Menstruators in California alone pay $20 million annually in state sales taxes on menstrual products. It’s common practice for states to exempt necessities from being taxed; however, the mostly male legislature has deemed that menstrual products are not a necessity. By contrast, Viagra and condoms are tax-exempt in California – a particularly egregious example of gender discrimination.
This is especially problematic for those of limited means; menstruators below the poverty line are often forced to choose between personal hygiene and sustenance. This crisis exists because menstrual hygiene products are taxed as luxury goods on top of their preexisting high prices.
Nadya Okamoto, the founder and executive director of PERIOD, a nonprofit at the forefront of the menstrual movement, is striving to end period poverty. She founded PERIOD at the age of 16 after she was struck by the lack of support and availability of period products for low-income menstruators. While destigmatizing menstruation, PERIOD calls for freely accessible period products in schools, shelters, and prisons as the removal of the tax on menstrual products.
A national study by Thinx and PERIOD investigated period poverty in schools and discovered that 1 in 5 teens has struggled to afford or purchase period products, with 84 percent of teens having missed or knowing someone who has missed school due to period poverty. A joint study by Myovant Sciences, Evidation, and PERIOD found that 60 percent of people of all genders believe that the period stigma is still prevalent in today’s society, with 1 in 5 women saying that they do not feel comfortable talking about menstruation with health care providers.
October 19, 2019 marked the largest grassroots mobilization in the history of period activism with the world’s first National Period Day. On this historic day, PERIOD brought together 60 rallies across all 50 U.S. states and four countries, uniting a passionate global voice for the menstrual movement to elevate the issues of period poverty, demand real change to make period products accessible to all, and end the luxury tax on all menstrual products.
Among the largest metropolitan cities of the nation and struggling with surging homeless populations, Los Angeles was determined to take action. The voices of young activists echoed across MacArthur Park, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, period poverty has got to go!” They were advocating that menstrual hygiene is not a privilege, but a right. With creative posters destigmatizing menstruation and calling for action, activists boldly presented their message to the nation.
After National Period Day highlighted period poverty, we continue to advocate and serve marginalized communities through phase two of our campaign, “Free the Period.” With our current campaign consisting of two main sectors of advocacy and service – a national collection drive and policy advocacy bootcamp – PERIOD strives to change society’s antiquated laws and viewpoints surrounding menstruation.
The national collection drive is a nationwide effort working toward assembling and distributing period products to menstruators in need to address the issue of period poverty.
The policy advocacy bootcamp involves working with legislators for active policy change advocacy against the luxury tax on tampons by pushing for a policy that would achieve menstrual equity. Through this campaign, PERIOD aims to lead a global menstrual movement coalition that will ultimately #FreethePeriod once and for all.