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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Stop taxing our periods

I don’t know any women who think getting their period every month is a luxury. Unfortunately, in approximately 40 U.S. states, feminine hygiene products, and feminine products in general, are taxed as just that: a luxury good or something

When I heard this fact for the first time, I was blown away. I’m paying more every month for products I need to be healthy. Products I need to continue to go about my daily life, go to school, go to work.

And no, it’s not a “periods are gross” thing. A woman’s menstrual cycle is a natural function that we have no control over, and not only are we trained to feel embarrassed about it, we are paying more for the products we need because of it.

According to WGN-TV in Chicago, Illinois is the next  in a growing trend of states eliminating this luxury tax on feminine products. States that have already taken action include Minnesota and Pennsylvania.California is proposing similar action. But states like Utah are moving in the opposite direction. In February, an all-male committee of lawmakers there voted to keep the tax on feminine hygiene products.

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And it’s not just tampons and other products necessary to manage a monthly period, but women’s hygiene products in general are priced higher: razors, shaving cream, deodorant and more, according to U.S. News and World Report. The report discussed a gendered price study by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. The study showed that women pay on average 13 percent more on personal care products, and in general, pay more for all products 42 percent of the time.

Not to mention the gender wage gap. Women are earning 21 percent less than men do, leaving them with even less disposable income, but are being taxed on necessary items and paying more for products in general.

Yes, this news is all very discouraging and disappointing, but here’s the light at the end of the tunnel: women are talking about it and it’s creating change. Ingrid Nilsen, a YouTube personality with nearly 4 million subscribers, is one of these women. She’s published videos on her channel entitled “Your Vagina Matters” and recently interviewed President Barack Obama. Among other hot button topics, Nilsen specifically informed the president on the luxury tax on feminine health products and asked what his take on the issue was. The president responded as largely unaware of the issue, but encouraged women to inform their state leaders and make change.

And of course, this problem is bigger than taxes American women are paying for their periods. Women in other countries have very limited access to hygiene products at all. For example, in Africa, 1 in 10 women miss a week of school during their period, and in Uganda it’s as high as 50 percent. When women miss school, they fall behind and often drop out. But a study called “The Girl Effect” has shown that well-educated productive women contribute more to developing communities than men, which means something as natural as a woman’s period is contributing to underdeveloped communities.

Other celebrities, like Sophia Bush, are advocates for companies like Thinx, which is creating innovative period products and partnering with charitable organizations like AFRIpads. Much like the Tom’s Shoes business model, each time you purchase a pair of Thinx period underwear, the company donates a package of AFRIpads washable pads to women in other countries who do not have access to these products.

Though it takes time and state government action to overturn luxury taxes on feminine products, it’s also up to us, as women, to work together to create change. Changing the conversation about periods as well as urging our lawmakers to eliminate these taxes and continue the work toward gender equality is crucial. Use the facts to further your arguments and advocate.

Feminine hygiene products are a necessity—not a luxury—and we need to work together to change the stigma surrounding these products and eliminate the state taxes attached to them.

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