining what is necessary and what is superfluous regarding tampons is determined predominantly by men.

In February, a bill proposed to abolish the sales tax on tampons was rejected in Utah, where it was presided over by an all-male committee of legislators. The Utah Women’s Coalition spoke out, with member Stephanie Pitcher commenting on the discrepancy between that decision and others made by the committee, who have determined that prescription drugs and many foods should not be taxed while still standing firm in the belief that hygienic products specific to females should be.

A simple Google search for “male products” turns up shopping advertisements for “masculine” scented body scrubs and lotions, razors, and hair gel, all commodities that are not distinctively for men, and are interchangeably used by the opposite gender. Women have also taken to social media to question what “male” products ought to be considered luxuries. There have been, of course, sexist responses, like one twitter user’s claim that trousers were a “male-only tax” product.

On the other hand, Googling “feminine” products immediately turns up results for menstrual products, including, but not limited to, pads, tampons, and period cups. This is exactly the problem: Women are subject to paying an extra amount to maintain basic sanitary requirements during menstruation, a bodily process that cannot be controlled or monitored through natural means. There literally are no male-specific products that are subject to an extra tax, and their lack of understanding also stems from a lack of experience.

Not only are the basic rights of women being invaded, the decision that solely affects women is being decided upon by men, who not only do not experience this cycle, but are uncomfortable discussing the issue.

In London, female Parliament member Stella Creasy had to actually force a Conservative Party member to say the word tampon, after he repeatedly referred tampons as “that product.” With men treating the subject with such disdain and disgust, it’s no wonder they can so easily write off feminine cleanliness as a luxury.

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