Renee Pineda: Students should have access to free tampons, pads

Updated: Oct. 3, 2016 at 4:05 p.m.

Life is full of luxuries. Sports cars, five-star hotels and all-expenses-paid vacations are all obvious luxuries. But in 39 states and D.C., tampons and pads are also considered luxury items.

In those states, feminine hygiene products are taxed as luxuries. The luxury tax is a sales tax on items that state governments consider non-essential. The 11 states that don’t have the tax have either recently decided that it is backwards and sexist or don’t have sales taxes at all. Fortunately, it seems that D.C. might be making headway on the issue: The D.C. Council just had a hearing regarding the hygiene product tax and is considering getting rid of it altogether. But that will take some more time.

Though there has been a rise in awareness and outrage over such taxes among elected officials, students and officials at universities can do more to eliminate the extra costs for students, specifically. Recently, Brown University started to do just that: The Undergraduate Council of Students — Brown’s version of our Student Association — stashed name-brand tampons and pads in their campus’s public restrooms. Students put feminine care products in men’s, women’s and gender neutral restrooms.

GW has both gender-neutral and gendered bathrooms around campus, and the University could easily follow in Brown’s footsteps. Students, especially, deserve access to tampons and some people may not have that access because of the extra cost due to taxes.

When more universities join together to take action and bring attention to the outdated tax on feminine hygiene products, legal change becomes more likely. GW should take this chance to be forward-thinking and make living in D.C. more affordable for students who have to spend money on feminine hygiene products.

Unfortunately, GW has some catching up to do before the University could offer free feminine hygiene products. Public campus buildings — like the Marvin Center, Gelman Library and the Science and Engineering Hall — don’t even have tampon or pad dispensers in female bathrooms, much less in male and gender-neutral bathrooms. Right now, students don’t always have access to products in the case of an emergency.

For some students, being able to afford hygienic products might not be an issue. But it’s wrong to assume that some students at the University don’t struggle with paying for essential items. For a box of tampons, depending on the amount and the brand, the average cost is around $7 and lasts someone only a month or two. That means that those who menstruate spend, on average, over $80 a year on a necessity.

It’s important for GW to stock all public restrooms for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Those who identify as women and use women’s bathrooms aren’t the only ones who menstruate.

Menstruation is a biological function. And a tax or a price tag that treats menstruation as a luxury is restrictive and harmful to those who need these hygienic products. People who menstruate shouldn’t have to worry about choosing between buying tampons and textbooks.

GW has the opportunity to take a stance on the taxation of these hygienic products. When more universities join together to take action and bring attention to this outdated tax, change becomes more possible.

Renee Pineda, a sophomore majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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