Why are Feminine Products Considered a Luxury?

Ladies, we all need the comfort and soothing power of some amazing feminine care products in our life, don’t we? Whether it’s to help relieve menstrual discomfort, freshen your Vibe, or aid or to prevent possible bacterial infections, feminine products are a true necessity to the proper functioning of the female body.

With that being said, why are essential feminine products like sanitary products and period products considered "luxury" items with higher tax rates? Well, it could be the fact that they aren’t free or the fact that they aren’t easily accessible to everybody, even though they probably should be. This is especially true when looking at the global scale. When feminine products, or any items for that matter, are not accessible to everybody, then there’s an immediate notion of "exclusivity" to them. 

So, first, let’s better define feminine products. These are items meant to address and assist with the care of women who are experiencing menstruation, vaginal discharge, or other bodily functions directly relating to the intimate area; this includes sanitary products and period products like napkins, tampons, period panties, and more. 

But wait! If these products are meant to manage regular processes that occur in every female body, then why is the term "luxury" even affiliated with these products? 

Let’s explore a bit! 

In order to get a better grasp on this formation of this system, we’ll need to look into what feminine products are available, how they came to be, the associated costs, and why they aren’t actually available to all who need them. 

Let’s take a closer look!

These Items Offer Daily Comfort Benefits

Traveling is easier

Let’s be honest, you don’t worry so much about what your body is doing when you have the proper protection you need to go about your day without detection of any leakage or discomfort. Periods aren’t normally the highlight of any woman’s month, but they don’t have to be a dreaded event when boarding a plane or driving a car either if you have the proper sanitary products you need to ensure comfort. 

Sports and swimming are possible

No one wants to be sidelined! The worst side effect of a period without the proper care or protection is the inability to do what you love. With period products, you’ll never worry about leakage when jumping in a pool or dominating on the soccer field. Products such as tampons or menstrual cups are there to worry about your “feminine needs” for you so you can enjoy the day. Pretty sweet deal, right? 

School and employment aren’t interrupted

You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. The world doesn’t just stop when you’re uncomfortable, right? Periods or anything relating to the vaginal area, or Vibe as we call it, shouldn’t have to stop your day from going as planned. By having these feminine products on hand at all times, there should be no worry that you’ll have to press pause on great day just to go to the bathroom for a leakage check.

Clothing choices aren’t restricted

Do you want to wear a dress for the day? What about white pants? With the proper sanitary products on hand, your wardrobe selections won't suffer. Never compromise a great outfit for the lack of the right period products. 

What Luxury Feminine Products Are Available for Purchase?

There are actually quite a few products women can choose from when it comes to feminine hygiene, comfort, and protection. Whether it’s during the menstrual process, after, or in between cycles, here are a some of the many feminine products that are available for your ultimate comfort: 

  • Sanitary napkins (pads) 
  • Tampons 
  • Pantyliners
  • Menstrual cups 
  • Period panties 
  • Menstrual sponges 
  • Douches
  • Feminine wipes 
  • Unscented soaps
  • Pregnancy/Ovulation tests 
  • Infection treatments 

As brands progress and evolve, there are now newer versions of the most popular feminine products that have reduced or eliminated harmful materials from these products as well. Some luxury feminine products have been accused of leading to Toxic Shock Syndrome, so now, many of them are being replaced with more natural alternatives or are composed of all-natural materials. 

Current Prices for Luxury Feminine Products

It’s all in your perception. To some, feminine care products may not seem all that expensive, but to others, it could run the risk of becoming a choice between sanitary products or dinner that night. Although mass produced and sold at an array of stores, women who may have lost their jobs, have extremely low incomes, or live in poverty-stricken countries may not have the easy access to these luxury feminine goods that others enjoy. 

On average, these are approximations of how much a pack of each product may cost in the United States. 

  • Sanitary napkins ($6.99) 
  • Tampons ($8.89) 
  • Pantyliners ($2.99) 
  • Menstrual cup ($39.99)
  • Period panties ($23.00)
  • Menstrual sponge ($10.00) 
  • Douches ($2.59) 
  • Feminine wipes ($3.29) 
  • Unscented soaps ($4.29)
  • Pregnancy tests ($10.19) 
  • Infection treatment ($21.99) 

Although these prices are not representative of all brands currently selling these products, they are reflective of the average costs that can be found at common supermarket stores such as Target and Walmart.

Women Spend a Large Lifetime Average on Feminine Products

After breaking down the costs, it still may not seem like a lot of money at first glance. However, have you thought about how all those feminine care product prices are going to add up in the long run? 

Let’s do the math! 

On average, women actually spend about $13.25 per month on feminine hygiene products in the United States. This totals about $6,360 for those products in the reproductive stages from ages 12-52, and that is a very conservative estimate! 

How much would be spent if a woman needs to utilize certain feminine products past age 52? 

Keep in mind that these prices aren’t even reflective of products such as the menstrual cup or period panties, which cost a total of $39.99 and $23.00 each. The total lifetime ticket can really add up quick! 

Let’s Talk About the Tampon Tax

As of now, feminine products associated with a woman’s period are still currently being taxed with every purchase under what's commonly known as the "tampon tax" or the "pink tax." While the United States is making headway to eliminate this often controversial cost, there’s still much to do before it’s removed  across the country as a whole.

