Article at ‘Frankfurter Allgemeine’ : Teure Tampons, böses Blut
© Tampon / Hygieneprodukt Illustration F.A.S. Sollte erschwinglicher werden: der Tampon
When I want to treat myself, I lie down in a thermal bath for a day, plan a trip or treat myself to a meal in a restaurant. Stopping period blood is not in my definition of luxury. Yet, until a month ago, tampons and pads were taxed as if I were treating myself when I bought them: For tax purposes, they didn’t count as basic necessities. Yet every healthy woman needs such period products on about 2400 days of her life.
The new year marked the beginning of a new era for us women. After decades of excessive taxes, there was some – albeit minimal – relief at the beginning of January: since then, feminine hygiene products have been taxed at a rate of seven percent, no longer 19. That only adds up to 13 cents for a pack of 32 tampons of a cheap brand. But it was about something else: Finally, women are no longer discriminated against in terms of tax when we buy what we need every month. And even the small amounts of cents pay off – after all, the average woman probably needs 300 tampons a year.
The manufacturers have also recognized this and immediately tried to strike: Only two weeks after the tax cut, Kaufland confirms that “suppliers for panty liners, incontinence pads, sanitary towels and tampons” have demanded price increases that cannot be explained. This is because, Kaufland writes, “Currently, we are not aware that prices for raw materials have been increased.” Therefore, they “cannot comprehend” the demands. Neither can I.
You also have to be able to afford alternatives
The little bit of money we can finally save, they want to take away from us right away. They behave like their menstrual products: Suck until nothing more comes. And show: They don’t care about women, about their fight for justice. For them, only maximum profit counts.
The worst thing: they can afford this impudence. Periodic articles are what we need. Nanna-Josephine Roloff, the initiator of the online petition “Periods are not a luxury”, which contributed to the abolition of the tampon tax, demands on Twitter though: “Just don’t buy the overpriced products of these companies. There are plenty of alternatives.”
But you have to be able to afford them, and not just financially: things I put in my body I have to trust. After all, I don’t want to introduce unhealthy chemicals or plastic particles to myself, and I want to be able to rely on the absorbency of the products. But trust takes time. When in doubt and pressed for time, I reach for what I know, or what girlfriends recommend.
Start-ups that lure customers with soft bio-tampons in cartons made of recycled cardboard advertise with this assurance. But you need money for their products. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student or unemployed: Many women with little money will not be able to afford more expensive start-up products on a monthly basis. There are already women who cannot afford even the cheapest period products.
Women fight back
Nothing has happened yet: Many women reacted to newspaper reports about the companies’ price demands with calls for boycotts and indignation. This must have unsettled the manufacturers – after all, they can’t turn their entire customer base against them. In any case, the two largest manufacturers of hygiene products say they never made such demands – at least not “in connection with the tax cut,” as Johnson & Johnson, the maker of o.b. and Carefree, writes. The manufacturer of Always pads writes similarly.
So the online petition has done something else, too: women are fighting back. The luxury tax was also quietly introduced in the twenties. It came disguised as an administrative measure: basic goods were exempt from a tax increase because the state didn’t want to make them more expensive and upset farmers. This system was later adopted. This was in the sixties, a time when marital rape was still exempt from punishment and the wife had to ask her husband for permission if she wanted to work. Since then, cut flowers, live animals or fir trees are taxed at a low rate, while toilet paper and children’s clothing are taxed at a higher rate. Nobody was interested in women at that time. But we didn’t object either, quietly paying the tax and quietly bleeding into our overpriced sanitary napkins.
That has changed: At least since the online petition, we no longer pass tampons in the seminar room as if they were illegal drugs, and no longer accept price changes as if we were stupid. Hopefully that will continue. I, for one, now ask extra loudly in the round when I need a tampon. I should ask even louder about salary differences.
The activist Roloff continues: She now demands free pads and tampons in public toilets. Logical, after all, no one walks through the office with their own toilet paper.