That’s right … tampons, pads, diva cups, and panty liners are items I can simply choose to
take or leave, according to our elected officials, and because of that, I (and all Canadian
women who rely on them, unless they’re still using grandma’s cloth pads method) must
pay the 5 per cent GST on them.

“In 2014, it’s estimated that approximately 17,876,392 Canadian women between the
ages of 12–49 spent about $519,976,963.00 on menstrual hygiene products,” explains the
No Tax on Tampons petition currently circulating. “That means the government collected
approximately $36,398,387.00 in government sales taxes because our uteruses did what
they do naturally.”

To date, the petition urging federal Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay to exempt
feminine hygiene products from taxation, has garnered over 62,000 signatures. Similar
campaigns are currently taking place in other countries.

In the United States, food stamps don’t cover feminine products. In the U.K. men’s razors
aren’t taxed, but tampons are. Here in Canada, Pizza Pockets, Twinkies, and wedding
cakes are considered essential, yet feminine products used by half of the population
once a week every month for a solid four decades of our lives, aren’t. Does anyone in the
government think that tampons are treats? A luxury item I buy when I feel like splurging on
something? Because I can assure you they most certainly are not.

If one considers the fact that women already make less money than men, pay more for
services like dry cleaning and haircuts, most single moms live precariously close to or
below the poverty line (I don’t even want to think about what periods are like for homeless
women or those living in underdeveloped countries), this amounts to nothing more than gender-based taxation and government-sanctioned sexism. It’s not ok.

How can basic groceries, prescription drugs, educational services, most health, medical,
and dental services, day care services, and yes, even music lessons (which, while
delightful, are nowhere near as essential as tampons) be considered tax-exempt, yet
menstrual hygiene products are considered luxury items? In what world can a box of Pop
Tarts be considered an essential item, yet my tampons are not? Why are sanitary pads
taxed, yet if I were to roll on down the aisle and grab the incontinence pads (yes, adult
diapers, that essentially do the same thing by absorbing liquid) I’d be exempt from paying
tax. Where’s the logic in that?

Over the past decade, a few (female) MPs have attempted to introduce bills to drop
the GST on these items. The most recent being NDP MP Irene Mathyssen, who last
introduced the Excise Tax Act for feminine hygiene products in 2013.

A sales tax on feminine products is unfair, unaware, and utterly opportunistic because
you’re taking advantage of a captive consumer audience that consists of only one gender.
I suspect the reason why a movement to abolish taxes on feminine products hasn’t gained
more momentum until now is because most people still consider periods icky, won’t
discuss them publicly, and finally, because it only affects half of the buying population.

Rupi Kaur’s recent battle against Instagram’s persistent censorship of her period-focused
photographic project brought to the forefront society’s bizarre and long-standing menstrual

Statistically, at any given moment, one in four women between the ages of approximately
12 and 55 is in on her period right now. But you wouldn’t know it the way we never talk
about it. Female nudity is unapologetically used to sell most commercial products out
there, yet we still won’t see a woman walk to the washroom with a tampon in her hand.

The offence, apparently, to public decency and mores would be too great.

No matter which cultural practices you look at, or which religious doctrines you scour, an
aversion to periods and a desire to hide away women who are menstruating seems to be a
common denominator. The stigma, embarrassment, uneasiness of menstruation as being
unclean and undesired persists across the board.

A number of cultures still believe that women on their periods can spoil meat and turn milk.
Greek Orthodox customs dictate that menstruating women do not go up for communion.
Judaism and Islam forbid intercourse during a woman’s period, while some Hindus isolate
women during menstruation. In some religions, menstruating women are not supposed to
enter a temple. In Christianity, the ritual uncleanness of menstruating women eventually transformed to the idea that all women (on their period or not) were ritually unclean, and
this idea quickly became part of the justification of why women can’t distribute communion
and essentially be ordained priests.

Some people may scoff but I believe there’s an inherent connection between this
reluctance to discuss periods and this up-to-now lack of activism in this area. The Western
world may pride itself in that it doesn’t hold “primitive” taboos surrounding women’s
periods, yet commercials depicting period blood as non-offending blue liquid, jokes about
crazed, hyper-emotional women who can’t make a rational decision while “on the rag”,
Newt Gingrich wondering if periods make women unfit for combat, persist. The taboos

But women are becoming louder and bolder about discussing what affects them, and
openly defending their reproductive rights, breastfeeding, and yes, even the abolition of a
tax on tampons.

Gloria Steinem wrote decades ago that if men got periods, sanitary napkins would be
“federally funded and free”. Twenty years later I’d be happy if we simply removed the
tax from something that all women consider an essential and unavoidable part of their

Sign the petition. Make your voice heard.