A Series on Menstrual Equity: Progress and Setbacks, Part II

In the Bear Fact’s October issue, Bethany Roberts wrote “The Problem with Period Stigma,” in which she detailed challenges women encounter in the face of inflated prices and crippling stigmas surrounding menstrual products. The article also discussed the various ways different countries, especially Scotland, states and organizations were and are working toward menstrual equity.

 Two months later, progress has occurred here in the United States. In the November 6, 2018 midterm elections, Nevada became the tenth state to repeal a luxury sales tax on essential menstrual products like tampons and pads, dubbed the “pink tax.” This legislative step, taken in past years by Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, shows our country moving in the right direction away from stigmatized gender discrimination and perhaps toward solutions for period poverty.

Giving menstrual equity a brighter spotlight than it has ever had before in this country thanks to new legislation like Nevada’s has encouraged conversation from organizations, politicians, celebrities and common Americans alike about what to do to solve and eradicate period poverty, or impoverished women’s inability to affordably access period products. Some call for nationwide repealing of the pink tax. Some, including Claire Coder, call for even more drastic action.

Claire Coder, actress, activist and founder of Aunt Flow, a company dedicated to getting free menstrual products in all American public bathrooms, said, “I am concerned about the greater conversation. I believe that it is important for tampons and pads to be viewed the same as toilet paper. They are both necessities that respond to basic bodily functions…Menstrual products should be offered in all public bathrooms at no charge…”

Recently, with the Scottish move to provide free menstrual products in public buildings sparking debate over federal governments’ role in period poverty, the issue of the pink tax has become more and more polarized. However, the biggest leap backward the U.S. could take after a series of small victories would be to fall into party politics over this issue.

Women’s ability to find and afford necessities for not just their comfort, but their health, should be far from a new controversial political debate. And yet, some have attempted to insert partisanship into this simple issue of women’s health and financial equality.

Of course, repealing a tax on an entire class or products statewide certainly has financial ramifications. According to The Nevada Independent, eliminating the 6.85 percent sales tax on menstrual products will cost the state between $6 million and $8.5 million each year. As large as those figures seem, they are not staggering enough to halt this necessary move, as Nevada voters agreed. In fact, the loss of tax income from the pink tax only accounts for around 0.17 percent of the state’s budget, according to Forbes.

Subtracting the five states that have no sales tax along with the now ten that have now repealed the luxury tax on menstrual products, the pink tax remains in thirty-five state in the United States- including Texas. Citizens must be willing to confront their representatives and demand that they represent women’s rights by introducing legislation to repeal the pink tax and treat menstrual products as what they are: health products and necessities.

Not as Democrats, Republicans or otherwise, not as men or women, not as Texans or Nevadans, but as humans concerned with half the population’s right to financial equality, we must fight for our entire nation to be free from this antiquated, discriminatory tax by destroying stigmas and bringing more awareness, traction and support to this common-sense issue. Nevada’s recent move to leave the pink tax behind shows certain progress in the United States toward respect rather than stigma, but America still has a way to go.

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