Is Having a Period a Luxury?
Updated: Jan 8, 2020
What the Luxury Tax Is Really All About
Some women see having a period as a blessing (often disguised as a curse), or as something that facilitates a closer connection to the cosmos. But even this optimistic view can't extend to seeing periods as luxuries. So when the discussion about a luxury tax on feminine hygiene came into focus a few months ago, many women had something to say about it.
This past May, many people considered, some for the first time, the fact that pads and tampons are taxed. Some opinion blogs tried to frame the issue in such a way that it seemed states would pass legislation taxing feminine hygiene products at a higher rate than regular goods; a luxury rate. In reality, 40 states already charged regular sales tax for pads, tampons, and other feminine hygiene products.
But in late April 2016, New York faced a bill that would remove this tax on sanitary pads and tampons. Advocates said that periods aren't luxuries, and women shouldn't have to pay a tax to buy pads, since menstruation isn't optional. As a result, the rest of the country started to wonder if any state ought to charge tax on items that women need to carry on a normal, modern, first world life.
Like eating and drinking, menstruating is a biological necessity that women didn't ask for and – for the most part – simply can't avoid. So it's understandable that some take umbrage with the tax. However, opponents argued, when one considers that many states charge a tax on food, taxing feminine hygiene products doesn't seem that strange. But it's important to remember that while financial assistance is available to underprivileged households in the form of food stamps, nothing exists on a state or federal level for pads or tampons.
For many women, while buying pads isn't a fun way to spend money, it's no more than an accepted annoyance. Women can spend anywhere between $5-10 per month on feminine hygiene. For economically disadvantaged women, even that can be a financial strain, to say nothing of an extra 3-8% in taxes.
With the question, “Should women pay tax on pads” came related questions.
“Should food stamps include feminine hygiene products?”
“Should there be a rebate program for poorer women?”
“Should schools and workplaces provide free pads?”
Predictably, some cried that women were just trying to get a free ride (sure, women endure days of cramps and irritability just to get handouts from the government), but this argument was so ludicrous that it was roundly ignored.
Since New York passed the bill, it looks like other states may follow suite. While there are still some who think that this gives women some kind of unfair advantage (though what that advantage is no one can seem to say), most seem to agree that taxing women for buying pads, especially at the regular sales rate, is what's unfair. Perhaps if more state-run programs helped economically disadvantaged women buy these necessities, this would never have become a public issue. But as it is, women are speaking up, telling their local government that they're tired of paying extra just to be able to go to work or school without bleeding out.