The tax placed on feminine hygiene products, a.k.a. The “Pink Tax”, is holding back millions of women all over the country. Over half of all states leverage some form of “tampon tax”, which can lead to what’s known as “period poverty.” This describes when a woman is forced to spend all her money on products during her period. Experts estimate that women spend $150 million on these additional taxes every year.
What is the “Pink Tax”?
The term refers to gender-based taxing policies that affect products generally used by women.
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, lawyer and vice president of the Brennan School of Justice at NYU School of Law, and co-founder of Period Equity, a nonprofit that aims to get of gender-based taxing, describes it as a “income-generating scenario for private companies who found a way to make their product look either more directed to or more appropriate for the population and saw that as a moneymaker.”
“I think the motivations around the pink tax come more explicitly from a classic capitalist stance: If you can make money off of it, you should,” she adds.
Recent studies from states all over the map show women can sometimes pay 50% more on hygiene products than men. The survey included all types of products, including body wash, senior home health products, and even shampoo.
Weiss-Wolf notes that states are allowed to set their own tax exemption laws, and feminine products rarely make the list.
“I went through every tax code in every state that didn’t exempt menstrual products to see what they did exempt, and the list is ridiculous,” she said, including products like marshmallows in Florida, cooking wine in California, snowmobiles in Maine, barbecue sunflower seeds in Indiana, and gun club memberships in Wisconsin.
“This issue has real resonance for people,” Weiss-Wolf said. “I think partly because the experience of menstruation is so universal for anybody who’s experienced it, as is the understanding that being able to manage it is so essential to one’s ability to participate fully in daily life and have a dignified existence.”
How Nurse Greenaway is Making a Difference
As a nurse practitioner in the Houston area, Nikki Hunter Greenaway sees the effects of these laws in real-time. “Period poverty is real, and it affects women and girls in our own community every day,” she said.
She’s also the founder of The Bloom Period Project, which aims to collect and provide menstrual products to women who may otherwise have trouble paying for these items every month. This summer, the project helped donate thousands of goods to women, families, and schools throughout New Orleans.
She recently relocated to Houston, where she hopes to continue the project.
“I am excited The Bloom Period Project will be able to serve women in need in Houston. The numbers have drastically increased since the beginning of COVID, and product costs have increased as well,” Greenaway continues.
The initiative relies on donations from all over the country. If you’d like to support women in her area, visit her Amazon wish list to purchase items or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Members of Congress are taking on the pink tax as well. In 2020, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced the Pink Tax Repeal Act, which would allow state attorneys general to go after companies that charge female customers more for hygiene products if passed into law. The bill says AGs would be able “to take civil action on consumers wronged by discriminatory practices.”
The pink tax remains in effect across the U.S., but many people, including providers like Greenaway, are doing their best to bring these inequalities to an end.