The University of Saskatchewan’s main campus is situated on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.

It’s time to talk about tampons, taxes and taboo

By in Opinions

Feminine hygiene products are vital when it comes to dealing with periods and a lack of access to them can be detrimental. Until recently, tampons and other feminine hygiene products were considered non-essential, contributing to the stigma that surrounds menstruation.

As of July 1, 2015, Canada’s federal government will be removing the GST from feminine hygiene products including tampons, pads, menstrual cups, sanitary wipes and other menstrual products. Thanks to a petition on change.org with over 74,000 signatures from  people across Canada, the movement was pushed forward at an ever-escalated rate.

While it’s no surprise to anyone, the topic of menstrual cycles and natural bodily functions remains relatively undiscussed, as people tend to become uncomfortable with just the mention of a period.

Our society is quick to sell the female body like some sort of mass-produced commodity. While over-sexualized and objectified women grace the covers of magazines, ads, movie posters and more, people are still weird about periods.

While this everyday objectification barely phases the masses, the mere mention of someone bleeding from shedding the lining of their uterus freaks people out. Something that happens to over half the adult population of the world  is seen as abnormal and even an inappropriate topic to bring up in discussion. The society we live in continues to stigmatize something that is a completely natural and fundamental function.   

While menstruation is a basic part of bodily functions, we are often made to feel ashamed and embarrassed about it. From a young age, we are taught that it’s not an open subject to discuss. Why else would we find the most obscure places to hide our tampons so that no one will see them as we scurry off to the bathroom to change it, or shy away from acknowledging the fact that we have our period at all?

The result of charging GST on feminine hygiene products is gendered taxation. One half of the population should not have to pay a tax on a product that the other half doesn’t even have to worry about purchasing. A woman will spend upwards of $1000 on these products during the average 37 years she menstruates.

By taxing these products, the government makes money off of a bodily function that occurs completely naturally. Gendered taxation in Canada is discriminatory as people all over the country are forced to purchase these products at a taxation rate of 5 per cent GST in addition to other sales taxes.

Why should women alone be charged for something that they have no control over? Menstrual products are a crucial part of living a healthy life.

This kind of taxation works to disadvantage women on a financial level and worsens the situations of many women when factors such as race, sexuality and class are considered, as they must be.

There are many people who have a difficult time accessing these products, due largely to the fact that they are so expensive and not always considered a necessity. Feminine hygiene products can be taken for granted when they are easily available to you on your weekly grocery run, but many are not so lucky.

A group that stands out in their progressive stance on this issue is the University of Saskatchewan Students’ Union Women’s Centre, which provides free menstrual products in their office in the Memorial Union Building for anyone in need.

The centre also hosts a Menstrual Drive, where people can donate different menstrual products — preferably reusable ones like diva cups or cloth pads, which are also good for the environment! These menstrual products are then donated to the Saskatoon Food Bank in order to provide feminine hygiene for those who need it.

While those of us with periods could take a stand and just let it flow to demonstrate our need for these products, I think it’s safe to say that it would be easier and a little less messy if we all came to our senses and acknowledged the bias in taxing gendered products.

Next step — free tampons?

  • Asking for a friend

    Are there taxes on toilet paper?

    • Jim

      Yes, use a rag you tree-killing shitlord!

      But seriously, you do pay GST on toilet paper.

    • Not that I poop or anyting

      Things that keep your butt clean should be taxed the same as things that keep your vagina clean

    • blegh

      You guys aren’t getting it. EVERYONE has to use toilet paper. ONLY HALF the population needs tampons because of the sex organs they were born with. A man will never be forced to buy such (expensive) products.

    • Guest

      Unless, of course, he gets married or otherwise has to spend money on women.

  • disqus_OardAPYvUp

    I’m highly disappointed in this article. I’m embarrassed for attending a university that would publish it.

    Why is there a tax on food? I need to eat or I will literally die!
    Why is there a tax on clothes? It’s illegal for me to go out in public naked, I need to have clothes!
    Why is there a tax on condoms? In order for me not to have babies I have to wear one!
    Why is there a tax on gas? My car will not move without it and I won’t be able to go to work!

