Maytinee Kramer/Staff Writer
Tampon. Sanitary napkin. Panty liner. Period. Just a few years ago, it was rare and even taboo to hear or speak these words in public. Today, they are being written into law.
New York has recently stepped out as a leader, in a growing national and global movement for menstrual equity, by being the first state to pass a legislation that provides free feminine hygiene products to students in public schools, homeless women living in shelters and women in jail. The New York City Council voted 49-0 to approve the legislation, and councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, a Queens Democrat and a sponsor of the legislation, called the measure an issue of “menstrual equity.”
States across the country are fighting to eliminate sales tax on menstrual products, which are a basic necessity and should never have been taxed in the first place. However, as states debate whether or not to remove the sales tax, feminine hygiene products remain largely inaccessible in the Unites States. Menstruation isn’t something women can control and menstrual products aren’t a luxury item. Therefore, like New York City, states should put more effort in providing free menstrual products to women in certain settings.
“Whether it’s in public schools, shelters, or even our city jails, giving women access to these products is a no-brainer and long overdue,” Melissa Mark-Viverito, the New York City council speaker, said to The Advocate.
According to The Advocate, high priced feminine hygiene products were largely unaffordable for many New York City public school students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch. People in homeless shelters were equally unable to afford tampons and pads.
Tampons and pads can sell for more than $10 at a local drug or grocery store. For example, a pack of 40 Always Infinity pads with wings costs $10.99 at CVS Pharmacy while a box of 50 Tampax Pearl plastic tampons costs $11.99. Making sure you’re covered and taking care of your health can really add up financially.
Council finance chair, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who worked on the legislation, expressed her support to The Advocate, stating the city was “setting a standard for equality and access for the rest of the country to follow.”
Menstruation falls squarely at the intersection of sound health, and economic and educational policy, yet America has long lagged behind in providing menstrual products, while raising awareness that menstruation isn’t taboo. Thankfully, there are legions of activists, journalists, policy makers and others working to raise awareness of the negative impact caused by lack of access to affordable, safe menstrual products.
In the U.S., public policy is a key lever for change. Just last year, menstrual activism captured so many headlines that NPR dubbed it “The Year of the Period” and Cosmopolitan proclaimed it was “the year the period went public.” As menstrual equality garners more interest and awareness, states are moving in the right direction by providing basic needs for its people. This year, 15 of the 40 states with a “tampon tax” moved to change it, and just last week, the American Medical Association released a statement urging states to exempt menstrual products from sales tax.
No woman ever said getting a period was a luxury, so menstrual products shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s not about giving away free stuff: it’s about ensuring a high functioning, equal society. New York made history for menstrual equity, and the rest of the country, and the world, should follow.
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