Sometimes a Change.org petition is so “duh” right that you don’t even think twice about signing it and risking the weeks worth of plaintive emails that will follow, and the No Tax on Tampons petition is the ultimate example of this (not that we don’t care about asking Keurig to stop making K-cups). Started by Jill Piebak and Kathleen Fraser in late January, the petition today has 54,321 signatures, and the creators have modified the original goal of 50,000 signatures to 75,000. The essential argument of the petition is simple and relevant to anyone who has ever bled from between their legs in Canada – that charging a tax on these products, which themselves are borne of biological necessity (would that I could stop having a period!) is an unnecessary hardship on bio women and indicative of a certain type of federally-enforced gender discrimination in Canada.
It’s hard to think of an argument against the goal of the petition that doesn’t veer into the territory of those put forth by comment section trolls, but there are two that stick. The first has to do with the larger list of taxable and non-taxable products in Canada in the first place. While most foods aren’t taxed (“zero-rated basic groceries” – which to sum it up far too quickly means food that isn’t junk), toilet paper is, and I can’t begin to argue that it should be while tampons shouldn’t.
While the petition and it’s cause have become something of a juggernaut, and the topic is one that has been brought to Parliament by NDP MP Irene Mathyssen via her bill C-282 in 2011 and 2013, it could also perhaps be part of a larger conversation about which consumer products are taxed. While incontinence products and eyeglasses are non-taxable, toilet paper, non-prescription medications and first aid products are all taxed. Some of these are products that contribute to public health and aid in home care, saving countless insurance-subsidized trips to clinics and hospitals. Others, like tampons and toilet paper, allow us to live public lives. Many of Canada’s industries, particularly tourism, would surely be hampered were we to start bleeding publically and stop wiping our butts.
As a society we would be much more disgusting but also much more FREE
The most valid (and unfortunate) argument against making tampons and simiular products non-taxable items is their environmental impact. While toilet paper is mostly biodegradable in composition, tampons and pads are not (and if you don’t already know, NO YOU CANNOT FLUSH THEM. Even if Tampax says you can. If you’re worried about taking away the livelihood of your local plumber, then by all means keep on flushin’). While cardboard applicators are a step in the right direction, most pads and tampons on the market have plastic backs or applicators, and sell better (the top 20 selling tampons on Amazon.com all have plastic applicators and one can only imagine this tendency carries over to in-store purchases in Canada).
Apart from the detritus the disposal of these products creates, the production of the plastic necessitates use of fossil fuels, and the by-product of this production is detrimental waste, not to mention the effects of the chlorine-bleaching that many of these products go through to make them appear ‘clean’ (while form often follows function in design, apparently most people aren’t interested in having brown hygienic products). More environmentally friendly alternatives exist, some of which create little to no waste following their production (silicone cups or reusable cloth pads, for example). Unfortunately they are often much more expensive (some just in terms of initial purchase) and integrate less seamlessly into our daily lives. Throwing away a tampon in an office or public bathroom is way easier and more discreet than emptying and washing a Diva Cup.
While just the sheer amount of signatures on the petition makes it clear that this is an issue that needs to be addressed by the Canadian government, it should perhaps be one in a number of changes that the government considers in order to make sure that gender equity, public health, and the environment are part of the equation when it comes to which items are taxed and which are considered essential or not. Regardless of whether or not the message is incomplete, now is the time to sign the petition if you haven’t. Because we can petition the government of Canada, but we can’t petition our uteruses to stop doing what they do, even if we are going on vacation or have a hot date.
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