Youth activists are combating menstruation stigma and demanding access to affordable menstrual hygiene products with a rally this Saturday, October 19. At 12 p.m. on the west steps of the Capitol building, the Denver chapter of the PERIOD movement is organizing a call to action fo legislators to address the taxation of menstruation products.
For the first National Period Day, the PERIOD movement believes that it is a fundamental human right to have access to menstrual hygiene. Currently, 35 states in the U.S. have a sales tax on period products considering them luxury items.
PERIOD movement wants two things: for clean and healthy period products to be freely accessible in schools, shelters, and prisons and for the elimination of the “pink tax” (sales tax on menstrual products).
The Cost of Bleeding
The average person who has a period will spend roughly $11,000 in their lifetime on tampons, and one in four of those folks will struggle to afford period products due to a lack of income. The PERIOD movement stated that in a recent study, 46 percent of folks who menstruate had to choose between food and menstrual hygiene products.
“In California, the state pulls in $25 million a year just from the tax on period products alone,” said Jessica Whetsel, Denver’s PERIOD movement chapter organizer. “I get it; it’s free money but it’s a targeted oppression on folks who menstruate.”
The Los Angeles Times reported that California is now on the fence about making a sales tax exemption for menstrual products and diapers earlier in the year; however, the exemption is only good for two years.
“We hope to extend it, but we hope to be in a fiscal position to do so, and we want to maintain our prudence,” said Gavin Newson, the governor of California. As reported by CNN, he went on to say, “We want to maintain a balanced structural budget.”
Generally, states exempt food and other necessities such as medicine and prescription drugs, but not menstrual products, from sales tax. In the U.S., 16 states currently don’t charge a “pink tax” or sales tax in general, and PERIOD movement rallies are being organized across the country to challenge the legislators in the states that still do.
Youth Organizer of the PERIOD Movement
The founder and executive director of PERIOD movement is 21-year-old Nadya Okamoto who began the 501(c)(3) at the age of 16. Now the largest youth-run NGO in women’s health, she has published a book called Period Power: A Manifesto for the Menstrual Movement and ran for office in 2017.
“It’s definitely been a youth-led initiative, and that’s really what they focus on with the rallies, is getting youth community organizers to get their communities and their networks together,” Whetsel said.
While PERIOD movement is preparing for their first rally and the first protest of its kind, their work does not cease after Saturday.
“The work we are doing at PERIOD has never been more important than right now, especially with everything happening in the world around reproductive rights and gender equality,” said PERIOD movement founder and CEO Nadya Okamoto. “In the last four years, PERIOD has addressed over 700,000 periods through our work distributing PERIOD packs and products. Our work and activism this coming year will be critical to addressing our goal of ending period poverty and stigma.”
For folks who want to participate in the rally, information can be found on the PERIOD movement website as well as Facebook event pages per each city. Additionally, folks can help create Period Packs or make nonprofit organizations aware that these resources exist.
Beyond National Period Day, the longterm goal of PERIOD movement is to overall reduce the stigma around periods and menstruation.
“The vision is being able to talk about periods in regular conversation without having weird names to get around it, like Aunt Flow coming to visit or Shark Week,” said Whetsel. “It’s a natural thing that every person with a uterus goes through. You can’t really reduce the stigma around that without changing the conversation and making sure that there is gender equity around the financial piece.”