We need a national ban on the tampon tax. Period.


Periods are an ugly affair. Women find themselves crippled in pain, bloated, fatigued, hungry, emotional and, of course, bloody for a week out of every month. Menstruation is an unwanted and uncontrollable natural body function, which is why it is strange women in Chicago have been paying 10.25% more on what is known as the “tampon tax” for feminine products. Until now.

Chicago recently passed legislation removing the tax on feminine products and the state of Illinois is likely to follow in the city’s lead. This would make Illinois the sixth state to remove the tampon tax, while 40 other states continue in their backwards practice (four states have no sales tax). While it is something to be celebrated that Chicago has joined the right side of history, there’s still the question of why feminine products ever faced a luxury tax to begin with.


By definition, a luxury tax is meant for products not considered essential, while items such as groceries, prescriptions, or other necessities are exempt. Yet nothing about tampons and pads falls under the category of “nonessential.” Women already face the burden of monthly bleeding, and the most commonly used solution to aid that situation is not considered essential throughout the country.


A typical box of tampons plus tax costs around $10. A woman can go through as much as an entire box per month, totalling about $120 per year on required feminine hygiene. Not to mention that for each week of menstruation, a variety of sizes and boxes can be required. If those products are truly a luxury, and therefore are not actually a necessity, what are women meant to do if they can’t afford them? Bleed publicly through their clothes, onto furniture or the ground?

If the topic disgusts you, you’re not alone. We are taught not to speak freely and openly about women’s menstruation—in part because it is an unsettling topic, but also because female anatomy and health is less emphasized than the male counterpart. However, by regarding women’s bodies as purely sexual and understating their true functions, our society has become a place where condoms are often given out for free and tampons and pads almost never are. And while condoms face the same tax that feminine products do in so many states, they are not an absolute necessity for an entire gender. Women cannot choose to not have their period if they can’t afford tampons that month. Men have no such unavoidable condition.

Sure, it isn’t the biggest problem in the country. Not by far. But it shouldn’t have ever been a problem to begin with, and it’s a fairly easy one to fix. Women too often face arbitrary discrimination, and the tampon tax is only proof that this discrimination can manifest itself in all levels of society. Perhaps the tax was not put in place as a misogynistic practice but merely because no one took into account how it actually would affect women without sufficient funds. Either way, there is a problem. Women are not a lesser gender or an afterthought, yet it’s hard to imagine that if men experienced periods that so little thought would be put into their hygiene and health.

Of course, with every step forward for women there will be those trying to demote the cause into nothing more than a spectacle. The removal of the tampon tax in Chicago is no different. In the comments section of an article by The Washington Post, amid various comments by supportive women, a male user wrote, “If women don’t have to pay tax on tampons men shouldn’t have to pay tax on roofies.” If anything sums up the illogical and chauvinistic viewpoints of the opposing side on this particular issue, that has to be it. Luckily, comments such as the one above are not commonplace, as most men and women can understand the advocacy for removing the tax.
While there is clearly a long way to go before the tampon tax is completely removed around the world, we can still celebrate this victory in Chicago and look to the future for more like it. In fact, there are a number of campaigns for feminine products to be made free altogether, with some schools and public restrooms across the country already offering these items at no cost. However, until all states initiate these laws, the tax on feminine products is simply another daily struggle for millions of women.