Taking Down The Patriarchy One Tampon At A Time

Fighting back against the #pinktax and the #tampontax

Ok ladies and gents…we’re talking about periods today. I feel like I need to put a disclaimer on that so if my Dad ever stumbles across my blog, he can stop reading. I consider myself a feminist, but there are specific details about my leak week that I’d rather not share with certain people. Clearly that’s not internet strangers! If you don’t like where this is going then feel free to bow out (but also realize that you might be part of the problem, just saying.)

Recently there have been reports about the outlandishly high cost of feminine hygiene products in some of Canada’s largest airports (Calgary and Vancouver). It’s ridiculous to charge $15 for a box of pads or tampons, and the stories have stirred up the debate about women having to pay for their periods. Apparently, only bread gets its own price-fixing scandal.

In Canada, we eliminated the tampon tax in 2015. Compared to many other places (many states in the US and the UK for example) we’re ahead of the game on this one, but 2015, seriously! That was less than three years ago. And there’s  still contention on whether or not Aunt Flo should pay her way.

Cost Breakdown

So it’s great that us Canadian women no longer have to pay tax on our period products, but it’s still no fairy tale.

The Huffington Post figured that the average woman spends $1,773.33 on tampons over her life. This is based on a $7 box of 36 tampons, 20 tampons used per cycle and a typical lifetime menstruation of 38 years. Their numbers are based on American pricing, so I thought I would run them for myself and see how close I got. Surprisingly it was slightly lower. Mine came in at $1,682.13 for a lifetime supply of cotton wadding on a string. For my calculation, I used these tampons from Amazon with a price of $13.28 on the day I checked. So about $1,700 bucks to avoid the embarrassment of bleeding through your pants…cool. And that’s just for tampons. We all know that’s not the only expense involved with having your period. There’s the ibuprofen that’s necessary to function when you have cramps, the backup pads, and the inevitable new underwear when leaks still happen.

How great would it be if governments took these additional costs into account and considered subsidizing such products? In Canada, you can claim eligible medical expenses on your taxes. It’s a long list but includes such expenses as an in-vitro, laser eye therapy, and dentures. Extended health benefit plans could also step up and allow claims for feminine hygiene products. Anything to help balance out the costs associated with being a female would help.

Another Option

If you and your girlfriends talk about your periods, then you probably know exactly where I’m going with this. If not, stick with me. You can stop buying tampons. And no, I’m not suggesting you go full-on ‘au naturel’. I’m talking about embracing the wonder that is the menstrual cup. In case you don’t already have that friend who preaches the magic of the cup, I’m going to be that friend for you. (Guys, if you’ve stuck with me this long I won’t hold it against you if you leave now.)

No more having to change a tampon every few hours, no more uncomfortable pads, no more panic attacks when you forget to change your tampon and think you’ll die of TSS, no more buying supplies every month, and no more pulling out a dry tampon (kill me). Menstrual cups are the bomb.com.

I converted last year and have zero regrets. All that raving makes the cup sound like some kind of religion, and it kind of is. Ladies who love them, love them a lot. I urge you to give it a shot! I use the Diva Cup, but there are plenty of other options out there. I’m not going to get into all of the nitty-gritty details of how a menstrual cup works (it’s pretty self-explanatory) or how you use one but I’m happy to answer questions in the comments (if you’re brave) or through email. All I ask is that if you try it out, and give yourself three cycles to get in the groove. Your first month will probably suck (it did for me). There’s a learning curve for sure. It will feel awkward at first, but by my third month, all was right in the down there world.

The Cost Savings

Depending on the brand you go with, one menstrual cup will run you between $20 and $40. Using the numbers from the above calculation, one year of tampons will cost about $44. Your new cup will save you money in the first year, and it can last for years. I’ve been using mine since last June, and it’s still in perfect condition. I don’t have long-term experience but I read a lot of reviews, and there are many people still use the same cup after five years. Assuming you replace your cup every five years, you could save over $1,300 by switching from tampons.

