Most women start menstruation in middle school. After that, every month, they must go through what is generally a painful and uncomfortable experience that is completely outside of their control.
And on top of all that uncontrollable suffering, we’re expected to not only pay for our feminine hygiene products, but to fork over even more cash because of “tampon taxes.”
That’s right. In many countries, including the United States, feminine hygiene products are considered “luxury” items, and are therefore taxable. In the U.S., these taxes exist in 40 states, which you might consider odd, given that 45 states have sales taxes with exemptions for necessities, such as groceries, medical purchases or food stamp purchases.
Well, I’m sure that the half of the population who has to bleed out every month might argue that these products are extremely necessary.
To bring more awareness to just how vital these products are, protesters in the United Kingdom have recently started “free bleeding” during their periods.
Audiences worldwide have gawked, appalled by how “disgusting” these women are being.
But this is the reality most women have to face every month; it is a biological function we have no way to control. What is truly disgusting is the presumption that we should have to pay — in some estimates women spend $1,800 on feminine hygiene products in their lifetimes — an even greater amount for something we are left with no choice but to buy.
Honestly, I think feminine hygiene products should be covered under health insurance policies, like birth control often is. Both are extremely important products in maintaining a woman’s reproductive health. But look at how long it took us to get contraception covered.
As long as men refuse to acknowledge or educate themselves on the biological functions of women’s bodies, I doubt any of this will change.
In Britain, products exempted from taxes are as diverse as bicycle helmets and teacakes. Here in America, a recent Tax Foundation report found that 11 states don’t tax soda or candy, as part of those grocery “necessities,” but 10 of those states do tax feminine hygiene products.
In fact, only five U.S. states — Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Minnesota and Pennsylvania — that have sales taxes have exempted tampons and other products, according to a Fusion report.
Menstruation isn’t going to go away. This is something that has been a part of our human biology since the dawn of our species. We need to follow the example of these states, and hopefully, go beyond them.
We can’t continue to let women pay for their own anatomy.
Deanna Ferrante is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future.