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Every woman knows the
feeling. That feeling they get, once a month when their period comes around. A
period starts the beginning of puberty for a girl and it normally happens
between the ages of 8 to 16. A period is the shedding of the uterine lining
after an egg has not been fertilized. It is the uterus cleaning itself out to
getting ready for the next new egg. A period happens every 28 days or once a
month, and can last from 3 to 7 days (Nordqvist). To get through their period women in the United Sates buy
feminine products in the forms of tampons, pads, and menstrual cups just to
name a few. On average a woman spends 70 dollars a year on feminine products.
If you add that up for 40 years, it comes to almost 3000 dollars that women are
spending on these products in their lifetime (Burns). All of the tax on these
products adds up to 56 million dollars per year that governments are making off
of taxing feminine products (Brown). The high cost and taxes on these products adds
up, leaving many women in the United States unable to afford them.

            In the United States,
women in poverty not being able to afford feminine products is an issue that is
often overlooked. Many low-income women have trouble obtaining feminine hygiene
products. “There are 40
million women in this country living in poverty or on the brink of it – and for
whom the cost of feminine hygiene products is yet another burden on an already
stretched budget” (Weiss). The
program that gives women food stamps, called the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP), does not allow the women any money to go towards
buying feminine products. Some women will even sell their food stamps just to
pay for tampons (Weiss). Because of the lack of availability many low-income
women are forced to reuse old products, which can cause many health problems
(Hartman). Many women in prison don’t even have feminine products available to
them because they are seen as a luxury. As stated by California Assembly woman,
Cristina Garcia, “Women are basically being taxed for being women.”

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            Feminine hygiene products are currently being taxed in 43
states. Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and
Pennsylvania are the only 7 states that exempt the tax on feminine hygiene
products (Kaeding). Feminine hygiene products are categorized as a luxury, and
are therefore not seen as a necessity to women (Larimer). This brings up the
question, should feminine hygiene products be seen as a luxury and taxed, or
should the tax be exempt in all U.S. states? Bills in many states are pushed
each year by women trying to get the tax on feminine hygiene products exempt,
but many fail. The fact that tampons are not seen as a necessity to women has
brought up a lot of controversy.

            Taxes on feminine products
are justified by two main arguments: “First, that feminine hygiene products are
not necessities, and second states cannot afford to lose the guaranteed revenue
from taxes on tampons” (Hartman). Many women have a problem with this because feminine products
are seen as a necessity and should not be taxed. Many products like
prescription drugs, groceries, and even Viagra are seen as necessities, but
somehow something that all women use so they can live comfortably is not.
Feminine hygiene products are categorized as a luxury because they are not seen
as medical devices and are not seen to aid health. Sales-taxed items have an
implication that they are a luxury good. A quote from the New York State
Department of Taxes and Finances supports this by saying, “Products
like tampons and sanitary napkins are subject to sales tax because they are
generally used to control a normal bodily function and to maintain personal
cleanliness” (Burns). Feminine hygiene products are seen as something that women
may or may not choose to use just because they want to stay and appear clean. Tampons were originally classified as cosmetic products
for regulatory purposes, but in 1976 the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
(FDCA) classified tampons as medical devices (Hartman). The reason for this
switch was to make manufacturers of feminine hygiene products have to list the
ingredients used in manufacturing tampons. At the time all medical products had
to list ingredients on packaging, but cosmetics products did not. New
legislation the following year reversed that order, requiring cosmetic products
but not medical products to list the ingredients in the products on the
packaging this made tampons unable to be medical items, and therefore, subject
to taxation. (Hartman).     