If the cost savings aren’t enough to sway you, you’ll also get a green star of approval for your new environmentally friendly habit. Think of all the used tampons, applicators and pads you’re keeping out of the landfills and sewage systems. Instead of throwing out 9,000+ tampons over your lifetime you’ll throw away less than 10 cups.

Watch for the Tax

As I said above, Canada does not have a ‘Tampon Tax’. This applies to not only tampons but other feminine hygiene products like pads and menstrual cups. However, I went back and looked at my Amazon receipt for my Diva Cup, and they did charge GST on it. I reached out via their online chat, and they reversed the charge. Much to the chagrin of me and the dude who fell victim to my ‘tampon tax’ rant. There was no admission of wrongdoing, and when I tested out purchasing another cup, the GST still showed up. Watch for that, and call out Amazon or any other retailer if they try and tax you.

The Pink Tax

Tampons aren’t the only products that have a gender discrepancy when it comes to cost. Extravagantly priced make-up and skincare and bras are purchased almost exclusively by women. These may not be considered essentials, but ask any women, and she’ll tell you it sure fucking feels like it. Let’s bring it back to the essentials though. Studies have shown that women pay up to 43% more for personal care products (like deodorant, razors, soap, etc.) I’ve noticed this shopping for myself and the bf. Even though we buy similar items (i.e. pink razors vs black), the ‘lady’ versions are almost always priced higher.

Here are a few examples I was able to find today:

  • Dove body wash for women vs for men (the price may be the same, but notice that the women’s version is almost 50ml less)
  • Schick Hydro 5 blade razors for women vs for men ($1 more PER RAZOR for the women’s version; purple sure is pricey)
  • Old Spice deodorant vs Secret deodorant (I chose these two because they have the same parent company, P&G. This one gets you on both sides with the women’s version costing a dollar more for almost half the product.)

Honestly, I knew the ‘Pink Tax’ was a thing, but didn’t realize how obvious it was until I ran these comparisons. I know I could switch products and use unisex or the men’s version but I’m sorry, I want my soap to smell like flowers instead of musk, and I don’t think I should have to pay extra for that privilege. I’m making an effort to support companies that keep their prices on a level playing field, and buy things on sale, but my budget gives me the ability to buy what I want. This is not the case for everyone. Ask any charity that focuses on women, and they’ll tell you that one of the most requested items (and most infrequently donated) are tampons and pads.

There are too many examples of inequality between men and women (I’ll be talking about the wage gap and investing gap in later posts), and talking about it is one of the best ways to combat it. And consider letting your wallet do the talking for you. Spend your dollars on products (and companies) that make you feel good but also promote fairness. It can be a challenge, but you’ll have better luck if you look local and smaller. It might cost a bit more, but if you can afford it, then it’s a worthy cause.

If you want more then check out this post from Bitches Get Riches and this one from the Dumpster Dog.

It shouldn’t cost more to be born a female, but it does. How can we fix that? 

Fighting back against the #pinktax and the #tampontax

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

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21 comments

  1. First comment. From a guy no less ha,ha. Had seen that the cup has become the new thing. Female hygiene products are often better. Used to steal my ex’s razors, new ones that is, same brand less razor burns and no cuts. My son is an athlete, his gf turned him onto female branded deodorant. Works much better. So there is that

    1. That’s really interesting about female products being better, I hadn’t heard that before. Maybe companies should just start making more unisex products so everyone can be happy!

      Thanks for stopping by and being the first guy to comment.

  2. As a woman, health advocate, environmentally conscious person, and feminist, I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH! I’ve been using a cup for a few years now and aside from being less costly and better for the environment, my cramps have greatly reduced. Thanks for writing this post!

    1. Thanks so much Emilie! I have heard that some people experience a reduction in cramps when using the cup. That hasn’t been my experience but I’ve been lucky to not have a history of bad cramps using either method.

  3. Funny, my husband forgot his razor at home (we are away right now) and I offered to give him my unused PINK razor. Haha, and he thinks it is different from his own razor (uh no!).

    I haven’t used the Diva Cup but I have heard many great things about it. Another thing that helps decrease the cost of monthly aunt Flo is pregnancy and breastfeeding haha! I would not encourage one to have a child and go through labour just solely for saving money on tampons/pads though!

