“I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items,” Obama said. “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”
Ah, tampons. Those cotton wads of opulence. Taxable by the government as a “luxury.” If you haven’t heard about the “tampon tax” yet, we regret to inform you it is real, and tampons have been carrying extra baggage in the form of taxation unbeknownst and unacknowledged by women (and cool guys who go on tampon runs) in 40 of our United States of America.
This might have gone unnoticed even longer had it not been for the year of the period, as it were, and the mounting frustration and protest from women in other countries like UK and Australia, and especially Canada, where, by the way, they’ve already kiboshed the “tampon tax” almost as soon as everyone voiced their displeasure about it.
For perspective in the U.S., states offer exemptions for “necessities” like groceries, but feminine hygiene supplies don’t count, even though we’d be pretty far up period creek without them. Also, for even greater emphasis on how not right this is, 15 states count candy as a “necessity” under the grocery umbrella. Again, period supplies get taxed under “luxury” items.
(If you want to know if your state has the “tampon tax” click here.)
Don’t worry if you’re just learning about this. Apparently, you’re in good company because Obama just heard about it, too. In an interview Friday Obama was asked by YouTube personality Ingrid Nilsen his thoughts on the “tampon tax,” to which Obama dutifully replied…hm?
He had a much more eloquent response, of course, which led into his support for women working towards ending the tax, adding that because they’re state taxes, it’s really up to each state to make the decision to change, or not.
“I think it’s pretty sensible for women in those states that you just mentioned to work to get those taxes removed,” Obama said. “Those aren’t federal taxes that are imposed, those are state taxes, state law, so it would be governors and state legislators who would have to reverse those.”
He also admitted he had no clue about this. “I have to tell you, I have no idea why states would tax these as luxury items. I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed,” Obama told Nilsen.
So many things to say.
So where are we now? There are still 40 states where women are paying sales tax on period products. California is the only state to introduce a bill to remove it, just this week.
So it looks like we might have to go Boston Tea Party on this and dump boxes of tampons into the sea (the Red Sea? A sea of blood? Maybe that’s too much. A sea of blood red Kool-Aid?) in order to get attention.
“Women should not be at a disadvantage in the health care system,” noted Obama as he took the opportunity to point to his health care program and the intention to “make sure that everybody has decent health care, preventive care and women in particular have the health care that they need.”
Yes, the health care they need involves menstruation. This should go beyond state sales tax. Even if they remove the tax in all 50 states, we’re still using products in and on our bodies that could be doing us harm.
It also should be driven home that feminine hygiene products are a necessity. Not only should they not be taxed, they should be handed out for free like condoms or commonly provided like toilet paper in public restrooms. Menstrual supplies can be costly enough, and if you’re a low-income or homeless woman, this tax creates even more of a barrier, financially and culturally. And, in this case, the only barrier should be the one between our legs to protect our undies from the stains of menstrual blood.
Here’s the full interview. Tampon tax question starts at 36:11.