By Claire Golberg
Mayor Muriel Bowser has lifted D.C.’s tampon tax, a move both incredibly necessary for low-income women and importantly symbolic in its move toward gender equality.
A box of 32 regular Tampax tampons costs roughly $7, depending on where it’s purchased, and with the 5.75 percent tax, that added 40 cents per box. If a woman has a five-day period cycle and changes her tampon every six hours, then she needs about 20 tampons per period, or about 7½ boxes of tampons per year, which amounts to about three extra dollars annually for feminine hygiene products. Even though that amount seems small to most, not having to spend that $3 would be helpful to low-income and homeless women in the district.
The greater value, though, is in how abolishing the tax speaks volumes to the push for equalizing pricing for gendered products. While Viagra is considered essential and therefore isn’t taxed in D.C. (and in many other places), tampons were apparently seen as non-essential, even though a woman’s period isn’t something she can choose not to have. Why do men’s products get to be tax free, even when they could be considered luxuries?
The simple answer is that legislative bodies across the country are still largely made up of men. D.C. is “lucky” to have a female Mayor and a Council that is almost 50 percent women. But with so many state governments dominated by male politicians, it is hard to say whether the issue of taxing tampons will be taken seriously. California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have eliminated the tampon tax, showing a clear difference between male and female leadership.
Even though simply eliminating a tax isn’t going to solve all the problems of gender bias, it is an important step in showing that the government can have a positive influence on women’s rights and that society is moving toward equality. Many other products and services, including razors, clothes and haircuts, cost more for women than they do for men, and that is simply unfair, especially in light of the wage gap. Why should women pay more when we make less?
By repealing the tampon tax, D.C. is starting to acknowledge that problem. Women have a long way to go before reaching true equality in the consumer world, but once real progress begins, the effects will be profound.