    1. Haha, I think the cost of actually having a baby outweighs the cost savings of not having to buy tampons 😉

      I’m sure there are some subtle differences between the razors but nothing that makes them unusable by the other sex. I’ve for sure used my bf’s razors and not noticed a difference. Now he uses an electric though so they’re not lying around anymore.

  4. I keep saying I’m going to buy a cup once I’m through my supply of pads, but then I keep not having a period, thanks to my birth control. Which is sorta fine because it’s not like I enjoy being on my period, but the lack of predictability is super obnoxious. And then I wonder if I really want to try something new when I have no idea how long my period will last (if I get it) or what my flow will be like. So maybe I won’t get one just yet even though I really want to. Clearly the solution here is to change the US political climate so I can go back to being on the pill without worrying that I won’t be able to afford it or even be able to get it at all!

    Super jealous that Canada got rid of the tampon tax. Being a woman is expensive enough without that added to everything.

    1. Unpredictable periods are the worst! Mine used to be like that before I went on birth control but now it’s regular almost down to the hour.

      Not having access to affordable (actually free!) birth control is even more infuriating than having to pay for tampons. Mine is covered by my employee health benefits and I’m always thankful for that when I see the receipts, it’s not cheap. Hopefully the climate will change and legislators will wake-up to the fact that birth control is vital.

  5. This was eye opening information. I have not considered all the extra costs associated with famine products! Crazy. The cup sound interesting but I have recently gone through menopause and no longer need such products. I have daughters so I’ll pass this information along.Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for commenting Cheryl 🙂 I have heard about the ‘pink tax’ but was still surprised when I compared specific products, it really is significant. I’m such a fan of the cup now and don’t think I’ll ever switch back to use tampons.

  6. I use the Diva Cup! At first I was nervous about, and it took some time to get used to it, but I wouldn’t go back to tampons. I love that I don’t have to change out the cup nearly as often as tampons. And I agree with you that feminine care should absolutely be covered by flexible spending accounts. It’s not like these things are an option!

    1. That’s my favourite thing about the cup, not having to change it nearly as regularly. One of the things I was worried about was having to change it in public, but that’s never been an issue because you can leave it in so much longer.

  7. I’m glad you wrote this post! It’s important stuff. I always feel really strongly for low-income families. I cannot fathom choosing between groceries and feminine hygiene products. Our community does regular food drives, and I always make it a point to include pads and tampons. I know it probably makes the teenagers a bit squirmy who have to do the sorting, but it’s an important lesson for them to learn, too.

    1. Thanks Penny! I can’t even imagine being in that situation, it would be so challenging. Tampons/pads are one of my go to’s when donating to local charities.

  8. I loved this post!!! First, you have definitely convinced me to try the cup! Second, that is so cool that Canada dropped the tax on feminine hygiene products! Something the states needs to jump on board with! Great post and I am glad you shared!

  9. Interesting about the different costs of shower gel and perfumes! I just just the same shower gel as my fiancé because I don’t mind smelling manly 😛

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Polly! That’s a good strategy, and I find the scent of shower gel doesn’t last too long so likely no one would even notice.

  10. Hi I think it’s important we talk about this stuff – we’ve still got the tampon tax in the UK. The government decided to give the funds to charities that support women, and they even caused controversy by giving most to a pro-life charity! You couldn’t make it up.

    I like the idea they are similar to toilet paper; public bathrooms supply this essential product, yet why do they not supply sanitary products as standard? I did once work for a company that made them, and the the ladies was always nicely stocked.

  11. Great post, I hadn’t noticed the difference between men’s and women’s items. I switched to men’s deodorant because I couldn’t find a women’s one that wasn’t also antiperspirant! Personally, I think Old Spice’s Amber deodorant doesn’t smell manly at all. 🙂

    I’m sadly jealous of all women who can use menstrual cups. I’ve had one for four years and haven’t been able to get it to work for me. I’ve been trying reusable pads instead. They aren’t great for activity because mine move around, but they’re wonderful for lounging around the house and sleeping.

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