Bills that are trying to get rid of the tax bring up the
argument that women not having access to feminine products is a basic human
rights issue and a gender equality issue. Taxing a gender based product is
going against the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection clause which says that
“no state shall deny to any persons within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws” (US Const. amend. XIV). This is seen to mean that
people who live in a certain state will be treated equally by a state’s laws,
and not be treated differently because of their gender. The tax also goes
against many gender equality protection claims. The tax on feminine hygiene
products goes against that because the products are bought mainly by women.
Women cannot choose whether to buy feminine products because they don’t choose
if they get their period or not. The state governments are taxing something
that only women get, and have no control over. “It is a tax on a
sex-based product, it places a unique economic burden on biological women, and
it is based on stereotyping and misunderstandings about female biology”
(Hartman). Many men in government don’t understand what women have to go
through when it comes to having their period, and it is seen as something that
is gross and should be hidden (Drife).

            For every woman and man that argue that tampons should
not be taxed, there are just as many that argue that they should. They have
come up with many different reasons such as the state also taxes many other
goods that can be considered a necessity. One source says “The authors of the
diaper and tampon tax bills, in California, argue that diapers and feminine
hygiene products are necessities and taxing them is unfair. But the same could
be said for many important but taxable products, such as soap, toothpaste,
clothes, shoes, toilet paper and deodorant” (Brown). Although, some of those
products are necessities some women would say that feminine products are just
as important, if not more important than most of those products. Also, the argument
could be flipped around. Women could argue that many products like candy, Rogaine,
Viagra, and antidandruff shampoo are not taxed and should be taxed because they
are not necessities, just like tampons are necessities.

reason that people argue that tampons should be taxed is the revenue that the
tax brings to the states. “The more things you exempt from sales taxes, the
higher the tax rates on other products have to rise to make up the lost
revenue. That in turn increases the incentive for other interest groups to
lobby for more exemptions, or find ways to disguise and recategorize their
products to dodge taxes.  Which leads to
more carve-outs for more “necessities.” Which leads to higher tax
rates (Rampell).” Although, taking the tax on feminine products away may cause
a slight loss of revenue for the government, and cause higher taxes on certain
things, many women would probably rather have no tax on something that is very
important, and pay taxes on other things that they may not buy, than to still
have tampons taxed. Also, if tampons were not taxed it would still save low-income
women money. Also 14 states in the U.S. including Alaska, Delaware, New
Hampshire, Montana, Oregon, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New
Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Massachusetts do not tax feminine
products, and Canada does not tax them at all (Kaeding). If 14 states can take
the loss of revenue, and the whole country of Canada can take the loss of revenue
that feminine products bring, the United States can cut the taxes too.

            To address the problems
listed in this essay people can do many things. First to address the problem of
low-income women not being able to afford feminine hygiene products, there are
many organizations that collect these items and give them out to those who need
them. Schools and churches can have drives to collect feminine hygiene
products, and donate them to a charity that could use them and hand them out to
women. Also, donations could be taken to buy the items needed (Weiss). To
address the problem of awareness about the subject many paths could be taken.
Social media is a huge outlet that can be used to promote the awareness of the
subject. Also, there are many petitions and protest that happen all over the United
States. Women could support the fight to exempt the tampon tax by just signing
a sheet of paper online. Squeamishness about the subject is one of the many
problems causing many of these problems to happen. Women are afraid to talk
about the subject of menstruation, so many of these problems never get
addressed. If women could get used to the idea that periods are a part of life,
and that they should not be embarrassed of them many of these problems would be
more well known.

The tax on feminine products is something that causes
problems for many women in the U.S. Low-income women struggle to afford tampons
already and with the tax it just makes it even worse. Feminine products should
not be taxed because unlike many politicians believe they are a necessity for
all women. Many women could not live comfortably without them, so why should
low-income women have to live without them?  Many of the struggles that come along with not
being able to afford feminine products is not well known in the U.S. The issue
is not talked about readily enough in day to day politics, and even in day to day
life. Women and men are afraid to bring up the topic because of the gross
stereotyping that goes along with periods. If women want to get the feminine
hygiene tax exempt they need to stand up, and talk about periods openly and on
a daily basis. They need to make aware all the problems that come along with
the tax, and need to be active in the fight. The tax on feminine hygiene
products is something that is unfairly placed. Although it may be revenue for
the government, it causes more harm to, the only people it effects, women. 

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