This weekend, hundreds of people dressed in red will storm Republic Square with signs demanding “No tax” and asking, “When did bleeding become a luxury?”
This rally will be one of many across the United States in honor of National Period Day.
“We want to end the tampon tax,” said Alexa Atkinson, public relations and digital marketing senior at Texas State University. “All menstrual products are taxed, and tampons are considered a luxury item when Viagra is considered a tax-exempt medical necessity. It shouldn’t be like that.”
On Oct. 19, Atkinson, Periods United and Sunday Bloody Sunday founder — along with Period. Inc., PERIOD Dallas, Deeds Not Words and nine other organizations — will host the Texas National Period Day rally. Their goal is to elevate the issue of period poverty, demand policy change to make period products more accessible, and to end the Tampon Tax. Atkinson said they encourage everyone — even those who don’t menstruate — to attend, bring posters and wear red.
“Simply put, menstrual hygiene is a right, not a privilege,” Atkinson said.
As of 2019, 35 U.S. States still have a sales tax on period products and consider them nonessential items, Atkinson said. Due to lack of income, 1 in 4 women struggle to afford period products. In February 2019, the first St. Louis citywide study on period poverty conducted by two universities found that 46% of low-income women are forced to choose between purchasing a meal or period products.
“Because of the period stigma that makes menstruation a taboo topic, we don’t often think about what it’s like for a homeless or low-income person who menstruates to get their period,” said Emily Zhou, co-president of the Period ATX chapter at UT. “(We) don’t have open conversations about period health or solutions to period poverty.”
The rally organizers in Austin call themselves the “Menstrual Movement” and believe it is a fundamental human right for menstruators to have the opportunity to succeed regardless of their natural needs, Zhou said.
Her goal is to fight for equitable access to menstrual hygiene and to break down the stigma around periods. Unlike most poverty problems, Zhou said, this one is solvable. She believes the responsibility is on everyone to take action now so that no one else has to suffer due to a lack of access to menstrual products.
Atkinson is also partnering with UT Women’s Resource Agency and UT-Austin Deeds Not Words to bring free menstrual products to campus through a petition, which now has more than 930 signatures.
“Offering free menstrual products at UT would have a positive impact on at least half of the student body,” Atkinson said. “A large majority of people start their periods outside the comfort of their own home without the proper hygiene products needed.”
In 2016, a New York City Public School study reported that class attendance could increase by 2.4% as a result of offering free menstrual products, said Andrea Elizondo, Period ATX rally organizer.
Because some students struggle to purchase menstrual products due to limited finances, Elizondo said she hopes the rally on Saturday creates a legislative conversation around period prejudice.
“Menstruation should not limit educational opportunities,” Elizondo said. “This creates a discriminatory barrier to education for those who menstruate. So yes, even periods are political.”