If you’re in some kind of useful building, like a school or an office, you’ll probably find a few freebies here and there: gum, sticky notes, little packets of aspirin or, depending on where you are, condoms. But wherever you are, you probably won’t ever find free pads or tampons. In fact, chances are that your state or country considers such items “luxury” items—and they impose a tax, accordingly. But is that fair? Of course not. No one chooses the “luxury” of menstruation, and menstrual supplies should not be cost-restrictive, to anyone.
One young college student from New York’s Barnard College, Courtney Couillard, believes that colleges should offer free pads and tampons to their students. “Sure, I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms in Hamilton or Milbank?” Couillard asks. “Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly cycle?”
To answer Couillard’s question bluntly, the administrations don’t want to talk about menstrual cycles because men make most of the laws and generally, men think periods are icky. Recently, Columbia College Student Council president Ben Makansi said that he would bring the petition for free tampons to Scott Wright, the college’s Vice President of Campus Services.
Couillard brings up a good point: why doesn’t the university support people who menstruate? Well, the legislation would probably say that the college is not obligated to pay for people’s tampons. Yet the college also is not obligated to provide condoms, and yet it does. Who decides which items can be offered for free?
These decisions are made largely arbitrarily, it seems. Choosing which items to tax or not to tax are often highly subjective, or even “goofy,” as Tax Analysts deputy publisher David Brunori said. It’s true that many personal care items, like toothpaste and deodorant, are taxed, so it might not seem completely unreasonable that tampons be similarly taxed, but some would argue that a tampon tax is another financial burden to women, who by and large have less money anyway.
In California, two assemblywomen, Cristina Garcia and Ling Ling Chang, introduced a bill to categorize feminine hygiene supplies as medical necessities, removing the items’ “luxury” status.