Here's a guide to the most asked about states that have either removed the tampon tax from their state sales tax laws, or who still needs more legislative sessions to make feminine hygiene products tax-free:

  • Alaska: no tampon tax, and no sales tax in general!
  • Arizona: currently has a tampon tax :(
  • California: despite assemblywoman Cristina Garcia's efforts over the past few years, the tampon tax in California is currently only under a temporary exemption, so feminine hygiene products are not quite tax-free just yet!
  • Connecticut: eliminated in 2016
  • Delaware: no sales tax here either, so no tampon tax by default!
  • Florida: eliminated in 2018
  • Illinois: eliminated in 2016
  • Maryland: exempt--feminine hygiene products are considered medical products in this state
  • Massachusetts: exempt--feminine hygiene products are considered medical products in this state
  • Minnesota: exempts sanitary products, and a whole lot of other medical products, too
  • Montana: no sales tax here, no tampon tax here!
  • Nebraska: a bill moving to remove the tampon tax is currently pending for 2020!
  • Nevada: eliminated in 2018 due to the tax being an "unfair burden" on women
  • New Hampshire: no sales tax to begin with!
  • New Jersey: exempt
  • New York: eliminated in 2016
  • Ohio: just eliminated last year in November 2019!
  • Oregon: no states tax means no tampon tax
  • Pennsylvania: exempt, considered a paper good
  • Utah: just exempted last year in December 2019!
  • Wisconsin: we didn't save the best for last unfortunately--Wisconsin still taxes feminine hygiene products :(

Now, we’re not saying strides are not being taken in the right direction. There are currently petitions circling the internet to take part in the fight to make tax-exempt any items associated with a woman’s period. But until then, it’s something to be celebrated that almost half of the United States has made the move towards a more fair taxation of these feminine goods and services. This puts the United States on its way to catching up with other countries throughout the world that eliminated the tampon tax a long time ago, including Canada and Australia. Way to go!

Not All Women Have Proper Access

On a global scale, there are 2.3 billion people who live without basic sanitation services in developing countries. This includes feminine hygiene products. How crazy, right? 

Certain areas around the world also stigmatize feminine cycles, so the idea of care for them is immediately eliminated. For instance, Nepal believes that women who are experiencing their menstrual cycle are not pure. Therefore, they’re banished away from public’s eye until their cycle is over. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? 

While this is a huge issue all over the world, there are movements happening, new organizations developing, and important topics beginning to be addressed to bring feminine hygiene and sanitation to the forefront of global conversations.

What About in the US?

Even in the US, women who have low incomes are unable to enjoy easy access to these feminine products for their own health and well-being. In fact, in a recent report, about 1 in 5 women struggle with this problem every month. 

What’s used in replacement of these products? Many women have reported to using the following. 

  • Cloth 
  • Rags 
  • Tissues 
  • Toilet paper 

While those methods may help for the time being, they’re often unsanitary and can yield more problems down the line such as bacterial build up and infection.

Feminine Products Used to Never Fully Exist

Did you know that these feminine products never used to be accessible at all? It also wasn’t that long ago that they officially started to be developed and then mass produced. 

The first sanitary napkin to ever be marketed was by Johnson & Johnson back in 1896, but too many people were critical of the need for its use. During that time, talking about any kind of feminine care was an “under the radar” situation, if ever discussed at all. 

As time progressed, however, Kotex came out with their version of the sanitary napkin, and women were much more receptive to the need at this time. This then jumpstarted the desire for a feminine hygiene industry and more brands well-known today followed suit. 

In fact, tampons were introduced in the 1920s and 30s and immediately drew in those who wanted extra sanitary protection. Did you know that tampons actually used to be used to treat and stop the bleeding of deep wounds for those who were injured in wars? 

But now, feminine hygiene is a huge industry, and as the conversations pick up speed and depth, they’re only going to keep growing! If anything, this is an industry that’s only just begun to see huge success.

Our Final Thoughts

So, again, with their clear needed use, why are feminine hygiene products considered to be a luxury? Unfortunately, with a lack of worldwide access, a hindering price and extra tax placed on all products, and a lack of education, these products are out of reach for many women all over the world who clearly need them – making them luxury items by definition. 

While there are activist movements across the globe calling for change, there is also a long journey ahead to easy access for all. 

With that being said, there is another train of thought we must explore. The current COVID pandemic the world is experiencing is shedding some light on which feminine products should be placed under consideration as offered to women for free, and which should be available for purchase. For instance, the use of face coverings/masks are being mandated in multiple areas of the world to wear in public places for the protection of others. 

However, not everyone has easy access to masks, and many are being sold for profits to help boost the economy. Could face masks now be considered more of a luxury item for those who don’t want to fall ill? Following in some of the same footsteps as feminine hygiene products, face masks can be seen as comparable to feminine products in terms of daily needs. 

Just think about it: Are masks and feminine products on the same level of necessity? Or are they a luxury? Do you perceive feminine hygiene products as a luxury yourself? These questions may be brought to the forefront of many global conversations in the very near future. In the meantime, don’t forget to self-care and refresh your Vibe!

Sources

  1. https://www.target.com/c/feminine-products-personal-care/-/N-5xtzn
  2. https://www.swnsdigital.com/2019/11/new-research-reveals-how-much-the-average-woman-spends-per-month-on-menstrual-products/
  3. https://www.edana.org/nw-related-industry/nonwovens-in-daily-life/absorbent-hygiene-products/feminine-care
  4. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-menstruation-usa/even-in-the-u-s-poor-women-often-cant-afford-tampons-pads-idUSKCN1P42TX
  5. https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a29490059/tampon-tax-state-guide/
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