WOMEN ARE MAKING THE PERSONAL- OUR PERIODS – VERY POLITCAL
New York City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland is pioneering the City’s first-ever affirmative menstrual health policy agenda; in June 2016 groundbreaking new laws were passed that mandate the provision of free tampons and pads in public schools, corrections facilities and homeless shelters. State Rep. Melissa Sargent introduced legislation to provide these products in schools and agencies statewide in Wisconsin. Rep. Cezar McKnight initiated the same in South Carolina.
At the federal level, Congresswoman Grace Meng introduced a bill to amend the tax code classification of tampons, pads and menstrual cups thereby allowing for their inclusion in Flexible Spending Account allowances; she also ensured that tampons and pads could be purchased by emergency shelters and programs using FEMA funding. She is championing legislation to provide tax credits and amend workplace regulations to ensure accessible, affordable menstrual products. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney championed the Robin Danielson Act to require funding and research into the potential hazards posed by the chemicals baked into most commercially produced tampons.
For info on the highest profile U.S. and international policy fight – the Tampon Tax! – scroll down to “Old-Fashioned Organizing” (below) and to my Stop Taxing Our Periods! Period. dedicated page.
In March 2016 five women filed a class action lawsuit against the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, led by the legal team of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady and attorney Laura Strausfeld. The plaintiffs argue that the state’s taxation of tampons and other menstrual products, while it carves out exemptions for Viagra, Rogaine and dandfuff shampoo (as “medical necessity”), violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. and New York State Constitutions. Similar suits have been filed in Ohio and California.
A proliferation of innovative micro-enterprise models – by which pads are manufactured out of low-cost, readily available products (from wood pulp to banana fiber) and produced by women in developing countries – are making access to menstrual health a reality for millions. In Africa and India, women now earn an income making and selling pads at affordable prices; supplemental education empowers girls.
A new generation of entrepreneurs – Annie Lascoe and Margo Lang of Conscious., Miki Agrawal of THINX, Diandra Kalish of Untabooed, Diana Sierra of BeGirl, Julie Sygiel of Dear Kate, Jordana Kier and Alex Friedman of LOLA and Naama Bloom of Hello Flo – have developed savvy businesses that tout a distinct feminist viewpoint, provide alternative, eco-friendly period products and integrate a do-good model to help meet the menstrual needs of millions, at home and around the world.
Making a Statement
Kiran Gandhi’s bold and much celebrated tampon-free run of the London Marathon – which just may catapult the phrase “free bleeding” into Merriam-Webster – helped raise awareness about those who lack access to menstrual products, while encouraging women to shed period shame. Kiran’s music packs a double feminist punch: #TheFutureIsFemale.
Artist Rupi Kaur scored a public apology from Instagram after it removed her photos of blood-stained sheets and pajamas. She proudly proclaimed victory: “Their patriarchy is leaking. Their misogyny is leaking. We will not be censored.”
Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, high school students and graduates of the Girls Who Code program, created the wildly popular video game, Tampon Run, featuring tampon-wielding super she-roes.
#TheHomelessPeriod and #JustATampon launched quickly-gone-viral campaigns to raise awareness of the plight of homeless women in the U.K. and what it means to manage menstruation with only the clothes on one’s back and not a nickel to spare. In India, #HappyToBleed counters a culture rife with taboos – and a call by one temple to employ stricter measures to ensure the exclusion of menstruating women, including full body scanners.Legions of women live-tweeted their periods to Donald Trump – #PeriodsAreNotAnInsult – after he derided FOX anchor Megyn Kelly’s questioning in the 2015 Republican presidential debate by proclaiming she had “blood coming out of her whatever.”
The No Tax On Tampons movement catapulted to global recognition when Canada eliminated its national Goods and Services Tax on period products. France’s National Assembly voted to reduce its tampon tax to 5.5 percent (down from twenty); it did so in the face of fierce protest after an unsuccessful attempt to secure a majority vote weeks prior. Energetic activists in the U.K. (led by the amazing Laura Coryton!) and Australia are fighting to eliminate the tax altogether. The U.K. campaign succeeded in persuading the European Union to eliminate the Value Added Tax (VAT) on menstrual products. HUGE victory!!
Here in the U.S., writer and advocate Jennifer Weiss-Wolf joined forces with Cosmopolitan Magazine to take on the 40 (now 37!) states that charge the notorious tampon tax (sign the petition!). Legislators are taking heed. As the 2016 legislative session began, California kicked it off with a bill to eliminate sales tax on menstrual hygiene products – with bipartisan sponsorship. Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Virginia and Wisconsin have followed with similar bills. So have the District of Columbia and the City of Chicago. The New York Times weighed in with a hard-hitting editorial; even President Obama said it had to go. Three states scrapped the tax by the close of the 2016 legislative session … New York, Connecticut and Illinois. Progress!
Digital marketing leader Nancy Kramer’s #FreeTheTampons campaign makes the case that all private businesses and public restrooms provide tampons and pads as they do toilet paper and soap. Kramer has brought on major companies and restaurants in the fight – including her inaugural client (since 1981!), Apple Computer.
Donation projects like Girls Helping Girls. Period. (whose teenage founders introduced Jen to this issue!), Distributing Dignity, RACKET, Support The Girls and Femme are helping to ensure that shelters and food pantries are stocked with the items women need. RACKET has brought Broadway stars (including everyone’s favorite, Hamilton!) into the movement. Femme took home first prize in the prestigious National Public Policy Challenge at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.