Tuesday’s midterms were all about the “blue wave” of voters who helped the Democrats take back majority control of the House of Representatives, but in Nevada, the crimson wave had its own victory. The state became the 10th in the nation to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax,” meaning women will no longer have to pay 6.85-percent sales tax when purchasing menstrual products. Previously taxed under state laws as hygiene products, tampons and pads will now be treated as medically necessary and tax-free.
Eliminating sales tax on period products, which women have no option but to buy, is essential to achieving “menstrual equity,” a term coined by Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, author of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity.
“Fairness for how women are treated in society because they menstruate,” is how Weiss-Wolf defined the term to the Chicago Sun-Times. “They shouldn’t have to pay more for the simple biological fact and for needing a medically necessary item.”
In addition to working with legislators on policies like the one supported by voters in Nevada, Weiss-Wolf and other advocates strive to make menstrual products available to in-need populations, like women in correctional facilities and shelters. They argue that not having access to period products can force people to miss school or work, while alternative solutions can be unsanitary and cause health problems.
“In order to have a fully impartial and participatory society, laws and policies must ensure that menstrual products are safe, affordable, and available to those who need them,” Weiss-Wolf and Maeve Roughton wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News.
The New York Times notes that plenty of states have given specific items tax-free status — like cowboy boots in Texas, gun club memberships in Wisconsin, and chainsaws in Idaho. Utah legislators rejected efforts to eliminate the tampon tax, yet the state granted this status to arcade game tokens.
Over the last several years, the push for “menstrual equity” has gained support from politicians on both sides of the aisle, and in 2016, both Illinois and New York eliminated the tampon tax with key Republican support.
“Menstruation is one of the few gender-equity issues that has true bipartisan support,” Weiss-Wolf told Newsweek last year. “That’s a rarity these days on any issue, let alone one that involves vaginas.”
Even former President Barack Obama didn’t understand why so many states continued to tax tampons and pads as “luxury items,” saying in a 2016 interview, “I suspect it’s because men were making the laws when those taxes were passed.”