Tax-Funded Tampons?

by Phoebe Maltz Bovy

Jessica Valenti thinks tampons should be provided by the government:

Women in the UK are fighting to axe the 5% tax on tampons (it used to be taxed at 17.5%!), which are considered “luxuries” while men’s razors, for some baffling reason, are not. And in the US, though breast pumps, vasectomies and artificial teeth are sales tax-exempt and tax-deductible medical care, tampons are not even exempted from sales tax in some states (including California and New York, two of the most populous states).

But this is less an issue of costliness than it is of principle: menstrual care is health care, and should be treated as such. But much in the same way insurance coverage or subsidies for birth control are mocked or met with outrage, the idea of women even getting small tax breaks for menstrual products provokes incredulousness because some people lack an incredible amount of empathy … and because it has something to do with vaginas. Affordable access to sanitary products is rarely talked about outside of NGOs – and when it is, it’s with shame or derision.

Free tampons? Sounds reasonable to me. Indeed, I’d suggested the same (argued would be an exaggeration) as a sleep-deprived college student in 2005. A friend campaigned for these at our high school, and since it’s a public school, these tampons, too, would have been state-subsidized. (Don’t think it ever happened.) The counterarguments, as I recall, were principally libertarian ones about how the quality of personal-hygiene items would drop if the market weren’t involved. As in, so much for the Tampax you know, any wadded-up absorbent material would do.

So it seems that when someone who’s a famous feminist makes this point, and in the social-media era, things go somewhat differently than when a feminist college kid with a tiny blog did so before hashtags and the like. Valenti offers up a sampling of the response she got to her suggestion. Items include:


Fun! While there’s a case to be made against government-issued feminine hygiene products, this isn’t it.