Cleo was founded on a mission to empower women and those who have periods with health and wellness enhancing solutions to break the cycle of period discomfort and disruption. As a brand that stands for empowerment, we also stand for equality in every form and the freedom to live your life without bias. (Check out our “Cleo Days of Action and Empowerment” campaign in support of #BlackLivesMatter.)
Today, we turn our attention to the fight for Menstrual Equality — an important issue that disproportionately affects lower-income people.
“Menstrual Equality” is a term coined by those advocating for greater education and empowerment around reproductive care, which starts with providing safe, affordable, menstrual products accessible to all. Which let’s face it, should be a basic human right.
After all, in the fight for equality for all, we must remember that getting your period is not a choice. Women and all people who have periods menstruate every month as a natural hormonal cycle. While having a period means you are healthy, and your reproductive cycle is working perfectly in preparation for the ultimate sacrifice — giving birth, if that’s what you so chose — it is also an unavoidable and often inconvenient part of life.
Getting your period may be a right of passage, but it can also impact and disrupt everyday life and cause pain, cramps, bloating, fatigue, hormonal breakouts, and mood swings. Thankfully Cleo has helped answer the call here with our Period Performance Kit filled with an arsenal of safe, effective solutions to provide comfort and relief from monthly period symptoms.
Beyond the health and lifestyle impact is the financial cost, which is significant when you crunch the numbers. Getting your period every month means women and those with periods have no choice but to buy tampons and pads. When you consider the ages that a person typically menstruates spans from 11 to 51 years of age, and the monthly expense is, on average, $13.50 per month, that's $6,360 over a lifetime.
This is an expense that women and transgender and gender-nonconforming people who have periods are forced to incur when buying menstrual products is an unavoidable necessity. Alarmingly, a research report in Obstetrics & Gynecology revealed that one in five women in a major US city couldn’t afford menstrual hygiene products. This makes purchasing tampons and menstrual products a privilege that is not available to all and has dire consequences for low-income people who are forced to skip school, work, and commitments during their period. On top of this isolation, some are also at risk of infection and health issues by having to resort to using unhygienic alternatives like toilet paper, newspaper, cardboard, or socks instead of pads or tampons when they menstruate.
Worse, tampons and menstrual products are considered a “luxury” item under the law. While there is no specific tax on tampons, most states are subject to state and local sales taxes. At the same time, other “necessities,” like food, medical devices, condoms, and even Viagra, are tax-exempt. WTF?!
Just as people have risen up for decades to demand equal rights, many of us are now fighting for menstrual equality and demanding that tax on menstrual products be repealed nationwide.
“The tampon tax amounts to sex-based discrimination,” Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, an attorney who first coined the term “menstrual equity,” said in a New York Times article. Weiss-Wolf is also the founder of Period Equality, a nonprofit that is the country’s first law and policy organization spearheading the campaign to eliminate the tax and ensure that menstrual products are affordable, safe, and available to those in need — including during the pandemic.
Sadly, in 32 of the 50 US states, period care products are still being taxed by the state, but there is good news. Since 2016 states such as Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, California, Rhode Island, Utah, and Ohio have listened to the call and repealed tampon taxes. This can equate to as much as 10%, meaning around one dollar of every menstrual product sold goes to tax. Globally countries including Canada, India, Malaysia, and Australia have removed the tax, with Britain also set to do so.
And Cleo applauds the trailblazing leader of New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinta Arden — an inspirational feminist and equal rights advocate if ever we’ve seen one — who recently announced the government would fund and provide free sanitary products in all schools. Making the announcement Arden, who was this week seen marching in her country’s Pride Parade in honor of Pride Month, had this to say, “We know that nearly 95,000 nine-to-18-year-olds may stay at home during their periods due to not being able to afford period products. By making them freely available, we support these young people to continue learning at school.”
As with all issues and injustice, there is always an opposing side. Some members of the US government argue that removing the tampon tax will financially impact states’ revenue and increase the cost of other items.
“Every time another exemption is passed, it means the tax rate that applies to everything else will have to increase in order to generate that same amount of revenue,” said Katherine E. Loughead, a policy analyst at the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington.
Other opponents also ask where do you draw the line? Soap, for example, is taxed, but they argue should also be considered a necessity.
However we take comfort in the fact, the fight to end this sex-based discrimination and bring about Menstrual Equality will not stop until the sanitary products are no longer deemed a “luxury” by lawmakers. This is an attainable goal; it’s worth noting that heavy hitters like Meghan Markle and President Obama have thrown their support behind the cause. With human rights at the fore not only in the US but worldwide, it’s our hope that outdated, discriminatory practices like the tampon tax will soon be defeated.Want to support Menstrual Equality? Here are 4 ways you can show your support, which starts with conversation. Share your period story with the Cleo Community on @cleo.health to help break the cycle and taboo around periods. Together we can make change happen, period.