On February 10 in Utah, a taxation committee of eight lawmakers, all men, voted to maintain the state’s current sales tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products. The vote was in response to a proposal that would eliminate such taxes, part of a national and global shift in attitude. Maryland, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have all done away with them, and California and New York have put forth legislation to follow suit. Canada has eliminated the tax nationwide, and Britain has set the tax to the lowest rate possible. These developments seem promising for the movement toward gender equality.
Yet the vote in Utah is sadly what could be called a usual turn of events in government, a scenario unfolding in which a group of male politicians make a decision about something that will never personally affect them—because they are, in fact, male.
Susan Duckworth is the Utah state representative who introduced the proposal to eliminate the “Tampon Tax” in January, even including provisions to also remove the tax on adult and children’s diapers, arguing that, like tampons, they are necessities. Yet the committee’s vote reflects their consensus that tampons—and diapers—are a luxury item. Well, this makes me want to punch somebody in the neck.
I’m not a “period” comic (neither menstruation nor WWII jokes) but I’m about to get very “take back the night” here.
Please. Someone find me a woman who thinks her period is a luxury. A rite of passage? Maybe. The beautiful expression that one is of child-bearing years? Possibly. But a luxury? Nope. The only time my period was a luxury was after that night I took that dirty keyboard player from some awful band home with me and the condom broke. That particular period was a luxury, but only because I didn’t see us settling down and raising a dirty, keyboard-playing baby together.
To consider tampons and pads luxury items is as absurd as considering a man’s … well, a man’s … you know what? I cannot think of a hygiene item that men need but women do not. There exists no such equivalent.
“The only time my period was a luxury was after that night I took that dirty keyboard player from some awful band home with me and the condom broke.”
Reading news coverage on the Utah vote is disheartening, but scrolling down and taking a look at the “comments” sections weakened my faith in humanity. It’s the Internet, so it’s easy to get sucked into a misogynistic abyss. For example, I thoroughly enjoyed one man’s comparison of toilet paper to tampons and pads. Yes, exactly. If women shouldn’t be taxed on feminine hygiene products then you, sir, should not pay tax on your toilet paper! It’s exactly the same thing! One could wipe one’s butt with leaves! You’re right, we don’t NEED toilet paper. I don’t NEED a pad, I could put some leaves in my bloomers. No biggie. There’s just one thing. All humans need (or don’t need) toilet paper. But only women would have to put Eastern White Pine leaves in their underwear. And therein lies the problem.
(Side note: I’d like to mention that the toilet paper rebuttal was popular in the comments sections, but toenail clippers and antiperspirants also got shout-outs as non-luxury necessities. That’s good stuff, comments section. The tax on nail clippers is a cause close to my heart. The average person buys at least two, maybe three, pairs of toenail clippers in her life? The tax on toenail clippers is definitely a travesty that needs a celebrity spokesperson.)
Look, gender product pricing exists. See razors, clothing (both adult and children’s!) and—barf—this pen:
But I can circumnavigate that and buy the men’s razor (for almost $2 less), and luckily I can just go ahead and buy a unisex pen. What I can’t do is buy a man’s tampon.
According to the Associated Press, the Utah lawmakers’ defense was that they want to make the tax system predictable, calling Duckworth’s proposal a “subjective variation” on what could be taxed. How very predictable: a room full of men deciding that my period and the act of keeping menstruation hygienic is subjective. Comedy is subjective. Beauty is subjective. Whether or not I bleed all over myself, the chair, my train seat, or my work station is not. Is that too gross? Well, so is this Utah legislature decision.