Ok ladies and gents…we’re talking about periods and the tampon tax 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.
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.
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.
It shouldn’t cost more to be born a female, but it does. How can we fix that?
This post was proofread by Grammarly.