Friday, February 12, 2016

Period profits & the tampon tax

In some ways, this is a response and continuation to another author’s earlier blog post, #MasculinitySoFragile and the Gendering of Consumer Products. However, instead of focusing on the gendering of “male” products, this post will delve more into the “pink tax” profits associated with menstrual products.

The period profits

In one lifetime, the average person with a period will spend around $18,000 on menstrual products. 

While research has shown that historically the feminine hygiene industry has profited immensely from menstrual taboos and stereotypes, women continuously choose to purchase products associated with menstruation. 

Recently, it seems like people on the internet have been mesmerized with Thinx, the "period panties for modern women." Not only have Thinx come up in conversation with multiple groups of my friends, but they have been marketed to me on Facebook and Google Ads incessantly for the past few months. Time Magazine even included them as one of the best inventions of 2015. However, one pair of Thinx comes in around $30. Similarly, the ever-popular and environmentally friendly Diva Cup also costs around $30. While these products may result in costing less than disposable hygiene products, they also require a more hygienic living condition and are only options for women who have regular access to washrooms.  

California tampon tax

This year, California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia introduced Assembly Bill 1561: No Tax on Tampons. The bill proposes to make tampons, pads, and other menstrual products exempt from state sales tax. Each year, women in California spend over $20 million in taxes on these products. The average woman pays seven dollars a month for menstrual products, and has an average of 468 periods over her lifetime.

Assemblywoman Garcia asserts that feminine hygiene products should not be taxed because they are a basic necessity and taxing them creates a gender injustice. Women (or biologically female persons) are subject to paying tax on a product solely because of their biological sex.

The bill’s joint-author, Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, stated, “Our government is imposing a charge exclusively on women by forcing them to pay extra for the ‘privilege’ of a health necessity…and for many low-income communities it is difficult to access hygiene products.” While advocating for the bill, the authors have also focused on the difficulty many low-income women and women without permanent shelter have in affording and accessing these products. When women use irregular materials, or try to use tampons for longer than recommended, health concerns arise with issues around toxic shock syndrome, infection, and other sanitary concerns. 

Currently, California's tax code exempts numerous health items, including Viagra, walkers, and medical ID tags. To reiterate, men do not have to pay taxes to purchase the erectile dysfunction pill, but women must pay taxes on monthly feminine hygiene products. 

The National Coalition for Men put out a statement that they would support AB 1561"as long as it also includes sales taxes exemptions for neckties, jockstraps, and condoms." While taxing condoms presents a different issue, the fact that this group is equating tampons with neckties highlights the absurdity of the tax because there are no "medical" male equivalent products. 


Jenna said...

The website page about the statement put out by the National Coalition for Men started out with "NO WOMAN TAX OR MAN TAX BECAUSE OF THEIR SEX! Taxing people just because of their sex is so wrong!" I obviously agree with both of these statements. Taxing someone simply because of their sex is inherently unfair. I was incredibly surprised to agree with this group. How wonderful that such an organization was truly fighting for gender equality!

However, then I actually read the group's statement and again became very disillusioned. Like the above article says, this organization's support for Assembly Bill 1561 is conditioned on the Bill being amended so as to add neck ties, jockstraps, and condoms to the list of gender-specific items exempted from sales tax. This condition shows this group's lack of understanding about why women need/use tampons and napkins. They are not to make a fashion statement (neckties) or to protect a part of their body when willingly choosing to engage in an aggressive sport (jockstraps). No woman chooses to have her period, it is literally just a part of most women's biology. Therefore, I am unsure how the NCFM actually believes these items are in the same category as neckties and jockstraps. Additionally, I am not sure what makes this group believe that men exclusively buy condoms, though I am sure people of both genders would rejoice if this product was not subject to sales tax.

Sonja said...

Your post reminds me of a recent interview with Obama, where he admitted he was not ever aware of the period tax. While, the period tax is a state tax, and thus not in Obama's purview it was both upsetting and unsurprising that the male leader of our nation was not aware of an issue that affects millions of American women. This tax seems blatantly sexist, and I hope that AB 1561 passes.