Period products are basic necessities for half the population, yet in 35 US states, they are taxed as luxury items. Now, a new national campaign seeks to end the period tax by next Tax Day on April 15, 2020.
Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman, the founders of the reproductive health brand LOLA, are collaborating with Jennifer Weiss-Wolf and Laura Strausfeld of the nonprofit organization Period Equity on the campaign, called “Tax Free. Period.” The campaign launched on June 11 and asks citizens to join the movement against the tampon tax, which the organizers deem illegal, unconstitutional, and discriminatory.
“We believe our action is what’s needed to show our legislators that we’re done asking politely, and we’re ready to mobilize legal action to see the tampon tax eliminated across the United States,” Weiss-Wolf told Global Citizen.
Is your state taxing your period? News flash: there are 35 states that charge sales tax on our period products. We are calling that illegal, discriminatory, and unconstitutional. Join our legal fight at https://t.co/2rZHRTGfJL.— LOLA (@mylolatweet) June 11, 2019
On the Tax Free. Period. website, users can navigate an interactive map of the US to see if the tampon tax exists in their state. The map generates graphics with information about which items are tax-free –– BBQ Sunflower Seeds in Indiana and gun club memberships in Wisconsin, for instance. Users can then tweet these facts to legislators.
“We’ve been left out of both the decision-making process and the and rules by which we live,” Weiss-Wolf said.
The social media tool is only one component of Tax Free. Period. The campaign is working diligently to collect data on the impact of the tampon tax and form a strong legal argument against it. In the fall, Tax Free. Period. will host a legal hackathon with experts at Columbia Law School in New York City to brainstorm a legal strategy to present in court.
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Period Equity helped launch the first effort to end the period tax in 2015 and successfully pressured New York state to remove it in 2016. While there have been several victories since — New York, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut, and Nevada eliminated their tampon taxes in response to advocacy against it — Weiss-Wolf wants to see the effort pick up more steam.
“It’s not fast enough. It’s not widespread enough,” she said.
LOLA is using its platform to amplify the new campaign. Fostering conversations about menstrual equity is central to the company’s mission. The brand manufactures organic period products and became successful by encouraging people to question what materials they put in their bodies to manage their periods.
“Keeping the momentum going really requires our communities going out to their communities and creating that snowball effect,” Kier told Global Citizen.
Star athlete and LOLA investor Serena Williams already showed support for Tax-Free. Period.
“A tax on periods is wrong,” she said. “Telling half the population that their needs aren’t important is wrong.”
While advocates say the tampon tax isn’t the only way to achieve menstrual equity — breaking taboos, education, and safe sanitation are also key factors — Weiss-Wolf believes removing the financial barrier is a start.
“This [campaign] is intended to pave the way and see how legislators are even going to respond to talking about menstruation,” she said.
Since starting the fight against the tampon tax in 2015, she’s seen efforts to ensure menstrual access for people who are incarcerated, in public schools, and in shelters skyrocket. According to Weiss, 22 states introduced bills that address the tampon tax in 2019.
“This isn’t just about getting people angry or giving them a hashtag,” Weiss explained. “This is about creating an entire legal movement that will not only succeed in eliminating the tampon tax in the United States but creating a model for which we can address other inequities, menstrual and otherwise.”