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Feminine Products are NOT a Luxury

Pads, tampons, menstrual cups, period panties. Every woman at some point in her life will have to buy one or more of these products. Depending on each woman individually, how frequently she buys them will vary. Factors like heaviness of flow, duration of period, regularity of periods, and starting age of menstruation to menopause all factor into how much periods cost women. On top of that, other factors like underwear, birth control, acne medicine, heating pads, medicine like Advil and Midol to combat the physical pains of periods, Gyno appointments (ranging from pap smears to endometriosis diagnosis), and of course, your period snacks will all cost women a lot of money over time. The almost $7 pack of Always Ultra-Thin pads at Walmart isn’t the only financial burden of periods. 

Some might argue that a woman can stop her period by going on birth control, but it isn’t as easy as walking into your local CVS, going to the feminine health aisle, and picking up the biggest pack of birth control pills you can find. Birth control is a prescription, and you have to jump through hoops just to get it. For a woman to get on birth control, she has to make an appointment doctor, which costs money. Depending on insurance, it can cost anywhere between $35-$250, according to Planned Parenthood. And that’s just for the initial appointment. 

On top of that, the birth control pill can cost you anywhere between $0-$50 per month, depending on insurance. Not to mention, other forms of birth control, like the shot ($0-$150/3 mo), IUDs ($0-$1300/3-12 yrs), implants ($0-$1300/5 yrs), vaginal rings ($0-$200/mo). 

So, just for your first month of birth control, a woman is looking at anywhere between $35-$300 for the pill and her appointment. Comparing that to buying a pack of 46 count pads per month, it would cost a woman ~$84 a year if she ONLY buys 12 packs. Some women will use less, others more. Women roughly use one box of tampons per cycle, according to the Centre of Menstrual Cycle and Ovulation Research in the U.K.. 

Plus, women need to get pap smears every 1-3 years, starting at the age of 21 until the age of 65. Most insurance companies will pay for the pelvic exams and pap smears, but it still costs women their copay. 

So, now, not only do women have an abundance of medical costs that men don’t have, and an irritating period that comes every month, but we’re being charged a luxury tax on feminine products, and let me tell you: it isn’t a LUXURY to have a period. 

So, what is a luxury tax and why do period products fall in this category, you ask? A luxury tax is, by definition, a tax placed on items that are not considered essentials. And why do pads and tampons and other ESSENTIAL period products fall into this tax category? It’s simple: because most men don’t think they need to be there. For someone who has never experienced a period in their life, it seems pretty stupid that men get to decide our womanhood is a luxury. 

According to a YouGov survey (2,268 polled), 46 percent of men surveyed believe access to period products is a right, while 66 percent believe it’s a privilege. Read that again: 66 PERCENT OF THE POLLED MEN THINK HAVING ACCESS TO PERIOD PRODUCTS IS A PRIVILEGE. It’s apparently a privilege to have access to clean, safe, and sanitary ways to deal with your period…something you physically cannot control and didn’t ask to have?  How? Is? That? A? Privilege?

In the same survey, 53 percent of women said they have found themselves without a pad or tampon during their periods at least once in their life. 38 percent of women said it happens more often than that. On top of that, 77 percent have bled through their pad or tampon in public at least once in once in their life, and 58 percent of women have bled through their pad or tampon in public more than once. And let me tell you: it’s super embarrassing no matter how old you are. 

Period poverty is a real thing, and without the support of men (both in legislature and in general), the gap between all women having access to period products will only grow. It’s not only women in third world countries who are suffering – although they have a much bigger gap than the United States. It’s also the girl I gave a pad too in the restroom before class a few weeks ago because neither she nor her friend had one for her to use. Or the girl who has to buy the smaller pack of pads knowing that it won’t be enough, because she doesn’t have the $7 to buy the big pack. It’s all the women who can’t afford to pay for all the appointments and tests they need to get feminine reproductive disorder diagnoses, and instead live in excruciating pain. 

Does this sound like a luxury to you? Because it isn’t. 

Periods are NOT a luxury to have. Access to affordable period products is NOT a luxury. Access to doctors and testing for feminine pain are NOT a luxury. Access to birth control and abortions are NOT a luxury.