When is getting your period a “luxury”?
When you start to think of tampon taxes as taxes levied against women for the crime of being born female, it seems absurd that they continue to be enforced in some parts of the world. In the European Union, tampons are considered “luxury goods” and are taxed as such. Earlier this week, British parliamentarians voted to defeat a proposal for exemption from the EU classification.
It’s this latest fight by British feminists that has inspired a fake commercial billing tampons as “luxuriously taxable.” The ad, created by British artists, mocks the idea of tampons as luxury goods, or nonessential items. A woman dressed in a satin nightie lies back on a couch and sensuously drags the tampon across her body as though about to, er, pleasure herself.
“Quite fair, I’m sure we can all agree, there’s nothing more luxurious than wedging a compact piece of cotton up your bleeding vagina for around 7 days every month,” the creators joke on their site, Luxuriously Taxable.
Doing some quick math, they estimate that the average woman will spend £1,500 (or about $2,300) on sanitary products in her lifetime. But tampon taxes inconvenience women all over the globe. Canada trashed its tampon tax only this past summer, after 75,000 people signed a petition demanding its repeal (it lasted on the ledgers for more than two decades). In Australia, women who buy tampons must pay a GST, or “goods and services tax” (Australian women lost a fight earlier this year to get the tax removed). In the U.S., too, tampons are subject to regular old sales taxes—although five states have implemented tampon exemptions.
A petition calling for the end of tampon taxes in Britain has 265,524 signatures and counting. “Periods are no luxury,” they write on the petition:
You can ‘opt in’ to extravagance. You cannot choose to menstruate. Despite this, a whole heap of disadvantages have been created for those who do. Not using sanitary products can lead to health risks, jeopardise maintaining a normal, professional or personal life, and result in public ridicule. Equally, by using sanitary products, our Government capitalises on misogynist discourse and period shame that has caused us to fear our own menstrual cycles. It’s a double-edged sword that cuts women on both sides.