I know that I like to rant about how fucked up and wrong America can be whilst sitting atop my lofty perch in the UK, where everything is a perfect liberal utopia (they have a unicorn on their passport, for pete’s sake), but sometimes, even Britain gets it wrong.
This week MPs voted against a bill that would get rid of the VAT (basically ‘sales tax’ for my American brethren) currently levied on tampons and pads. The government is responding by claiming it is powerless to make those changes anyway and blaming the EU, which I suppose I can’t really argue with, but the fact that so many MPs straight up rejected the very idea of it is what really boggles my mind. How is this even controversial? In 2015?
Because, as it turns out, we are literally stuck in the 70s, which is when the decisions on what would be taxed and what wouldn’t – that is, what was a luxury and what was a basic necessity – were made. And we can’t just go back and change it. So, OK, I can kinda understand how the polyester-clad (and almost certainly male) powers that were in 1972 might consider menstrual products a ‘luxury’ – just look at all the fun those women in Tampax adverts are having playing tennis and doing gymnastics in their white leotards! But surely we can all agree, in 2015, that we fucked up and that tampons and pads are in fact a necessity? (If you think a tampon is merely a luxury, may you never find yourself stuck somewhere inconvenient, mid… ahem… flow, without one.) Why wasn’t this vote unanimous? And why the fuck did some female MPs vote against this? Way to betray the sisterhood, ladies.
My personal Tampons of Choice* cost £1.89 for 32 tampons (this may get a bit TMI, but fuck it, who cares!). That works out to about 6p per tampon. On average, when Aunt Flo is visiting, I’ll go through four in one day, so that’s 24p per day. So over the course of a typical five-day period I’m paying £1.20 for the luxury of having my menses soaked up by a wad of cotton instead of ruining all my pants. Twelve periods per year comes to £14.40. I realise this isn’t a huge amount of money, but when you consider I’ve been paying that (give or take) for about 23 years so far, that’s £331.20 I’ve shelled out for tampons. And I’m buying the cheap ones; some other tampons can cost twice as much. I’m 36, and my two-second Google research says the average age of menopause is 51, so I’ve got another 15 years – or £216 – left to go. That’s roughly £550 that I’d really much rather be spending on something else, and which my male cohorts are happily spending on, like, video games and guitars and whiskey or whatever.
And I know that life isn’t fair and as a Woman Who Menstruates, I’ve gotta suck it up and buy tampons and get on with my relatively privileged life. But I certainly wouldn’t mind a little acknowledgement that I and other women maybe kinda shouldn’t have to pay a tax for that. It’s not 1972 anymore.
* Tampon of Choice is also the name of my riot grrl band.