If it bleeds, it leads. And bleeding is an integral part of womanhood.
We here at Lady Parts Justice are dedicated to removing the stigma attached to abortion. But that’s only part of the shaming routinely involved with lady parts. As any person who has ever menstruated knows, “that time of month” is fraught with societal shaming that expresses itself in dopey euphemisms like “that time of the month.” Ads for sanitary pads and tampons use images of iridescent blue liquid, as though menstrual cycles were something that only Smurfs experienced.
But as a new in-depth Newsweek article points out, periods are really happening right now, in terms of pop culture attention and even legislative progress. NPR called 2015 “the year of the period,” and it looks like we’ll be having more in 2016. Phrases like menstrual equity and period feminism are the vogue instead of tired euphemisms.
Americans spent $3.1 billion on tampons, pads and sanitary products last year. They are a basic and necessary product, yet the stigma around menstruation means that they are often difficult and unnecessarily expensive to obtain.
Tampons and pads are taxed in all but 10 states (5 of which don’t have any sales tax at all.) But the tide is changing. New York state is in the process of eliminating the tampon tax. In all, tampon tax legislation has been introduced in 14 states this year alone, and is still alive in 12.
If tampons are getting more affordable, it’s been an uphill battle to make them more safe, going back to the day of toxic shock syndrome (TSS). The FDA doesn’t require tampon manufacturers to list their ingredients–even though the average woman will have 12,000 of them inserted into her for over 100,000 hours of her life. It’s hard to imagine a product being so loosely regulated if men had to stick their penises into it for 100,000 hours.
Introduced by US Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), the Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (named after a woman who died of TSS) would ask the FDA to require that tampon ingredients be listed. It also would mandate that the National Institutes of Health assess the health risks associated with menstrual hygiene products. The Act has been batted around Congress in one form or another since 1997. It’s currently languishing in the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, where it has been given just a 2% chance of passing.
Let’s continue to fight to repeal tampon taxes in every state, and pressure Congress to finally pass the Robin Danielson Act. Act now! Momentum is building, people are becoming aware… in short, it’s “that time.”