    Taxes are taxes. No one should be exempt. I don’t agree with this exemption, or any other exemption that exists on GST. I wouldn’t agree with it even if it only exempted the most “basic” tampons and still taxed the “luxury” ones on TV (in a way similar to how basic food like fruits and bread are not taxed with GST, but ice cream and chocolate bars are).

    • Katie

      It is an “opinions” article, meaning that it is an–key word–opinion. You make a good point, but as long as the writing is done well and the information is not libelous, universities around the world will continue to publish similar articles which cover current issues.

    • Reading Carefully

      1. Everyone eats. Not everyone menstruates.
      2. Everyone needs clothes. Not everyone menstruates.
      3. You have a CHOICE about wearing a condom. OR abstaining. Women have NO choice about menstruating.
      4. You do not have to have a car. Many people don’t. Another choice. Women have no choice about menstruating.

      Actually, MEN ARE exempt from paying taxes on tampons and other feminine hygeine products.
      It is a good idea to READ carefully, then one may understand the article and the position of the author.

    • Blegh

      Actually food items are not taxed unless they’re non-essential like junk food and such. And the petition was to only remove GST, PST is still applicable. Also what’s the point in being butthurt over it? Are you gonna start a fucking petition to return the GST on something I’m assuming you will never buy?

  • Guest

    While this everyday objectification barely phases the masses, the mere mention of someone bleeding from shedding the lining of their uterus freaks people out. Something that happens to over half the adult population of the world is seen as abnormal and even an inappropriate topic to bring up in discussion. The society we live in continues to stigmatize something that is a completely natural and fundamental function.

    Whilemenstruation is a basic part of bodily functions, we are often made to feel ashamed and embarrassed about it. From a young age, we are taught that it’s not an open subject to discuss. Why else would we find the most obscure places to hide our tampons so that no one will see them as we scurry off to the bathroom to change it, or shy away from acknowledging the fact that we have our period at all?

    How is that any different from other bodily functions (ie pooping)? Everyone does it, but most people don’t want to talk about it. Some things are simply better to be kept private.

    • Liz

      It is different from pooping because EVERYONE POOPS, NOT EVERYONE MENSTRUATES!!!!!!!!

    • Guest

      So whether or not “everyone” does something is the benchmark of whether or not it’s an appropriate topic to discuss around the dinner table?

  • Guest

    “Gendered taxation”. Really? Does that make taxes on diapers “incontinence taxation”? Tampons are not a human right. It’s not as if the government is sitting on an infinite supply from which they’re making an unjustifiable profit. We really are an entitled generation.

    Are feminists just flexing their muscles at this point? I better not hear anything about “male privilege” now that having a menstrual cycle makes you partly tax exempt.

  • Somewhat agree

    I disagree with the stance that feminine hygiene products are ‘non-essential’ or ‘unnecessary’ because women bleed for roughly one week, every month for about 40 years… a product to absorb/collect the blood for disposal is obviously necessary!! I am glad to hear that these products are now GST free, but apparently not PST free?, because they are expensive. However, the idea that taxing these products is a form of discrimination against women is lame.

    • Reading Carefully

      This author is saying that these products ARE essential. The people who brought in the taxes on them, effectively send the message that they are not essential. So who would that be?

    • Clearly you did not understand

      The only part of my comment that is directed at the author of this article is the last sentence. Her whole argument is that taxing feminine products is a form of oppression and discrimination by ‘gendered taxation.’ I am assuming in the governments eyes taxing a product is taxing a product. The author of this article did not quote her sources claiming the products as non-essential, but she put it out there in her opening argument and I said that I disagree with that idea- whomever it is that may have said it.

  • Bruce/Catilynn

    Matter of fact we oughta get a discount of 40% for tampons for the transgender crowd (wait… how does that work??), because they are the most oppressed people in the world (if not in the entire history of humanity). And taxpayers should feel shame, how dare they try to further this atrocity with their complaining about the greater “debt” and “insolvency”

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