There’s a sales tax exemption for treating erectile dysfunction in Wisconsin. The same can’t be said for feminine hygiene products.
This just doesn’t seem right.
Although it may not seem like a problem here in Goshen, low-income and homeless women of all ages do not have the resources to pay for both lunch and feminine products for the week of their periods. No woman should have to choose.
According to the Huffington Post, 70 percent of women use tampons. The average cost per package of tampons is $7.62, with the average annual cost being $90. Unlike toilet paper—which is found in almost all public restrooms and required to be there by federal regulations and viewed as essential to everyday health and sanitation—girls and women living in poverty are typically left to access tampons and pads on their own.
Infrequent changing of tampons or pads is unhealthy, unsanitary and unsafe. Not using them at all is unthinkable. Without basic hygiene supplies, what is a girl supposed to do?
Most states tax all tangible personal property but make exemptions for select “necessities,” or non-luxury items; things that are considered necessities usually include groceries, food stamp purchases and medical purchases, which varies from state to state. Legislators have done this to shield lower-income consumers from tax on the things they must buy in daily life — like food.
We need to raise awareness and acknowledge that feminine products such as tampons and pads are a necessity, not a luxury. In the Oxford Dictionary of Economics, it defines necessities as goods on which poorer people spend a larger proportion of their income than richer people.
It also defines a luxury as a good on which richer people spend a higher proportion of their income than do poorer people.
To put this in perspective, if the average box of tampons costs around $7.62, a homeless woman who makes $10 a week, will spend a higher percentage of her income on a box of tampons than a woman earning $800 a week.
Having a period is not a choice. It’s a biological part of being a woman.
So if we start to change the way we look at women’s health products and acknowledge them as a necessity for all women, rather than a luxury, we can help low-income and homeless women and girls keep from going hungry the week of their period.
Within the past year, New York City has become a leader in the growing national and global movement for menstrual equality. On June 21, New York City made history by passing the nation’s first legislative package to ensure access to menstrual products in public schools, shelters and correctional facilities.
While many other countries are moving to have the sales tax removed from tampons and pads, for some saving a few cents with no sales tax just isn’t going to cut it. That’s why the New York City agenda emphasizes access for the three most vulnerable populations.
If nothing is done, women in poverty won’t be having their human needs met. With personal donations, we could start a program that would allow women of all incomes to know that they could have a clean and healthy menstrual cycle by starting a pink product initiative. A pink product initiative would provide low-income and homeless women with a box of tampons or pads for just $1 at any shelter or clinic.
One way to start is by writing to your local representatives to advocate for a change in legislation. Call Jackie Walorski or your state representative and urge them to advocate for the rights of women and petition to have the sales tax removed from tampons and pads. Even though it may seem daunting to try to change something on a national level, you can make a small difference here in Goshen. Often the biggest movements of change start at the local level.
You can donate boxes of tampons and pads to a local shelter. With enough supplies, local shelters could begin a dollar pink product initiative of their own. You can help, and it starts with one box.